Vanishing

I was blessed with a beautiful glimpse of the vanishing moon – the waning crescent – this morning. The last, or maybe penultimate, sliver before she enters her dark phase. Sadly I have no photo due to our brilliant little camera being away at the camera hospital, having accidentally met with my arm and then the kitchen floor. Can I blame pregnancy for such clumsiness? Let’s go with yes.

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A Great-Grandmother Moon from a less clumsy time in my life. This morning’s moon was leaning back a little more, and the sky a little darker with Venus shining brightly quite nearby.

I correlate the dark phase of the lunar cycle with the Winter Solstice in the solar cycle, so today we’re around similar times in both. I hold the word vanishing in my mind and think about its correlation to my own life right now: the vanishing days before the Solstice and Christmas is upon us (why am I not more organised for these events by this point in December?! And why do I leave it so late every year?!), the vanishing weeks before my baby is due to be born, my seemingly vanishing energy in the evenings. The vanishing sense of anxiety about it all as I realise that, really, almost everything that’s truly important has been done; by the time baby comes, we’ll be ready to welcome them.

Back outside, the colour is fast vanishing from our garden as the last of the nasturtiums have died and the green leaves are pretty few. The piles of crisp, vibrant leaves on the ground are vanishing into brown soggy mud and mush. The light starts vanishing not long after 3pm. “Come inside,” it all whispers sleepily, “find a blanket. Rest and dream”.

Cold moon, cold womb

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The December full moon is sometimes known as the “cold moon”, as the darkness and coldness of winter is really felt. Indeed this December’s full moon is only a few days from midwinter, when I feel the goddess to be swinging her dark cloak far out and around over our northern hemisphere. Swoosh! It’s a very beautiful cloak that I can find comforting in the way it envelops us – similar how I carried my son in a sling with my coat wrapped around both of us during his very first winter. However, the invitation to look within whilst there is is so much darkness without can be a little daunting; I don’t always find it easy to accept the need to change, let go and renew. To allow death even when I know that it will create space for new life to burst forth.

My garden is pretty empty, and I’m not spending much time out there – again, I’ve “come inside” to create comfort for myself and my family with baking, creative crafts and reading stories and magazines. This is the week when I really start to build up to the solstice and to Christmas; when I’ll start to plan festive food, to panic about how few gifts I have organised, to dig out the decorations. I guess this busyness helps fill the void created by the bare trees and weak sun. Hopefully, I’ll remember to make time to acknowledge and feel that void – to deeply breathe in and out, to spread my arms and stretch in that dark space which is needed for life to begin again. For those ideas and dreams that I’ll conceive on the 21st.

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I know that some pagans see the goddess as being pregnant now, about to birth the sun on the winter solstice. In my interpretation (which is neither right nor wrong, like anyone’s beliefs), her womb is now empty and resting, having birthed during the harvest time, then bled her afterbirth and then rested her womb. I interpret the solstice to be conception; the meeting of energies within the void womb to create new life. Life that is tiny and delicate – and probably unseen for a few weeks. Of course in all this womb-talk, I consider my own womb which is itself a cold dark void, my cycle still not having returned due to lactational amenorrhea. Certainly in the early months following Dylan’s birth, the space where he had grown felt literally a void; I could not connect with this space, imagine it, acknowledge it or anything because of the impact having an emergency Cesaerean had had upon me. If I held my hand over my lower abdomen. it just felt cold (even if I myself was feeling warm). Thankfully, this changed in time due to many factors – the healing nature of time itself being just one of them. Another was Miranda Gray’s worldwide womb blessing which takes place on a few full moons per year; I’m very grateful to the friends who encouraged me to accept this beautiful gift freely available to all women.

I look forward to joining so many women today in sharing this blessing, and I look forward to joining with what I imagine to be many more people on Saturday to celebrate the solstice. I know that I will join some people who, like me, ascribe messages and metaphors to this day; who will greet energies and spirits, create rituals and passageways, feel the shift of the outer world in their inner world and send out intent for the new stage. I know that I will join some people who simply want to celebrate the cycle of nature; I don’t think it matter exactly how any of us are approaching it. What matters is that we will all be there on that day and at that time, feeling hopeful and embracing love and light. And smiling. And that’s a great vibe to be going round so early in the morning. 

Our pagan advent

IMG_1845As a church-going child, I did always enjoy the sense of expectancy that lighting each advent candle brought; each one a marker that i was getting closer to the time of family, presents and a break from school – and all the craft makery that that would entail! However, since i realised that my spiritual path was not a Christian one, I guess I kind of shelved advent. Until this year. This year I’ve realised that I actually have my own kind of advent and, although I don’t want to offend any Christians by putting the word “pagan” and “advent” next to each other, this is the term that, for me, best describes what I’m celebrating.

It started with advent calenders – again, something I’d pretty much shelved since vaguely becoming an adult. Yet, in parenting I find myself kind of gradually unpacking the magics and wonders of childhood all over again – definitely one of the biggest perks of the job! I wanted to make Dylan an advent calendar, one of those lovely fabric ones with a numbered pocket for each day to hold a little treasure or treat. When I inevitably left it too late to get round to doing before December started, I started to justify my failure-to-be-supermama guilt with “well he’s only just turned two; he wouldn’t really understand anyway”. Or would he? Would he enjoy the countdown to something special? Would such a thing actually help to explain to him the various sights and happenings of festive preparation going on inside and outside his home? Would he simply enjoy it as something fun to do in that minute, even if it was quickly forgotten about? All of those reasons for seeing a smile on my boy’s face sounded good to me.

This little thought ramble then returned to the idea of advent symbolising a journey leading up to the festive celebration, be it the Solstice or Christmas Day. I prefer the word “journey” to “countdown” as the latter, to me, feels like the time is being wished away. Advent in the non-liturgical meaning is (as http://www.thefreedictionary.com puts it): “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important” and I realised that my Decembers are always sprinkled with days of festive preparations. The busyness of gift-buying and making, festive meet-ups, special cooking and creating decorations for our home can easily feel stressful and very intense, but I find so much fun and sparkle in these things; they are each delicious ingredients in the feast of love and celebration we are cooking up.

And so I wanted Dylan to be stirring that mixture with me. For him to walk through the journey beside me even if he’s still to young to have read the map. I do hope that I’ll get round to stitching the gorgeous fabric pockets of my advent dreams next year, but I’m pretty happy with this year’s effort. I thought up a 22-letter phrase to sum up the idea of the sun soon being reborn. 22 because I see it that the solstice is the darkest day, so the light starts growing from the day after. Each letter got stuck to either a section of an egg box that held a little treat (like some dried fruit, or a coin, or a bulb to plant together), or to a folded piece of paper that detailed a festive activity (such as Rob’s family’s big meet-up that we had last weekend, or a day where we make presents or attempt making Stollen). I don’t think he quite understands, (although he may do as more days pass), but he does enjoy….and so do I.

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I also made an advent wreath, maybe just to re-ignite my childhood church-going memories. (Because, in spite of me no longer holding with that religion, I do have many good memories and lessons from those days). Steiner-Waldorf practices are a big influence in my parenting and I recently read of how, in schools and homes that follow Steiner’s teachings, the first advent candle (and objects that may be placed with it) represents the rock and mineral world, the second candle the plant world, the third for the animal world, fourth for humans and the central fifth of course for the Christ child. I liked the idea of honouring different life-forms in this way but guessed that the order was representative of the Christian creation story which is not what I personally believe. I also felt that I didn’t want to separate humans from being part of the animal world.

So my advent wreath has 3 spaces; one for each Sunday before the solstice. (Sundays still tend to be a more gentle, more family-centred day in our household). The first and second Sundays honour the same as in the Waldorf tradition, and the third honours the animal world but with humans included in that. My central fourth candle honours the spiritual world, lit on the day of the sun return, still in the same week that so many people are celebrating the birth of their divine bringer of hope, goodwill and light – and when many others are perhaps simply celebrating.

Happy advent ♥

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