How to create a nature-based alternative Advent

How can you celebrate Advent within nature-based spirituality? Do alternative secular Advent calendars exist? With the shortest day just a month away, here’s how to make the darkening days special and meaningful as we approach the Winter Solstice.

Top image by Mariya Muschard from Pixabay

Several years ago, I wrote a post about how I had made an alternative Advent calendar for my then-toddler that reflected our nature-based spirituality. I explained how Advent celebrations still held meaning and importance to me whilst following a pagan path, and in the context of it leading to the Winter Solstice rather than Christmas.

Since then, the exact pagan Advent calendar that I made my son has been upgraded, the types of treats inside have evolved along with him, and an additional calendar has been made for his younger brother. Over the nine years since I wrote the post, various winter traditions have embedded comfortingly into our family life, whilst others have changed along with our needs, interests, home location and circumstances.

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Alternative / secular advent calendar ideas

From my own personal Googling, it seems very hard / not possible to find an advent calendar that features dates up until the eve of the Winter Solstice rather than Christmas Eve. Secular Advent calendars are available to buy, featuring a range of themes from nature-based to activity-based to crystal-filled to crafty to sexy to “reverse Advent calendars”. Although witchy calendars exist too, these still feature the standard 1-24 day labels. However, some on a more pagan path use these as a countdown until the solstice: they start to open their Advent calendar before December begins — meaning that pagan kids don’t get short-changed with the Solstice coming slightly earlier than Christmas!).

My solution has been to make my own calendars for my kids, with removable numbers to take into account the fact that the solstice is not on exactly the same date every year. There are various ways to make your own advent calendar, from the simple to those that can showcase the very best of sewing skills.

We start our advent calendars on the first Sunday of Advent. Whilst the four Sundays of Advent are a Christian concept, this is the one that fits best with us. This is possibly influenced by nostalgia around the church advent wreaths I remember from my childhood, watching the big candles being lit amongst lush greenery. We have our own little Advent wreath that we put on our dining table from the first Sunday of Advent, designed around a similar idea to the Steiner-Waldorf Four Kingdoms.

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

My eldest’s first advent calendar, that I wrote about nine years ago, was made from eggboxes strung from a large twig. You can use:

My kids’ current calendars are less perfect-looking versions of this very neat template. I deliberately made ours with different-sized pockets to accommodate gifts in a variety of sizes, and I use mini clothes-pegs to attach the paper numbers.

As for what goes inside the pockets, you’re the best judge of what will best please your kids and your budget! For toddlers, the simplest things hold so much wonder; my boys’ first Advent calendar gifts were things like:

  • acorns / similar woodland treasures,
  • a couple of dates wrapped in foil,
  • seashells / interesting pebbles,
  • a pretty bead,
  • herbal teabags,
  • crystals,
  • crayons,
  • a coin,
  • stickers,
  • a “little gnome” made using one of these,
  • a tealight candle to light in the afternoon,
  • dolls’ house / fairy garden items,
  • a scrap of pretty fabric to make something with,
  • notes with details of a festive activity to do that day (bake gingerbread, roll beeswax candles, paint decorations, make cards, decorate the tree, go to see the lights in town).

We used to balance roughly half “note (activity) days” to half “gift days”, which fitted with us home-educating and their ages and interests then. You may find that older children have their own idea of when they want to put the tree up, so a note saying you’ll do be doing that isn’t really a surprise. For us, the time taken up by school and clubs now doesn’t leave them as much time or energy for crafts and outings. And then there’s the other enchantment: screens…

Whilst some of the above might work for any age, advent calendar gift ideas for older kids could also include:

  • small toys like mini slinkies, bubbles, or other party bag toys,
  • sweets / chocolate,
  • snack bars,
  • cool stationary / craft materials,
  • Lego minifigures,
  • badges or iron-on patches,
  • hairbands / slides,
  • kid jewellery (or supplies for making some!),
  • kits, materials or instructions for making festive decorations,
  • mini cheddars / similar,
  • mini soaps / bathbombs / massage bars,
  • lip balm / biodegradable face and body glitter.

Most years, I get a charity shop book or two for the larger pockets of my kids’ advent calendars. We also have a tradition where, on one of the days, their gift is two 50p coins. One is for them, one is to donate to a charity cause of their choice. I’d love to hear of other ideas that come to your mind!

This year’s calendars (almost) ready to go!

Other ways to celebrate alternative, secular or pagan Advent

As the word advent as an improper noun can relate to the approach or coming of something, I believe that you can acknowledge the advent of whatever festival/s you celebrate around this time. These celebrations often involve a lot of preparation, like baking special food or buying and wrapping gifts, Or they can involve various events in addition to the solstice / Christmas Day itself. Winter fairs, school plays, concerts, work parties, gatherings with family you might not spend the Big Day itself with, and perhaps other occasions all form the season of building up and awaiting.

Perhaps these make up a sense of Advent on their own. Perhaps you would like particular markers for each week of Advent (such as a wreath), or to do something special to open the Advent season with. Steiner kindergartens, for example, often hold beautiful Advent Spiral ceremonies which are magical for young children if you ever get the chance to attend (or organise!) one.

A specific calendar or simple list of your family’s various festive activities could be particularly useful for neurodivergent children who might struggle with having lots to remember, changed routines, and overwhelm or overtiredness (even if it’s from enjoyable events). Reducing stimulation for those who are sensitive to it can be another benefit to spreading out celebrations and gift-giving between events.

Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

For yourself, alternative Advent ideas the reflect nature-based spirituality could include:

  • Choosing a theme for each week for an area of self-development, or a problem you’re looking to answer, that you focus on in your journaling, meditation or divination. The themes could relate to Solstice associations, or to anything you choose.
  • Choosing a different deity, herb, tree, crystal etc to study each week,
  • Choosing a different local walk for each week (perhaps a short that you try to do as many times as possible during that week to build up relationship with its land, plants and spirits),
  • Committing to a particular self-care task for each week. Some low-cost ideas include taking a luxurious bath, giving yourself a foot or face massage, phoning a friend, doing some yoga (or pilates or Tai-Chi), or setting aside an hour to enjoy a book and a nice drink.

I hope that your journey towards the Winter Solstice gives you some chances to rest and dream, some opportunities to reflect, and some meaningful and lovely alternative Advent celebrations. Make sure you’re subscribed for future posts for nature table and pagan altar inspiration, seasonal journal prompts and many more tips and ideas for pagan family life. )O(

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7 kids’ winter stories to stoke up your heart & hearth

Light the fire or some candles, fill everyone’s mug with hot cocoa, pass around the gingerbread and gather together with this cosy selection of nature-based winter stories.

This week, Spin You Circle Bright continues its seasonal series of recommendations for children’s nature stories and books. Following a nature-based spiritual path, it’s been important for me to share that with my kids. Not to force them to believe the same as me, but to help them to develop their own relationship with nature, whether or not they feel it to be a spiritual one. At this time of climate crisis, and what that means for the future that my sons face, it’s my responsibility to facilitate that learning, Of course, being outdoors immersed in various activities and landscapes offers the best classroom for nature education. However, as writer Barry Lopez says (quoted from one of my favourite blogs, Myth and Moor):

“Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns, we might reimagine our lives”.

Barry Lopez (About This Life).

Here are some winter stories that I love for the seasonal scenes, plants and activities they depict. If, like me, you’re not fond of books for young children that have garish pictures and lots of sensationalist language, you’ll find these books more gentle. To give loose age suitability, my kids got into these stories around age two or three, and my six year-old still enjoys most of them.

Picture-based winter story for pre-schoolers

Winter, by Gerda Muller

When my boys were younger, we pored over this seasonal series of books. Each takes a pictorial journey through the season, from when early signs appear to when it starts to change into the next. Seasonal activities are shown; in this book these include shovelling snow and feeding the birds. This makes it a great resource for connecting the book’s images with what you and your child see during your own walks or garden time — or you can tell your own story to accompany the illustrations.

Winter solstice stories

Brambly Hedge Winter Story / The Secret Staircase, by Jill Barklem

Both of these popular nature-based classics involve “winter celebrations” rather than naming Christmas. The Secret Staircase specifically centres around the community’s midwinter festival, so could be a lovely opener for discussions with slightly older kids around the separate meanings of the solstice and of Midwinter’s Day.

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis’ gentle modern illustrations follow Susan Cooper’s poem that focusses on traditional Yuletide celebrations and rituals. A gorgeous book to share with younger children about what the solstice is, and introduce how it has held meaning for past generations, as well as how we can connect to those ancestors through our own rituals and festivities.

A festive story to get you all laughing

Findus at Christmas, by Sven Nordqvist

Findus at Christmas is filled with the same kind of chaos, mishaps and bickering as the other Pettson and Findus books, so will get everyone giggling together. This story, like the others, weaves itself around seasonal outdoor and indoor activities in a rural setting. There’s a lovely theme of the community helping someone in need in this book, too. The depiction of Scandinavian festive traditions inspired my kids and I to one year celebrate Christmas Eve in a similar way, with foods and focus like those in the story.

Winter stories with subtle learning opportunities

The Winter Bear, by Ruth Craft and Erik Blegvad

This was a favourite winter story from my own childhood much-loved by my kids, too. It’s out of print now, but if you can get a second-copy then young children will probably enjoy the short rhyming story of three siblings who unexpectedly find treasure “in need of repair”. I like books like this that mention plants and other nature facts as part of the tale; the book isn’t trying to be educational, or force learning, but mentions these within the flow of the story.

Tomten Tales, by Astrid Lindgren and Harald Wiberg

A duo of two more classics set in rural Scandinavia, against the backdrop of farm life and seasonal work. The story also presents the Tomten, a helpful fairy-folk type appreciated by farmers in parts of Scandinavia for their protection and assistance. I particularly like the portrayal of both the farmer’s and the fox’s perspectives, and the empathic but firm and creative way that the Tomten deals with the fox whilst still protecting the chickens.

Wishing you cosiness and contentedness as the light fades and the temperature drops. I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a winter’s day than wrapping up for a walk, then returning to the sanctuary of my sofa with comforting drinks, a stack of books and my beautiful kids; make sure your winter story stash can see you and your little ones through the season ahead. )O(

Image by ivabalk from Pixabay

Spin your circle bright this week:

Mind~ With darkness falling earlier now, winter is an ideal time to tune our awareness to the moon. Just in case you have some of your book budget left (or room in your kid’s stocking!) after reading this article, check out this list of 12 Best Books About the Moon. For older kids more into chapter books, this list has plenty of suggestions for winter stories.

Body~ If your child struggles with longer book-snuggle sessions because they’re a kid that needs frequent movement, incorporating some yoga can enable a bit of fidget whilst keeping on-theme. For example, butterfly pose could be adapted to be opening and shutting a book, or your movement break could have you being wise owls — or wriggly bookworms!

Heart~ I love seeing artworks and crafts that use old books, like this cute winter house. But if a book of mine is in a condition where I can bear for it to no longer be used for reading, it’s probably even past crafting with! What do you think?

Spirit~ Oral storytelling — without books — is an old tradition that would have pre-dated when most people were literate, so is a lovely practice which holds connection to our ancestors and our past. We’re still in the season of Samhain-tide, when remembering our ancestral connections is still topical, and the veil between worlds still thin. Doing this after dark mirrors how our forebearers are likely to have spent the long evenings. Although lighting a fire or candles will add authenticity to the scene, some children may find having this as the only light source a bit too scary; you know your kids best. If you can’t retell a tale off the top of your head, tell one from your own childhood as kids usually love to hear these. Or use a storybag to prompt.

Sharing~ The Reading Corner is an awesome UK charity on a mission to diversify bookshelves, and ensure every child has access to books and sound literacy education. Find out about their amazing projects here, and diversify your own bookshelf via The Reading Corner’s exciting recent collaboration with Books That Matter.

You can discover new literary voices by joining The Reading Corner’s bookclub, promoting new releases by female, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors. Get background insights into the books you’d like to read through the club’s author interviews, like my recent Q & A with Deeba Zargarpur. Deeba’s spooky YA debut, House of Yesterday, comes out later this month and I can’t recommend it enough for its beautifully written journey through teen grief and loss, centred around the discovery of a ghostly family secret.

If you’re not able to commit to a book club, you can still stay in touch with The Reading Corner’s latest interviews and project developments via their social media and their mailing list. Sign up to today to support their vision of diversifying who appears on and inside book covers; everyone’s story deserves to be heard.

Top image by Алексей Смирнов from Pixabay

Why tiny lights have big appeal. Lantern craft ideas for November.

Lanterns and lamps symbolise illumination, comfort and revealing deep inner mysteries. Read on for tips and ideas for making Waldorf lanterns, links to paper lantern DIY, and other stunning lantern craft projects to light up even the gloomiest days.

Many of us carved and lit Jack-o-lanterns last Monday on the eve of famously-dark November. In countries that have put their clocks back in the past week, dusk is suddenly arriving an hour sooner, and the cusp of winter approaches. The season calls for cosiness and for inner work and reflection, whilst the weather often calls us indoors.

Hoar frost-covered lamp-post image by jggrz via Pixabay

Symbolism of lamps and lanterns

Lucy meets Mr Tumnus beneath a lamp-post; she being the first of the Pevensie siblings to enter Narnia, and he being the first resident of the magical kingdom that she meets. There begins the children’s adventure discovering the secrets of Narnia and their purpose there, the lamp-post also being a landmark they use to find their way back to the other side of the wardrobe.

Image from Harry Potter Cursed Child theatre decor, by Judith Brodnicki via Pixabay

Candles and lanterns (and wands) are the only light sources in the castle boarding schools that Worst Witch Mildred Hubble and famous wizard Harry Potter attend with their friends. Daylight might provide the lighting for most of the pupils’ lessons, but it is often the protagonists’ night-time adventures that supply their most important lessons and inner personal growth.

In the similarly magical world of fairytales, lanterns facilitate the underground work of the gnomes, the late-night revelry of fairies and the mysterious after-dusk work of witches and Father Christmas. Most of us in the West summon instant light with the flicking of a plastic switch and, even at night, don’t experience total darkness because of streetlamps, nightlights, and the tiny but constant LED glow of standby mode. Lanterns perhaps offer a glimmer of connection to the mysteries of the past and of our ancestors, and to the perceived simplicity of pre-modern life.

Candles arranged in heart image by svklimkin from Pixabay

Why do we love to light candles?

Now we have more convenient and powerful light sources, we associate candlelight with the significant, pleasurable and hygge. Their softer light lends to romantic or relaxing atmospheres, as well as to spiritual activities such as meditation, divination, or ritual. A reason given for this is that reducing the stimulation available to the physical senses enables the other senses to be heightened.

A naked flame offers a magic of its own to young children. In Steiner Waldorf kindergartens, a candle is lit on the table at mealtimes to provide the elemental experience of the living flame. Other elements are also represented in the form of fresh flowers (or leaves, berries, twigs in bud etc), fresh water or herbal tea, as well as wholesome, home-baked food.

The emphasis is on the close, dynamic experience with nature; electric light removes us from the natural sources used to make it. A flame dances, changes and participates in the chemical exchange in the air, whereas electric light is stagnant and indirect.

Birthday ring image by M W from Pixabay

Introducing children to the “living flame”, fire safety and responsibility

You don’t need your children to be at a Steiner Waldorf kindergarten, or to have an open fire in your home, for them to access this. Could you place a candle on your table at mealtimes as a simple, but special, touch? The littlest little ones tend to find this enchanting, and can help to blow (or snuff) out the candle at the end of the meal.

At an appropriate age, children can help to light candles, too. I find that using long matches reassures both my kids and I that the flame will stay well back from their fingers, even if the candle wick doesn’t catch immediately. It’s particularly lovely to combine your candle lighting and extinguishing with a little sentence of thanks, or a gratitude blessing, at each end of the meal. Having the candle on the table can open up important discussions around why we don’t dangle decorations close to it, why we don’t leave it unattended, and more.

Jam jar lanterns image by Pexels via Pixabay

Lantern projects for all ages and attention spans

At this darker time of the year, take lantern-making beyond the Halloween pumpkins or other carved vegetables, to create your own magical display. This could range from simple after-school makes like paper lanterns or recycled tin can luminaries, to more complex projects like these ethereal papier-maché ones, or these earthier clay beauties.

The humble jam jar can be covered in various beautiful ways to create a cosy glow:

  • tissue paper ideas are good lantern craft project to do with younger children as a lovely effect can be achieved with very randomly cut or torn, and stuck, shapes. They might need help with the gluing, as well as with making a handle if you choose to include one, but this is a fairly toddler-friendly option with low cost and time overheads.
  • autumn leaves lanterns are similarly so…..but perhaps with slightly higher mess potential!
  • pretty sparkling bead-decorated jars could also be a good lantern DIY for fairly young children if the beads aren’t so tiny that little fingers find them too fiddly. Whilst you might need to supervise closely and do more intricate wire-bending, bead-threading can be a great activity for fine motor skill development (which can then support handwriting development), as well as other Early Years skills.

There’s a wealth of lantern craft projects online that are perfect seasonal makes after Samhain has passed, yet when it still feels a bit early to start Winter Solstice crafts. Placed on your nature table, in your meditation space or on a pagan altar, the making and lighting of your lantern can warm hearts, stir memories, invoke mystery and brighten any grey day.

Mushroom cottage image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Spin your circle bright this week:

Mind~ From Samhain to Diwali to Martinmas to Loy Krathong right through Advent to Chinese New Year, several festivals within this season feature lantern displays or processions. Your lantern craft project could reflect the style of a particular pantheon that you’re working with in your magical practice. Similarly, you could find a paper lantern DIY that connects with a particular culture or country that your kids are studying as a school or home-ed topic.

Body~ Have you ever tried the Ayurvedic candle meditation practice of tratak? Learn here how to perform this traditional meditation to aid eye health and relaxation, and here for how it could benefit modern shortened attention spans. This video can also guide you through the tratak practice.

Heart~ Following from last week’s post where we explored grief among our Samhain journal prompts, I wanted to share this collection of images from The Guardian exploring loss, memory and hope.

Spirit~ In the tarot, The Hermit is usually depicted carrying a lantern. This card has associations with self-reflection, inner wisdom, introspection, and self-development. It can signify a period of solitude and soul-searching, and perhaps gaining perspective from withdrawing, or being detached, from a situation.

Sharing~ The Lantern Network is an American non-profit that “ inspires, guides and propels young, underrepresented Americans, encouraging them to discover their purpose, reach their dreams, and change their lives for the better. Taking its name from the lanterns that were among the symbols that identified homes within the Underground Railroad, this network of anti-slavery activists helped many Black Americans to escape physical slavery. The Lantern Network assists modern young Black Americans to achieve economic freedom, access mentoring, and work towards other life goals. Contribute to this awesome mission here.

3 seasonal journal prompts for Samhain

Whether celebrated as the first or last of the pagan Wheel of the Year festivals, Samhain heralds the darkest, coldest season. As plants pull their energy back into their roots, it’s an ideal time to turn your focus inward, too. Follow these potent journal prompts for self-discovery, self-reflection and more.

Autumn journal image by Andreia Joldes from Pixabay

This week, Spin Your Circle Bright continues its series of Wheel of the Year journal prompts, mapping the themes and teachings of each of the eight pagan festivals to your unique self-development journey. In the pagan calendar, Samhain marks the end of one year as the final harvest is gathered in and trees are becoming bare. However, fresh buds are already forming on branches and, under the soil, seeds and bulbs are busily preparing their next cycle of growth: nature’s new cycle begins.

Journal prompts for personal growth and spiritual self-development

Open your heart, mind, and journal to some or all of these prompts to deepen your connection to the season and yourself. Use these suggestions to unlock your reflections on the dying year, and discover the knowledge and inner tools that you’ll need for the new.

Will you use these Samhain journal prompts as an experimental or one-off journalling exercise? Or journey deeper into your self-development over the coming year with this series of prompts for each pagan festival?

As with the prompts for the other sabbats, each prompt is also broken down into a few further questions. These are provided to help you go deeper with clarifying, reflecting on or exploring your thoughts and feelings.

Image by Deborah Hudson from Pixabay

1 ) I am honouring

Let’s start with you! Where you’ve really put in effort, your achievements and harvests, what or who you’ve shown up for this past year.

I deserve to have celebrated…

I would also like to raise a glass to…

Who, or what else, makes your Samhain Honours List? Who has supported you? Who, in your past (or in our collective past), have you missed, or drawn inspiration from, this year? You could extend this prompt into a simple Samhain ritual:

  • pour out small glasses of special fruit juice (or fermented fruit juice!); one for each person who you are honouring or remembering, plus one for you.
  • take each glass in your hands one at a time, and say in your head or out loud — or write down — your positive associations for person. Treasured memories, skills learned from them, abilities inherited, or something else that you are thankful for. Don’t forget to do the same with your own glass!
  • Toast each glass with your own. Drink yours, savouring your thoughts as well as the flavour. You could pour the other drinks on the ground as a libation.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

2 ) I am grieving…

Grief doesn’t only take the form of bereavement. Of course, if you have lost someone from your life, you may wish to acknowledge your feelings of loss as part of how you mark Samhain. Some people choose this time to attempt to communicate with those who have passed, or listen for messages from them without actively trying to talk to them.

We also grieve for opportunities, dreams, materials losses, plans that didn’t work out, and phases of our life that have passed. Sometimes even where we have made a conscious choice to let something go for good reasons, we might still grieve it. This is all completely natural, and making space for your grief can be an important part of processing it.

If you are struggling with your emotions following a bereavement, or a grief experience of any kind, Mind have some really useful, supportive resources.

This year I have lost

What this has taken from my life is… for example, the companionship and fun that you shared with a person you are mourning, or the range of social activities that a health issue is preventing you from doing. Perhaps you feel that you have lost self-confidence in because of the way that something didn’t work out. Maybe you struggle with envy around people who haven’t had to go through the same loss.

The support I need for this is… this could be someone to talk to when you’re feeling down, such as a friend or some professional counselling. If creating art, music or something else supports you emotionally, is it possible to make more time for this?

Image by ALEJANDRAMACOL from Pixabay

3 ) I am carrying forwards…

At Samhain, we are transitioning from one cycle into the next. However, nature doesn’t give final ends and beginnings here: although leaves have fallen and are no longer part of the living tree they grew on and absorbed sunlight for, their nutrients and cells take a new form within the soil they rot into. The crops have been harvested, perhaps eaten already, but their seeds will become next year’s plants. Many people believe that death for people and animals is similarly not a final ending.

The things that you have lost or let go of may still exist in your memories, or in what you have learned from these past experiences. You’ll take that learning forwards as seeds for your personal growth over the next year. What will nurture those seeds? What do you need over this next year in order to grow in the areas of your life where you want to grow?

Wishing you insightful Samhain journalling, and magic in the self-discovery that it can bring… And a happy pagan new year )O(

Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind~ After some last-minute inspiration for other ways to mark Samhain this year? I put together nine ideas, from fun to spiritual, in last week’s post.

Body~ If you’re carving a pumpkin today, turn the insides into smooth, versatile pumpkin puree to use in cookies like these, as well as cakes, pies and more.

Heart~ Wendy Andrews is one of my favourite pagan artists. Be inspired by here evocative catalogue of Samhain-related artworks here.

Spirit~ Samhain honours the Crone aspect of the triple goddess archetype. This is a potent time to connect with this and honour this aspect, and invite her into your spiritual practice or magical work.

Sharing~ Plans are being made in the UK to create a memorial for lives lost to Covid. However, there is currently debate and dispute around some of the details of how to best represent and remember these lost lives. Read this article for more information, and have your say via the charity Covid Aid. An entirely online charity, Covid Aid do amazing work in supporting those bereaved by the virus, as well as those living with Long Covid or caring for someone who is.

9 memorable activities for celebrating Samhain 2022

Candle and autumn fruits image by ozaytseva from Pixabay

From learning tarot to Halloween craft activities for kids, from Samhain recipes to day trips that connect with you with earth-honourers past and present. How will you mark the Celtic New Year?

The Pagan wheel of the year festival of Samhain marks the end of the year, as fallen leaves slip beneath the soil and the last of the harvest is brought home. As another natural cycle passes on, we remember those in our lives who have passed before us — as well as dreams, goals or material losses from the year that we might also grieve. Creative activities, outings, walks rituals, recipes, art and song can all connect us to the meaning and energies of Samhain. Whether you’re looking for something fun and kid-friendly, or to help your own spiritual self-development, read on.

Clever and cute Halloween craft project

With many UK schools on half-term this week, this fun family craft project is on our list to try out. Are you, like me, ever conscious of storage space? Yay this 2-for-1 seasonal decoration!

You could make a few in various sizes for a super-cute display. Or it could become a Samhain centrepiece; leave notes underneath describing treasured memories of loved ones who have passed on, or with wishes for your Celtic New Year. Follow the link in the image caption for a video tutorial.

Visit the dead

Lanhill Longbarrow, Wiltshire. Image my own.

At this time of year, I like to make a trip to somewhere that connects me to souls who are no longer with us in body. These may not necessarily be direct ancestors, or deceased loved ones that you know names of. For example, I often take a trip to a local-ish longbarrow, stone circle or other sacred site to remember those who built it, used it and lived on land that is part of my life. You could similarly visit a graveyard, memorial site, historic building or place where you know relatives of yours once lived.

I know that people often find meaning and connection to such places through leaving offerings or burning candles at them. At historic sites, I worry about dripping wax damaging the structure, or that flowers that aren’t native to that area may not suit its biodiversity or its spiritual energies. Ancient ancestors would not recognise some plants we have now, and some bought plants may have been sprayed with chemicals that can harm wildlife; not an offering you want to make.

Do you sometimes just feel an urge to make a gift to a place, though? Perhaps especially if you feel that the place has “given” you something (our brains like gratitude and reciprocity). I sometimes offer a song for the wind to take, or simply make an intention to carry forward. Or, if I’m particularly organised, a bag and gloves for picking up litter.

Create a seasonal altar or nature table

November nature table

If you’ve visited this blog before, you might know that seasonal displays are quite an important part of my spiritual practice, particularly as part of pagan family life. Whether you put together a season table with children, or an altar that you dedicate to solitary ritual, you’ll find that beautiful seasonal visuals in your home help bring your awareness to your spirituality.

The seasonal display above is one that I made around Samhain a few years ago. You can find other ideas in the “nature tables/altars” section of this blog — and many, many more on Pinterest!

This beautiful idea for remembering your ancestors

Find instructions and more info at flyingthehedge.com

A simple but very meaningful Samhain make. One that could prompt interesting conversations with children about their family ancestry, too.

Brew up some Samhain stew or soup

Pumpkin soup image by -Rita-👩‍🍳 und 📷 mit ❤ from Pixabay

I read this blogpost by Shannon Hayes several years ago, and just loved the idea. We’re a vegetarian household, and I find a soup lends itself better to our little family, but the idea that she presents is very similar. What would you put in yours?

More seasonal makes for your nature table, window, dinner table or porch

I really like the recycling ethos of this one. Again, this could be a great opener for family conversations about sustainability, as well as about nature’s own recycling systems (such as those fallen leaves feeding the soil they’re rotting into). There’s several more autumn craft ideas, as well as instructions for this one, if you follow the link in the caption.

Learn a witchy skill

Image from MiraCosmic via Pixabay

The veil between our world and the spirit world is believed to be at its thinnest at Samhain (as well as Beltaine), making this a pontent time for divination. Having a regular practice for arts like tarot is the best way to hone your skills with these intriguing tools. We naturally “turn inward” as we enter the darker months of the year; into our homes, our psyche, our dreams and inner worlds. Your intuition and instinct is key in divination, so make some space for it as part of your Samhain celebrations.

Unsure how to get started with Tarot? Here’s a post I wrote earlier this year.

Simple kid-friendly treats

Frozen banana ghosts from skinnytaste.com

Whip up these white chocolate-dipped ghosts as easy eats for the 31st. As someone who connects with the pagan Samhain element of this festival, rather than the more commercial Halloween side, I’m not usually drawn to the more jokey, garish-scary imagery. However, ghost-related activities with kids might give an opportunity to talk about death together; something that our society tends to make taboo.

Connect with your spiritual community

From the Glastonbury Dragons Samhain Wild Hunt Festival – photo from the Guardian online.

Search for events near you that focus on Samhain rather than Halloween. You may find Goddess Temple ceremonies, informal community gatherings or other events. Apple Day celebrations often happen around this time, and might offer that folk tradition element that helps you to find inspiration, and connection.

I hope that you find time for some heartfelt Samhain preparations in your week. Our next blogpost will continue our wheel of the year festival journal prompts series, with ideas for Samhain and the Celtic New Year. Make sure you’re subscribed. )O(

Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind~ It’s a great time of year for spooky stories! I read this new YA supernatural horror this year, gripping my seat tighter and tighter as the story went on.

Body~ If you’ve gone for a many-pumpkin display (and I do love them), you may find you have a lot of pumpkin left! There’s a limit to how much soup our bellies and freezers can take, so why not try pumpkin chutney? This recipe from Sainsbury’s combines it with apple, for a very seasonal vibe. Make enough to give as gifts at the Winter Solstice, or Christmas, and you’ll feel like a pro for having a few gifts sorted now!

Heart~ This beautiful crone goddess artwork by Angie Latham

Spirit~ You may wish to include some kind of ritual in your celebrations. However, sometimes this can feel daunting if this is something new to you, or you live in a shared house with people who don’t know about your spiritual interests (or have children who make wake up unpredictably!) There are a wealth of ideas in books, online and in other pagan resources.

A simple, low-prep idea is just to gather some leaves or other autumnal items and arrange them around two dinner candles that are in sturdy holders. Light one candle for the outgoing year, visualising things you wish to let go of falling away with the dripping wax. Bring your attention to the flame, remembering the good things (or potent lessons) from the year that you want to shine on into the next. Then light the other candle, visualising your new hopes for the year ahead. Perhaps write your lists for both candles in your journal, as you let the candles burn.

You might enjoy letting the candles burn right down (this might be easier if you buy or make little spell candles!). Or you can light each candle for a while on as many nights of this lunar cycle as is possible for you.

Sharing~ Artwork inspires my connection to my spirituality – and to others who walk a similar path. Campaign for the Arts wants to make the arts available to all children, inclusive of all backgrounds, and thriving everywhere. See their current campaigns here.

Celebrating Black pagan voices

Earth-centred spirituality, the wellness industry, nature-based education, and spiritual self-development can often be spaces lacking in racial diversity. Does your online reading, and list of accounts you follow, honour a variety of voices?

This week, Spin Your Circle Bright highlights links, resources, and artworks that celebrate some of the amazing Black pagan voices online. It’s a far from a complete list: please share more in the comments section below.

This article from The Wild Hunt by Crystal Blanton.

Crystal Blanton is a writer, activist, social worker, therapist and more who has written various articles for The Wild Hunt, as well as several books. This article from a few years ago honours the voices of several African American pagan practitioners. You can also follow the links to the blogs and other writings of several of the writers featured. Check out another article written by Crystal for The Wild Hunt too: 11 Influential Pagans of Color – a Discussion.

These resources for learning about cultural appropriation

Among those practising alternative spirituality, and pagan-umbrella beliefs, cultural appropriation is still prevalent. Words and phrases that reinforce of harmful stereotypes, or that many people from minority ethnic groups find offensive, are also still commonly used. I am guilty of having done these things too, from a place of ignorance where I should have educated myself more; for this I am sorry.

From the Next World Tarot by Cristy C Road

What this Black woman wants White women to know

Women who walk the path of the goddess and the Divine Feminine, or who follow “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brands” need to read this.

Call for solidarity and anti-racism

This article makes some similar points about White feminist paganism marginalising Black and Indigenous people and practices, and the rising dangers of some of the far-right connecting themselves with some branches of paganism.

From the Divine Diversity Tarot Deck, by Mary T Cusack

Thinking about the language that we use as pagans

This article about our use of the words dark and light, as well as this one. (The second is written by a White person, but shares links at the end to inspiring Black writers, especially relevant to marketers and business writers).

Books written by Black pagan writers

  • This Bustle article explores underrepresentation of authors from minority ethnic groups in the occult books genre.

Another recommended read from Black Witch is this article sharing her perspective on race and racism within the pagan community.

October is Black History month in the UK and the 2022 theme is Time for Change: Action not Words. Read how White people can be a better allies to the Black community here. I commit to learning, improving, and to a spiritual practice that is respectful, inclusive, and represents the Earth that I honour.

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Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind~ White privilege, structural racism, and individual prejudice create devastating health and social inequalities for people from minority ethnic groups. I wrote this article for UK charity Covid Aid remembering the tragic impact of the pandemic upon Black communities.

Body~ In striving for a fairer world, we need to consider the supply chain of products we put in and on our bodies, as well as in our homes. You may already choose Fairtrade foods and perhaps some toiletries. But pagans who use crystals, incense, magickal tools, special garments and other supplies need to consider how these items are harvested, who owns and works the land they come from, and the rights and welfare of who is involved in their production. Don’t be afraid to put your questions to retailers; I’ve had several interesting discussions by doing so.

Heart~ It’s also important to consider the sourcing of historical art and artefacts that many celebrate the chance to see in Western museums and galleries. Read more here about colonial looting.

Spirit~ In reading through the amazing articles and Black pagan authors linked to in this blogpost, I was reminded of the importance that many Indigenous practices place on ancestral practices and connection. This is very topical within paganism in October, as we approach Samhain, and a perspective to listen to as part of your preparations for our next Wheel of the Year festival.

Sharing~ PaganAid is a UK charity supporting sustainable and anti-poverty projects. Examples include supporting tribal people in rainforest areas affected by deforestation, and supporting farmers in semi-arid areas of Africa. Find out how to contribute here.

How to create an (im)perfect October nature table or altar

October feels like the heart of Autumn. Where I live, early September can still be summery, and late November pretty wintery, but October is Autumn through and through. This post follows our monthly series on how to make beautiful home nature tables, seasonal altars, or meditation spaces, with unique personal touches and for little – or no – cost.

October has such a rich palate of corresponding colours inspired by the turning, falling leaves as well as berries and other fruits. However, orange is a key colour for me – found in pumpkins, nasturtiums, flames, and the setting sun. This is why I choose an orange cloth for our family nature table, and it’s found in other objects included there as well.

Brown, red, yellow and purple feature too, along with dark green as some trees have yet to turn. (And obviously some remain green). Many leaves are still partly green; it’s fascinating to observe the journey of when leaves start to, and complete, turning – and how the point at which they do can vary year on year. It would be a lovely thing to record annually in your journal, family nature log or even in among planting records that you keep for your garden.

October is abundant in treasures to adorn your seasonal display, pagan altar, meditation space or family nature table with. Fallen pine cones, conkers, nuts, acorns, sweet chestnuts, sycamore helicopters and more can be collected from nature walks and brought back to add and admire. You may feel drawn to painting or spraying your finds, or prefer to just enjoy their natural hues.

Month-by-month frieze by Rima Staines.
Images for the goddess wheel (on the right) by Wendy Andrew.

If you look closely at these photos, you can see that some autumn finds have been used in craft activities such as little people, conker animals, and twig spiderwebs. These are simple, fairly quick projects to do with children on chilly or rainy afternoons. Activities such as winding wool (as for the spiderwebs) support dexterity and fine motor skill development, which in turn supports handwriting skills. Sawing sticks, or clamping conkers to pierce holes in, helps children to learn safe use of tools and the value of making something yourself, inexpensively and imaginatively.

Fresh items, such as fallen apples, are also lovely to include and offer some colour amongst the natural brown colour of the items described above. However doing so does require you to be attentive enough to your display to remove them before they start to rot! If you tend to leave small offerings on your seasonal altar, display or nature table, you are likely to be regularly maintaining it anyway.

Similarly, seasonal flowers can be added – or branches or stems that you have from any autumn pruning in your garden. I adore seed heads such as teasels, poppy pods and cow parsley. Plus they don’t need water – or as much commitment to monitoring for decay.

The felted toadstool was a slightly longer-term project that involved weaving on a circular loom, felting and sewing. Instructions can be found in this gorgeous book of varied kid-friendly weaving projects. Similarly, the tall gnome in the red felt hat (below) involves some whittling and sewing to make.

Also displayed are our corn dolls; we make them around the pagan wheel of the year festival of Lammas each year, and keep them until Samhain or the Winter Solstice.

Framed print by Peter Pracownik

Much of what is currently portrayed as “perfect” often adopts quite a minimalist aesthetic that honours a lack of clutter. I too love that look, and the values of simple living and reducing stuff – particularly as someone living in a dinky cottage with two children.

However, if – like mine – your Autumn seasonal display is built from treasures collected by curious, excited small hands, then you may find that your family nature table is neither minimalist nor uncluttered! For me this reflects the season; the hedgerows are tangled with bryony vine and speckled with hips and haws. The forest floor, street pavements and gardens likewise get untidy with all the many things that the trees are letting drop.

Let go too.

I wish you fun, peace and pleasure creating an autumn nature table or seasonal altar that suits your home.

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Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind~ This book, as well as this favourite of mine, are great resources for nature table inspiration, along with this Green Parent Magazine article. Following blogs like Myriad Online’sBellaLuna Toys – or those of the various Steiner-Waldorf or Montessori home-educators out there – can likewise feed you beautiful ideas for your family’s seasonal focal point.

For pagan altar associations, I found Vivianne Crowley’s Way of Wicca, as well as Marian Green’s books, helpful at the start of my journey with earth-centered spirituality. As I’ve deepened my relationship with the seasons where I live, I decorate from my own connotations and observations of them.

Body~ Most years, I have bought a Squash Box from Riverford – a selection of different squash varieties – as a learning opportunity for my kids and I about the lesser known types, and for discovering our personal favourites. They don’t seem to be doing the box this year, but are offering a mixed mushroom box that could provide a similar experience.

Heart~ Pinterest and Google can help you find many more autumn season table, pagan altar, nature table ideas.

Spirit~ The awesome Seed Sistas are hosting a Herbal Magic webinar covering herbs for spellcrafting, protection rituals, cleansing magical tools and relevant astrological influences. The Seed Sistas are fun and fantastic trained medical herbalists who offer a wealth of courses short and long, as well as a heap of articles, recipes, e-books, herbal preparations and more. The webinar falls next week, just in time for Samhain: register now.

Sharing~ Decorating with nature finds can still be compatible with reducing consumerism and simple, sustainable living. Gather them with the foraging code in mind. When the season moves on, feed what we can to your compost or fire; this is another benefit of leaving nature finds unpainted. In our house, items where we have added glue, pen or other mediums often are among the decorations that get kept year on year. As there are only a small number of them, they don’t take up much space to store. However, sometimes decorations become broken or unwanted:

  • You can paint over wooden beads that, for example, had faces drawn on them. I’ve done this and then used the beads for other craft projects – satisfyingly frugal and sustainable!
  • You can cut off parts of otherwise biodegradable items that had glue on them. Although the glued part will need to go into your landfill waste-bin, the main part can be disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way.
  • I’ve also taken old decorations made from pinecones to the wood recycling section of our local council-run tip.

Where will you find your magical autumn treasures?

Revealing one of my Earth Pathways Diary 2023 published entries and the gorgeous seasonal artwork that it’s been paired with

I have bought the Earth Pathways Diary – or had it gifted to me – for many years. I was therefore completely over the moon when I heard that two of my writing pieces had been accepted for next year’s beautiful Earth-aware diary. This is the first time that any of my work has been featured, and it’s literally a dream come true, (and total honour), to see my words in print among such amazing works as those others gracing the diary’s FSC paper pages.

The Earth Pathways story

This is the Earth Pathways Diary’s fifteenth edition, started by a small team of like-minded people and now reaching a global community through its products, website, and social media platforms. The Earth Pathways Co-operative runs as a non-profit and has a seed fund that helps small, grassroots projects and community ventures that share the Earth Pathways values of sustainable living and Earth-centred connection. The initiatives that it gives this to are varied, but all have common heartfelt aims and principles of Earth-care and commitment to protecting our planet.

Also available from Earth Pathways are a lovely calendar, mandala journal and tree journal. Products can be bought online, or can be found in various UK shops such as independent health food stores. Their website also displays pieces from previous journals, and has their guidelines for how you too can submit your artwork, poetry, photography or creative prose; the deadline for 2024’s diary is at the end of this month!

What else I love about the diary

The diary is printed in the UK using vegetable inks and is A5 sized when closed. Each double page treats you one whole side artwork and/or word-craft (as in the top image above). The other side is split horizontally into seven equal sections for your day-to-day notes. This allows you approximately 2.5 by 13.5cm for each day, a little of which is given to providing the phase, rising time and zodiac location of the moon, as well as any significant astrological transits, or festival dates.

At the front of the diary, you are guided through the meaning and symbolism of the moon in different zodiac signs, along with similar information for lunar phases, the year’s retrograde planets, and the numerology of 2023.

Tech is amazing, often with advantages over paper products, but you’re not alone if you’re a physical-product person when it comes to a diary (I feel the same way about books too!). This is such a varied showcase of so many talented, Earth-loving creators, that holding this diary feels like having an nature-inspired art gallery in my hands. All whilst following the most beautifully-depicted seasonal journey.

Image by Hans from Pixabay

My inspiration for this piece

It’s probably very clear that my inspiration for this entry was a walk in the woods with my two children. In fact, it illustrated quite a typical forest outing for the three of us. Fittingly, the week that it appears in the diary is around the time of my eldest’s birthday (and my other entry, which I’ll share around the time it’s featured at, appears around the time of my youngest’s).

Like the seasons, children of course change. They spin their own spiral around the year; each time they come back to a season, they are approaching it having stepped up their learning, development and growth in their relationship with the world around them. Naturally, so do we adults – but we are not usually changing as rapidly as kids are.

My youngest is just about on the cusp of when the autumn fairies crafted from pine cones and beech nuts start to lose the magic that they hold for little ones, my eldest having crossed that bridge already. As my boys grow towards the adventures of their next ages and phases, memories like this one become treasure indeed.

Although there are plenty of grown-ups who believe in fairies…

Framed print: Arthur Rackham

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Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind ~ Instructions for making the autumn fairies mentioned were from my very well-thumbed copy of Festivals, Family and Food. You can find similar here.

Body ~ Beechnuts are on my wishlist fir foraging to eat (as well as for craft projects and our nature table). You can get some recipe ideas from this Pinterest board – at the moment it only has a few, so feels far less overwhelming than Pinterest boards can get!

Heart ~ Check out the wonderful website of Jacqui de Rose, the artist whose evocative autumn picture my piece shares a page with.

Spirit ~ If you’re looking for more ways to explore or celebrate your Earth-spirituality, soul work, ancestral threads and folk and fairytales through writing, have a look at these mythic imagination courses from Sharon Blackie. The Dark Mountain Project also has a creative workshop this month that connects myth, story, art, ceremony, and Samhain themes.

Sharing ~ Find out more about The Dark Mountain Project, and why we need its honesty around the times that we are living in, here.

6 Autumn story books for preschoolers to snuggle up with

As the days get chillier and crisp leaves start to fall, what could be cosier than grabbing a blanket and a pile of seasonal stories?

Image by Victoria_rt from Pixabay

This week, Spin You Circle Bright continues its seasonal series of recommendations for children’s nature stories and books. Following a nature-based spiritual path, it’s been important for me to share that with my kids. Not to force them to believe the same as me, but to help them to develop their own relationship with nature, whether or not they feel it to be a spiritual one. At this time of climate crisis, and what that means for the future that my sons face, it’s my responsibility to facilitate that learning, Of course, being outdoors immersed in various activities and landscapes offers the best classroom for nature education. However, as writer Barry Lopez says (quoted from one of my favourite blogs, Myth and Moor):

“Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns, we might reimagine our lives”.

Barry Lopez (About This Life).

Here are some autumn stories that I love for the seasonal scenes, plants and activities they depict. If, like me, you’re not fond of books for young children that have garish pictures and lots of sensationalist language, you’ll find these books more gentle. To give loose age suitability, my kids got into these stories around age two or three, and my six year-old still enjoys most of them.

Autumn, Gerda Muller

This pictures-only book has been much-loved in our household for many years; my six year-old has only recently declared it too young for him. “Autumn” is one of a four-book series through the seasons by the author, each one following the season through its changes, and showing children engaged in seasonal scenes, work and play. Looking through this book together after a day in the woods exploring fallen autumn treasures has been a lovely resource for reinforcing that connection to the season, and what happens in it. The absence of text enables you to create your own stories around the pictures, or chat together about similar activities you have done or would like to do (spoiler alert: the “Winter” book of the series depicts a lot more snow than – to my kids’ disappointment – we tend to get where we live!)

The Story of the Wind Children, Sybille von Olfers

This book also starts with the season changing, as a boy makes friends with a wind sprite and they share fun together. A lovely story about playing with the elements that weaves in autumnal plants and other imagery. I think the kind of magic and adult-free adventure characteristic of Sybille von Olfers classics is part of what still gives them strong kid-appeal today.

Woody, Hazel and Little Pip, Elsa Beskow

A slightly longer story, which I think my children enjoyed from the closer-to-four side of age three. It follows an autumn day adventure of the Hazel children and Acorn children – and other forest folk and animals that they meet. The story includes a bit of mischievousness, a bit of parental anxiety and a bit of community skill/resource-sharing; themes that can provide a relatable springboard for various family discussions! The popularity of Elsa Beskow’s illustrations is evident in the availability of calendars and other merchandise that feature them.

The Children of the Forest, also Elsa Beskow

Whilst this book follows another forest-dwelling family through the cycle of all four of the seasons, books with a woodland setting often have quite an autumnal feel for me. This story also presents traditions such as foraging, handcrafts, babywearing, oral storytelling and community interdependence amongst subtle safety warnings and ideas for outdoor play.

The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson

This famous tale doesn’t really need an introduction! However, I’ve included it because of its woodland setting, implication of the season, and its autumnal theme of reaping rewards for your hard work: the mouse, although arguably a bit imaginative on the truth front at times, puts in a lot of time and skill to non-aggressively save himself from physical threats. His efforts are rewarded at the end of the story and for me, this resonates with the harvest-time pagan message of looking at what you have reaped this year, particularly from what you have worked hard – and creatively – at.

Tidy, Emily Gravett

If you love to celebrate wild, unruly, messy nature then this is an ideal story to help you communicate that to younger children. Badger regrets trying to tidy and control nature – and suffers the consequences of doing so (until he puts it all right again). However, this message is delivered light-heartedly, with die-cuts through the beautiful illustrations adding extra interest and sensory elements to the book. The newest-written of all the books on this list, and perfect for raising environmentally-aware kids.

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Do you have recommendation for similar autumn story books for preschoolers? Please share in the comments!

Spin your circle bright this week:

Mind~ Possibly my favourite description of autumn spirituality, and one that I have often read out to my children on the Autumn Equinox, comes from Craft of the Wild Witch, by the talented artist and author Poppy Palin, who sadly passed away this year. I’ll quote it here as I have usually read it to my kids, but I recommend you track down a copy of Craft of the Wild Witch to treat yourself to the whole passage – and to the rest of this soulful, magical book!

Earth Mother has been spending the cooler days and shorter nights making a patchwork quilt and this she casts lovingly over a land that now feels a chill after dark. It is a marvellous quilt, made of ploughed fields, once golden and green, now fallow or full of stubble….

…Father Nature has strands of grey in his beard and silver in his nut-brown hair. Strings of glossy conkers hang around his lined neck and his pockets are full of sycamore seed treasures, acorns, and the fruits of wisdom given by the hazel tree, whose leaves were once baby-soft and downy, now turning tough and hairy. Father Nature swings his staff of ash and his feet begin to crunch through the leaves, leaves already passed away from the trees that bore them, making patterns on Mother Nature’s quilt of land. He sniffs the air and feels the wind of change, as does the squirrel and the wren, both bobbing and weaving, preparing for the inevitable return of winter”.

Poppy Palin (Craft of the Wild Witch)

Body~ I planted some winter-suitable salad plants this month and have already been munching the microgreens. Charles Dowding has lots of information on growing winter edibles – and on no-dig organic gardening generally.

Heart~ When they were younger, my children watched this exquisite, Waldorf-inspired short film, Pipkin, over and over again as a family autumn tradition. It’s only five minutes – and such a gentle, slow-paced contrast to most current kids TV.

Spirit~ This Waldorf mealtime blessing – you can follow the link in the image description for other similar ideas, too.

Sharing~ In the UK, unwanted books (as well as games, CDs and DVDs) can be traded in to Ziffit, who then either resell them, recycle them, or pass them on to charity causes. It’s a really simple process, via a friendly B-corp company, that results in you being a few pounds better off and somebody else benefitting from things that were cluttering your home.

3 Seasonal Journal Prompts for the Autumn Equinox

It’s almost the Autumn Equinox and, this week, Spin Your Circle Bright continues its series of Wheel of the Year journal prompts, mapping the themes and teachings of each of the eight pagan festivals to your unique self-development journey. Open your heart, mind, and journal to some or all of these prompts to deepen your connection to the seasons and yourself.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

1) I am gathering & storing

Abundance is all around us during this season, and for food growers and gatherers it is a busy time. Careful storage and preservation of food of course enable food through the winter, making Autumn a season of preparation – as well as a time for enjoyment of its gifts here and now.

  • Abundant in my life right now is…
  • This abundance feels… Overwhelming? Or perhaps a blessing that you’re super thankful for. A pressure to do, keep up with and engage with things? Or full of exciting potential?
  • I need to gather in – to finish up, or to reap/harvest -…
  • Thinking about challenges that may be ahead, I need to prepare by…

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

2) I am appreciating…

Having a daily gratitude practice as a family – or a personal, written one in a journal – doesn’t only provide a more positive conversational alternative to airing frustrations or offloading troubles; it’s backed by growing research as being good for you mental health. As well as enhancing your mood at the time of tuning into these feelings, a regular practice is likely to contribute to sustained overall happiness, through mechanisms such as increasing our emotional awareness and sensitivity, creating bonds in our relationships (of all kinds) that boost our commitment to them, improving sleep, and bringing a sense of grounding and peace. Read more here and here.

  • Good things that have come my way this year are…
  • People, or actions, that have supported their happening are….
  • 5 other things that I’m grateful for today are…

Image by Karsten Paulick from Pixabay

3) I need to let go

Where sacrifice (one of the journal prompts that I suggested for Lammas) suggests a conscious decision to give up something that is of use or value to you, the autumnal theme of letting go considers what is already waning, or coming to an end. Taking cue from the trees and bushes that drop their too-heavy fruit and their drying leaves, from the flowers and weeds that droop forwards in surrender to the ground, and from the sun that sinks earlier in the evenings, this is about following a pull that is already in motion.

Releasing what you don’t need anymore makes room for transitioning to a new cycle of growth.

However, not everything in life can feasibly be cast off, stopped, walked away from or marked as done. Letting go doesn’t have to be that dramatic and final, though. Just like the natural phenomena above, it can be part of a cycle of change and adaption; the natural world is pretty good at evolution and adaption, in contrast to the disposable culture humans often adopt. For example, you might need to let go of a particular way that you’re doing a project, rather than the whole project itself.

Autumn and spring are seasons of change, bridging and transitioning towards hottest and coldest seasons. In Autumn we often feel the winds change, and the cold nip of morning and evening air reminding us that, even if the day’s temperature sees us dressed in just one light layer, we’re out of summer now. You too might ask where in your life you are currently needing to adapt and change.

  • Something it’s time to say goodbye to is…
  • I’m feeling that pull through… what are the signs that this is not working, or has had its time?
  • I need to invite myself to change…
  • Things that are stopping/slowing me are… fear? Lack of support? Or perhaps holding onto the familiarity of what this once was to you, but no longer is?

And so I wish you, with Elsa quite possibly singing in your head for the next few days, a very Merry Equinox. May sure you’re subscribed for the next – and all future – posts. )O(

Image from the Disney film, found on cultrbox.com

Spin Your Circle Bright this week:

Mind ~ The Autumn Equinox is often referred to as Mabon, but there’s debate about whether on not it should be. You can read this post for more detailed background and the mythology of Mabon himself, and hear another opinion – and other name suggestions – here. What do you think?

Body ~ The blackthorn around where I live are heavily laden, and I’ve been looking into sloe recipes that aren’t gin. I got some advice on waiting vs not waiting for first frosts to harvest, discovered uses for sloes that have already been soaked for gin making, and have added yet another awesome-looking book to my wishlist.

Heart ~ For artworks that capture the beauty, meaning and message of the Autumn Equinox, my favourites are by Jaine Rose, Wendy Andrew, and Danielle Barlow.

Spirit ~ How about heading out to the woods with a few props to set up a little nature altar for an outdoor ritual? I love this woodland autumn equinox altar – as well as this one – for inspiration.

Sharing ~ It’s traditional for churches to make a harvest collection around now to collect food for those in need in the local community. As those on a nature-based spiritual path, let’s make sure that we do similarly. Many British supermarkets have a Foodbank donation point, sometimes including one for pet food too, and some Boots stores have a similar facility for donating toiletries, dental care items and menstrual care products.

If you are in the UK and struggling to afford food, you can find your nearest Foodbank via the Trussel Trust’s website, as well as use their online tools to check your entitlement to benefits and grants.

Top image: Sabrina Ripke Fotographie via Pixabay