Samhain: remembering

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Remember, remember, the day before November….

Some know this time as Halloween, some as Samhain. For some the greater significance is about the harvest drawing to a close. for others it is about remembering ancestors. Although the path i’m on is one aimed towards something near self-sufficiency, I’ve never quite achieved enough of a harvest for the former to really be significant. And the latter is something I’ve never fully clicked with; I’ve kind of payed lip-service to it in each year’s Samhain celebrations with a something like “oh and here I remember the ancestors”, but it’s never been a deep, heartfelt expression of connection. Which I’ve then felt guilty about as it feels a little irreverent.

i’ve been very fortunate in not suffering any very close bereavements and I’m not particularly drawn to tracing my family tree. Maybe one day when I’ve more time! However, watching an interesting video post on The Spinning of the Wheel blog this week inspired me to consider ancestors in a wider context, such as a social context (as well as giving inspiration for including ancestors in celebrations and ritual). For example, in the last couple of years, my husband and I have been learning a lot about skills in growing food, making food, practical skills, homesteading, parenting, and…..living life. We both enjoy some traditional crafts and use herbal medicine, folk remedies, massage and Reiki. What I realised this week is that in these things we connect with our ancestors every day; in these skills that have been carefully passed from generation to generation, that have been developed in homes, fields and workshops then passed on through wise hands and kind hearts. This is our ancestry, as well as that of our blood, and the spirits of these wise people live on in the arts and sciences that we (and so many others) practise – sometimes to the letter, sometimes with our own twist.

I think that, for me, this has been the year of being grateful. A busy year of so much learning that the space for rest and reflection that nature now invites us to is much needed. Happy Samhain ♥

How we will celebrate:

  • I tend to mark Samhain as being the start of winter, and so occurring at the time of the first frost. However, given that I don’t want to be left out of the party everyone else is having on the 31st, I often start my Samahin-tide then, or at the dark moon closest to it. Tomorrow, i’ll be sorting some treats for trick-or-treaters.
  • Friday: I hope to spend some time meditating. We also plan to do some tasks to prepare us and our home for winter; making curtains, mending slippers, clearing in the garden etc. Probably a little ritual too…but this can fit flexibly into the part of the weekend where the energies are right for it.
  • Saturday: we have some family who have similar beliefs coming over. We’ll probably share some soup made from our home-grown squash….and I’m thinking towards a pumpkin and chocolate cupcake recipe that’s in one of my books. Will the flavours go? Only one way to find out!
  • Sunday: family walk, the three of us, somewhere out of the city.
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Perfect autumn day

 

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Despite all the stormy weather going on at the moment, I think yesterday contained most components of my perfect autumn day: garden time doing some autumn tasks, a woodland walk in the Mendips (our foraging efforts were unsuccessful, but my goodness how the bracken in that part of the world knows how to show off autumn!), knitting, hot chocolate, apple and pear crumble and hot spiced apple juice,  And thanks to the clocks going back, I got a whole extra hour of it all! The only thing missing was a hearty soup for one of my meals….

As Samhain and winter draw near, I hope that autumn is providing much beauty (and no storm damage) for you too. ♥

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Liberation

IMG_1723For a while, I worried that it was because I was being over-stubborn, stupid, inherently greedy and/or a product of a capitalist society whose mantra of “bigger, better, more” doesn’t easily correlate with the idea of waning. release and un-productivity. This autumn, as nature in her leaf-dropping and her decay calls us to release what is no longer serving us,  I’ve been struggling to figure out what I need to let go of this year. Life has felt a little overwhelming at times recently: surely this was a certain sign that something(s) had to go. Surely I can’t need all that my life is feeling so full of. Surely I should know.

It came to me this week, as the harvest season draws to a close and Samhain approaches. Arrived on my consciousness with gentle wings and brought a soft smile to my autumn-cracked lips.

On a rare child-free afternoon earlier this month, my husband and I had listed the things we really love and want to feature strongly in our life. Ironically, a lot of these precious, beautiful values are the things that we often feel that we have little time for. I suspect that it is the same for many people who also feel bound to life’s various commitments and chores, who are also feeling their time drip away in frustrating calls to energy companies and deciding which brand of honey to buy whilst their passions get squashed out. Surely it doesn’t have to be like this.

No it doesn’t. There certainly are essential commitments and there most certainly are realities such as the cold hard fact that the laundry won’t do itself. Yet there is room for prioritising and making choices, for focusing on what’s needed. This week, I’ve kind of battened down the hatches a little to spend more time with my husband and son – and with myself – to really listen to what those needs are. That’s meant that a few texts haven’t been replied to, a couple of social dates have been cancelled and non-essential chores have been left. I know that I can feel very responsible to others and to their expectations, to what I perceive others’ expectations to be and to what my own expectations are.

What I’ve been needing to release is myself.

And I can see that I’ve been doing this for a little while now; reducing the time I spend on Facebook, not vacuuming quite so often, seeing when we just need a gentle day at home and saying so. I feel like the boss is giving me a wink and saying “it’s ok, you don’t have to come to work today”, or “go, just for today leave these things that don’t really inspire you and go. Run out to somewhere beautiful and dance to the song that makes your heart sing with it”. I am that boss, and sometimes that beautiful place I follow my heart to is just to potter around the garden with my son, watching worms. But the feeling is that of running free.

I don’t want to just live life selfishly but I can see that there’s a few things that have been getting in the way of the person I want to be. Or rather, I’ve been standing behind them and letting them block my view and my path, resenting them for it. I’ve let them disconnect me from my family – and from my craft projects.

The fallen leaves will decay to nourish new plants and the dead flowers release seeds that will grow into the next generation of crops and blooms. I hope that the me that I’m releasing will grow, bloom – and nourish others. ♥

 

 

Maiden no more

pink candleDaughter, maiden, mother, crone, elder is how I correlate the moon’s cycle to the stages of a woman’s life. i see the maiden phase as beginning at menarch (a stage that, coincidentally, some wise and wonderful women have published books on recently: see here and here) and lasting until motherhood begins – be that the birthing of children or a strong career or other life work.

I have many “maidenhood” memories centered around Bristol’s St Nicholas Market, (many of them somehow in autumn!).  I would come here in my early uni days, on those trips into town to blow my “university book allowance” in Waterstones on the books that helped my discover my spirituality. I’d drool over the beautiful clothes in the gothy clothing shop, stock up on essential oils and incense materials from the fair trade shop and sip hot spiced apple juice from the smoothie bar. A few years later, I would make frequent trips to that juice bar with clients from the addictions unit that I worked on.  I also worked in a couple of the market’s shops for a while, which may be a reason for my going there less often now. I was dumped in that market and spent a lot of evenings in an alternative-scene pub next door, often (no, usually!) drowning romance-related sorrows. I had my beautiful wedding tiara made in the market by Lunartique and nervously tried to eat lunch there with Rob just before the legal bit of our wedding at the registry office on the same street.

Yesterday, as I sat in the market cafe with Dylan, sharing one of the sugar-free vegan apricot flapjacks that I always used to buy from there, I reflected on this period my life.  A little part of me longs for the freedom, the social life, the financial income and the – shall we say – indulgences of those mostly-single, pre-motherhood days. But most of me knows that those things just wouldn’t be right now; that I actually i would feel a bit old and out of place in that pub (and ready for bed at about the time I used to head out!), that those lovely gothy clothes with long pointed Stevie Nicks sleeves just wouldn’t be practical for making candles and planting vegetables, that I don’t truly have any desire for those silly quantities of cheap vodka or other things.

IMG_1708No, I am no longer Maiden Mo and I do sometimes grieve a little for her. But actually she is still here in who I am today – all that reading, meditating, navel-gazing, experimenting and “formative experiences” have created this Mama Mo. Like the moon, as we change and shift and journey and dance, different parts of us are revealed. I know that there are some things from that time that probably won’t ever return to my life (gut-rot vodka!) but some will – I can see this in my mum and the social life and freedom that she has. So even though I sit here wearing around my hips the scarf I always wore around my hips years ago, I open my heart wide to this Mama phase, to where I am right now. It’s a full, rich and beautiful place. ♥

Welcoming ceremony – babyhood / toddlerhood

IMG_1631This week has seen my little lad’s second birthday which, naturally, has sparked reminiscence about his first birthday and his actual birth – day. We combined our celebration of his turning one with a kind of welcoming ceremony. We welcomed his earth-side arrival when he was born, of course, as well as in an intimate, informal ceremony on our return home from the hospital. (A ceremony held at 1a.m in the “welcoming nest” of cushions and blankets we had made before we had left the house. It was just the three of us after a crazy, traumatic birth journey and we were exhausted. But it was here that we named Dylan and said our real “hello” and “welcome” to him). On his first birthday, we wanted to share a celebration of Dylan’s coming into our lives with special people who we loved and respected, and who we hoped would hold strong roles in Dylan’s life. Apart from church Christenings, or equivalents in other religions, there are seemingly few options for this kind of rite of passage. So we made up our own.

CNV00103Fortunately, his the day fell on a weekend which made it easier to gather the friends and family that we wanted there – especially because we invited them with a lot of advance notice. We were also blessed with beautiful weather: perfect for the garden ceremony that we had planned. My husband, Rob, and I stood in front of these twenty-something people holding Dylan, and thanked them all for coming. At that age, Dylan was a big fan of clapping. We told our guests that, throughout the ceremony, we would sometimes say “yay for us!” or “yay for Dylan!” and that we would like them to repeat that back, with much clapping. (One of the things I love most about creating DIY ceremonies is that you can personalise them by throwing in little phrases like this that you wouldn’t get in, say, most church services. Your guests will remember them!).

We then sang “happy birthday” to the star of the show before Rob explained how we were celebrating a whole earth-turn since Dylan’s birth and a year of us living as a family. And that we were also celebrating our transition from maiden to mother, youth to father and couple to parents. We acknowledged that it had been a year of magic, exhaustion, intense fun. sacrifice, abundant love, surprises and the blessing of daily challenges – with the learning an fulfillment that they bring. (Yay for us, clap clap!)

Rob and I then turned to each other and, in turn, thanked each other for their daily love, support and acceptance. “Wowzers, we created a whole new person! And he’s ace!” is another phrase probably not found in the standard Christening service of most churches. We welcomed each other to the next bit of our path, promising to keep each other in sight as we grow our Dylan. We hugged.

We then lit a candle to remind us of the light and sparkle that family life brings, saying that we would remember that candle on the days when we feel in need of strength and smiles.

We then turned to Dylan, who by then was probably toddling around the garden. We thanked him for coming into our lives and bringing us so much joy. We acknowledged how he had grown and developed in so many ways during that year and welcomed him towards the end of babyhood and start of toddlerhood – and beyond. “Yay for Dylan! Clap, clap!”.

We had bought Dylan a dwarf apple tree, which we then presented to him, promising to nurture him and the tree through times of blossom, fruiting, being bare and being in bud. We then made some vows to him, representing each vow with a blackberry (his very favourite fruit). As we spoke each vow, we handed him a blackberry, picked that morning on the estate we lived on. After all the vows were made, and his chin was as purple as could be, we shared the remaining berries with the guests with another “yay for Dylan!” and more clapping.

We then assembled everyone in a line, standing with their legs apart. The idea was that all of these people had already reached toddlerhood and that Dylan would, if comfortable doing so, crawl through their legs to resemble being welcomed to post-babyhood by us all. He more or less did so and was enthusiastic about it (we wouldn’t have pushed it at all if he was reluctant). At the end of the “tunnel”, our younger guests had assembled a tower of Dylan’s stacking cups for him to knock over; cue more clapping and “yay for Dylan!”s!

CNV00101We then thanked everyone for coming, stating our belief that it takes a village to raise a child and that we wanted them to be the heart of that village. Before the birthday feast commenced, we asked everyone to contribute the blessing or motto that we had asked them to prepare beforehand to the bookcase that we had bought for Dylan and painted leaves on; one for every guest to write in.

This year, his birthday was more relaxed and low key. We planned a day of things he loved; us, his grandparents and best friend (and his parents); a farm trip; a picnic of foods he loves; a boat-shaped cake; a walk in the woods and a trip to a noodle restaurant. As a bonus, we were blessed with beautiful weather again, and a hot air balloon display across the Bristol sky. Yay for Dylan. ♥

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