Samhain soup

We set aside Sunday (1st November) as our family Samhain day. I’d baked a cake beforehand (discovering that carob and blackberries go really deliciously together!), and I’d made some soup. Samhain soup. The idea had come from The Radical Homemaker blog, where a recent post described how she makes an annual Samhain Stew. The broth is made from bones from the various animals they raise on their farm, plus some other ingredients that they grow, and the family remember with gratitude the animals that they’ve raised, as well as their broader harvest – and their ancestors.

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The idea wasn’t one that I would use directly: as a vegetarian, I’m not comfortable with the idea of a living creature having been killed for my consumption but respect that others – such as my husband – do feel comfortable with that idea and so make a different choice. Our garden isn’t large enough to produce much food from plants or animals, but we grow a little, so a home-grown pumpkin and some herbs picked and dried in the summer went into our soup (which you can see garnished with one of our rampant nasturtiums!). Joining them in the pot were a couple of tomatoes and a pepper from a close friend’s greenhouse’s harvest, plus a couple of things from our vegbox, a couple from other independent shops that we frequent and a couple of things bought in the supermarket. For me this symbolised celebration of the harvest from the land – be it land I tend, land I know or land I don’t but am very grateful for. It reminded is of the year’s story from planning (“I want to grow pumpkins, Mama!”), to planting, to watching them grow, to harvesting to consuming. It celebrated our family’s efforts, those of a friend who is a big and special part of my life, and the efforts of those who work for the companies that we buy food from. At this point in our life where it’s not possible for us to be as self-sufficient as we one day hope to be, we are blessed to have the convenience of those businesses.

The soup did us several meals, including one shared with another very treasured lovely friend, and the evening meal of our Samhain day. This one was eaten outdoors around a bonfire and with our Jack o’lantern, following a beautiful walk near the Mendips which began in golden sunshine lighting up all those glowing Autumn leaves, then later turned to quite Avalonian wintry mists: pretty symbolic of Samhain’s calling us towards winter. It looked as though there had been frost there the previous night: something I often take as a cue for when to celebrate Samhain, rather than adhering to a specific date. (Although frosts do tend to arrive a little later here in the city). We put a spare chair and bowl with ours by the fire for the souls of loved ones who have passed on, speaking a little about them, and about the tired Earth being almost ready to tuck herself in for her winter sleep. We took our corn dolls from the nature table, told them any regrets or disappointments that from the year that we wished them to take into the fire to be burned up, and then my son took delight in throwing them in.

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We’ll continue our goodbye to the year – our Samhain-tide – for another few days until just before the dark moon (the lunar phase that I correspond to this point in the solar cycle) and until it really feels like winter is arriving.

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May. And pixie dust.

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Many with an earth-centred spirituality believe that, at Beltane and Samhain, the veil between our world and spirit worlds is at its thinnest. In recent years I’ve noticed that I tend to feel this closeness for pretty much all of May – perhaps starting in late April. This is a reason, among others, that I don’t get too hung up on my Beltane celebrations taking place on Beltane Eve/Day.

The spirit worlds I feel are close at Samhain are those where the ancestors who have passed on walk. They sometimes bring me gifts of a little inner wisdom – if open myself to it – and reassurance. I offer them rememberence, reverence and thanks.

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The worlds that seem close to me at this time of year are the realms of the fae; the pixies, the gnomes, the sprites, elves and other beings often confined to childrens’ books and legends such as those from my native English West Country. (Brian Froud is one of my favourite authorities on fairies). In May, I get this feeling that they’re fully awake and out to play. The gifts that I attribute to their generosity are the interesting forms in nature that I usually find more of at this time, as well as the general vibe of sparkle, benign mischief and giggling enchantment that seems sprinkled over this month. The pixie-dust month, with its bluebell pixie-hats, dainty skirt-like hawthorn flowers and pretty cowslip bells.

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This makes May a usually-happy time of inspiration and imagination for me – if I’m open to it. Combined with the reminder from nature to remember – and be true to – my passions, May holds excitement about harvests to (hopefully) come. Harvests of personal projects and goals, harvest from the land. I feel excited when I look at the flowers on our blueberry bushes (above) and think of the juicy fruit that we hope they’ll become. I feel excited when our seedlings push their little green shoots above the soil, then add leaves and more leaves and more. Year after year I witness this magic take place, but still it amazes me. I hope it always does. ♥

Beltane eve

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This week’s page of my beautiful Earth Pathways Diary is focussed on Beltane. The author of the inspiring piece of writing, Marion McCartney, chooses passion as the/a keyword for this festival. I think this would be my choice too. Right now, the blossoms seem passionate in their exuberance, so much of nature seems passionate in its enthusiastic growth. I associate passion with warmth, which the sun is blessing the earth with as it gets closer towards the solstice. The birdsong, the scents of the flowers in the evening, the flow of everything; I sense there’s passion in it.

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I feel that, as part of nature, this time of year calls us to reflect on our own passions and where passion dances – or doesn’t – in our lives. Of course – there are the passions associated with love, sex and fertility. And there are passions that conceive and birth wonders other than babies.

I’ve been trying to understand, listen to and answer my passions recently. Well, for a long time actually. It can be hard (and brave) to prioritise and make time for these things amidst busy lives of commitments, and perceived or genuine obligations and shoulds. We can feel guilty at our perceived indulgence of doing so. But surely it’s our passions that lead to us conceiving, gestating and bringing into the world our unique ideas and gifts. It may seem a teeny little imprint, but we are all parts of a whole – locally and globally.  Surely if we listen to the voice of our passions and give them the space to create, we contribute the beauty of our true self and spirit. We – like the pink and white frothy blossoms – can make the world a prettier place.

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I tend to start my Beltane celebrations on Beltane Eve – this evening – and continue until the full moon of May (Monday). I’ve written before about my habit of making a sabbat-tide. During these days, I’ll be contemplating my true passions and how to take them further. I’ll be celebrating nature’s passion and giving thanks for all the beautiful signs of it – part of this will be getting out to somewhere wild and soul-nourishing with my family. We’ll decorate our indoor nature table to reflect what we’re witnessing and sensing outdoors. I’ll also create some sacred space where I can open myself to inspiration, open doors to other worlds… or be enchanted by flower fairies.

Wishing you a bright and blessed Beltane – and radiance of your own passions. ♥

Spring creeps in

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When I think about the nearly-thirty-one years of seasons that I’ve experienced, Spring often seems to creep in slowest of the seasons; the others have a firmer arrival. This is what my memory tells me. (Yes, keeping a journal would have provided a more accurate record but it’s a little beyond me to apply such logic to my life!) Spring’s first steps onstage – the gradually longer days, the fragile snowdrops and crocuses – are so hushed and timid. These steps are slow and when the weather yo-yos between wintry and spring-like it’s as if those baby-steps retreat back to the wings before tiptoeing out again, maybe this time a shade further. It’s as if this season tries to be all inconspicuous as she comes out. Yet we the audience sit eagerly waiting, pointing these signs out to each other, shining the spotlight and cheering happily. Towards the end of Spring’s show – when colour smiles all around, the sun is strong, the air is warm and abundant blossoms everywhere froth with the confidence of a perfectly-made cappuccino – then fanfare and applause can almost be heard on the breeze.

As a parallel, my Imbolg celebrations tend to be more drawn out too. I’ve written before of how I tend to celebrate the cross-quarter festivals as a “tide” over a lunar month and I think that this particularly applies to my welcoming of Spring. We’ve enjoyed various little celebrations and activities over the past few weeks, such as….

  • spotting spring flowers, catkins and green buds on trees during our walks out and about. The almost-daily check of how much the green shoots in our garden have grown is such a magical spring ritual to share with my son.
  • Changing our nature table to reflect this festival.
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  • talking together about the change from winter, about the Earth waking up and about new life emerging – such as lambs being born! Dylan and I enjoyed a sheep-making activity from The Imagination Tree:

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  • blessing the packets of seeds that we intend to plant in our garden this year – indeed, we have some exciting plans for revamping our garden, (if our landlord agrees). For the blessing, we placed the packets in the centre of a ring of beeswax candles that I’d made, with a small bowl of Glastonbury Chalice Well water at the centre. We each gently blew around the circle and visualised the sun, rain and our love and nurture helping our seeds to go into beautiful vegetables, salads and flowers. I then extinguished all candles except one, which I put in the garden in a jam jar to help the earth to wake up. I left it there until it was spent.

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  • For more personal activities, focussing on my goals for this year – the seeds I’m planting in my life – as well as working a little with the goddess Bridget and thinking about my associations and identifications with her. I’ve also enjoyed using Miranda Grey’s womb renewal blessing from the last Worldwide Womb Blessing.

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(Paintings above by Jaine Rose)

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  • Being aware of the stronger kapha energy of this time of year and to try to balance this through adjustments to my diet, yoga practice and activities.
  • Rejoicing at being able to put washing out on the line and it being a little less damp by the end of the day. (simple things!)
  • Replacing our winter books with our spring ones in our seasonal book basket – and delighting in Dylan delighting in them!

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  • Treating ourselves to some cheery daffodils.

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Although we’re loving Spring’s gradual entrance, we are still hoping for a little snow; Dylan and I have agreed that our nature table should reflect that we still might do! Who knows….

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Happy Springtime (ish) ♥

July

To me, July is…

  • sunshine! And being outdoors.
  • slowness. It feels as though most of nature’s growing is done and life stands still before the waning sun starts to tug the harvest from the land and the leaves from the trees, pulling everything towards sleep. In the garden, most of the planting is done: the main work now is in nurturing the plants and keeping them watered. I think of the goddess as being very pregnant at this time of the year and late pregnancy generally makes for slowness! (especially in hot weather!) July days at school were difficult too – the heat brought lethargy, the impending end of term brought apathy. I still get this feeling now of not wanting to do a lot in hot weather (except go to the beach!).

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  • beaching. I was lucky to grow up in Cornwall and spent a lot of the school holiday at the beach. I’m not quite sure why I associate July so much with these seaside days of body-boarding, rock-pools and picnics; the bulk of the summer break is in August. I probably spent the first part of July daydreaming about the beach in preparation for the days ahead actually there!
  • related to this: I think of July in seaside colours (blues, red and white stripes, and the golden-light brown – also the colour that the thirsty grass often is in July!).
  • soft fruit. I LOVE berries, peaches, nectarines…nearly all soft fruit. Loving having strawberries, blueberries and raspberries from our garden right now.

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  •  water – being by the sea or river, watering the plants, preferring to drink plain water over hot drinks as I usually do. The water connotations of the full moon and impending birth which I correlate with this time of the year.
  • rest. Honouring that call to slowness. Savouring this peak of the year and the sun’s energy and light. Savouring it as I taste it captured in a very-fresh blueberry, savouring it as I play outdoors with flower pots and a bowl of water with my son. Honouring the opportunity to go for a 10pm walk under a beautiful sunset and crescent moon. Pouring love and gratitude into my garden along with the dishwater I thirst their quench with – and savouring the littleness of the pair of hands joining mine on the watering-can handle. For another July will come round quick, and another, and another and another again. ♥

Setting the date for seasonal celebrations

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Whilst equinoxes and solstices may have set calendar dates upon which they fall, (based on them being astronomical events), I feel that when to celebrate the other seasonal festivals is a matter a little more open to personal preference and interpretation.

 

Calendar date approach

Many people celebrate the cross-quarter festivals (Imbolg, Belatine, Lughnasadh and Samhain) on set calendar dates too. An advantage that I see with this is the sense of community. You know that others are celebrating a similar thing to you in similar ways on the same date; perhaps particularly appealing if your community of people with like-minded spiritual beliefs is largely online. Discussion, posts, searches and hashtags about themes related to Beltaine tend to, from what I’ve seen, centre around May 1st. Besides, an online community is often made up of people from various geographical areas; I know when I lived in Cornwall I’d be seeing the snowdrops a little earlier than now I’m in Bristol. It would be hard to achieve that togetherness with so much variation in nature’s pace.

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Nature’s cues approach and lunar approach

I see the cross-quarter festivals as marking the shift in seasons (with the equinoxes and solstices as being the midpoints) so also base my date for celebrations on when I feel that shift in nature around me and in myself. I also take into account the moon phase, celebrating Imbolg around the new moon, Beltaine and Lughnasadh around the full moon and Samhain around the dark moon. This is because I feel that the energy and messages of these phases of the lunar cycle is similar to that phase in the solar cycle. I know, I know: it does seem a lot less faff to just go with the calendar day approach! But for me, it’s important to have that awareness and marrying of the solar rhythm, the lunar rhythm and that of myself and the nature that is local to my home.

 

Marrying them all!

In practice, I’ve moved towards celebrating these festivals as Imbolg-tide, Beltaine-tide, etc. This period of celebration will include (often start from/end with) the calendar date when many people celebrate so that I can share in that. It will also allow me to, at some point during the “tide” :

  • enjoy some outdoor seasonally relevant activities with my husband and son,
  • engage in some solitary reflection about the season’s message and the progress of the year’s goals,
  • do some seasonal crafts, usually for decorating our seasonal altar with,
  • do some baking and/or create a meal that is representative of that festival,
  • have a ceremony or two (one simple, toddler-friendly one for the 3 of us and/or one more meditative, sacred one for just me),
  • sometimes I might work a little seasonal magic or practice a little seasonal healing.

Spreading out the ways in which I honour each festival out like this also allows for my slower pace of life now that I have a family. It takes a lot longer to go for a walk or bake a cake with little legs and little hands involved! It’s very different making plans that cater for 3 peoples’ needs than it was when I started celebrating seasonal festivals as a single student. But I find my celebrations to be enriched for having these darlings to share them with, for my life – like everyone’s – changes and evolves through its own seasons. 

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by Wendy Andrews – see paintingdreams.co.uk

 

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Imbolc

ImageRaw sugar-free “coconut snowball” sweets, omnomnom!

There’s few days I love more than one where I hear the Fffwup, fffwup, fffwup, fffwup, fffwup, crack, SWISH! SWISH! Ffwup, crack, fffwup, crack, SWISH! SWISH! Fffwup, fffwup…. of a forest floor beneath my feet; twigs, sodden leaves, mud, moss, pine needles. Behind me, the wheeesh-wish, wheeesh-wish of my toddler’s puddle-suit lets me know he’s still following us. The absence of his usually-constant chatter lets me know that he’s as absorbed in the beauty of this place as I am. Trips like these are so important for the three of us; for my husband and I to be away from the distractions of household tasks, for us all to be in a open safe enough space where we don’t have to watch Dylan with the intense hazard awareness that we do on busy pavements near roads and dog poo and litter. I love this gift of freedom to relax and enjoy what’s around us. This gift off soul nourishment. Of inspiration. Of peace.

Walalaloool, walalaloool says the nearby (but not too nearby!) stream as it tumbles down some rocks, busy and moving in this still, still place. Dylan asks “Mama sing Muvva Earf carry me song”. I oblige; it’s my favourite goddess chant. A river is flo-o-wing, flowing and gro-o-wing, a river is flo-o-wing down to the sea. Mother Earth carry me; your child I will always be. Mother Earth carry me; down to the sea.

Most of our celebrations for the marker points in the year’s journey for the seasons involve a walk somewhere that feeds our souls. I loved yesterday’s combination of time out in wild nature and some time tending to nature at home; planting our first seeds of the year. Just some herbs in pots and some salad leaves in modules so that they can start off sheltered indoors and then move out to our mini-greenhouse. This, and my first sighting of snowdrops on Saturday (and the sight of some dainty purple crocuses today) feel like Spring sending out little whispers through the blustery winds to say she’s on her way. Hello Spring! You will be so welcome; I have many ideas waiting to grow  with you.

Happy Imbolc ♥

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