Samhain and the Owls

The owls returned this morning.  Two owls bantering back and forth outside our bedroom window in the early morning hours.  If you know me quite well, or if you have read my memoir (The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman), then you know that that is quite fateful for us.  My spirit animals only arrive when there is a profound shift in our life occurring or about to occur.  Our moves, my shop closing, and many other events were heralded by my guardian messenger.  I smiled and pulled the covers up closer as my half feral kitten licked my hair as a sign of love.  I felt in that moment profoundly grateful.

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It is Samhain.

Pronounced sow-wen, Samhain is the last agricultural holiday of the year.  Tomorrow is New Year in the old ways.  Samhain is the third harvest festival and one that is near and dear to many souls across many continents over many thousands of years.  From those celebrating Day of the Dead to those Scottish farmers lighting candles in their cottages, this time of year is bittersweet and filled with love and great memories.

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The sky grows dark earlier now and the harvest is in.  The air grows colder and the fireplace is lit.  The veil is quite thin and the things you think are coincidental are not.  Our ancestors, our beloveds, our friends and family that crossed over this year make their way visiting.  Cupboard doors creak and electronics have a mind of their own.  But it is not a scary time.  It is a time of comfort and remembrance, and most of all, gratitude.

For those lives that have touched us over the years and the people and animals that walk our journey with us for a time, we are grateful.  So tonight, put out a few chairs around the fire for the weary souls and light a candle in the west window so they can find their way.  Know that in your life, you are not alone.  There are spirits and messengers and an entire universe opening and closing doors, sending hope, arranging meetings, and helping you maneuver this lovely path called life.  So put out some old photographs, light a few candles, pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and know that all is well.

Happy Samhain

A Simple Samhain Ceremony with Children

samhain 2Long before the church said it was evil and before Hollywood and candy companies made a fortune, a simple holiday took place on October 31st.  The third and final harvest festival and the eve of the new year called Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).

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The hard work of farming, hunting, and filling the larder was through as the winds changed, the sun went to bed earlier and earlier, and dark settled upon the land.  It was an inevitable time for introspection, remembering those that had passed on throughout the year, and reminiscing around the table with mead and friends.  A million miles from the Celtic homes, the Day of the Dead was being celebrated in Mexico.

There was a time when everyone was attuned to the spiritual energies around us.  It was nothing weird or scary, it just was.  October 31st is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.  Our deceased loved ones can always hear us but at this time of year, sometimes, they can reach us and they can certainly hear us better.

For children, sugar rushes and the perfect costume steal the holiday.  I wanted Maryjane to know what the real holiday was all about.  I simplified the ceremony so that my four year old granddaughter could understand.  Of course children innately know these things. I had her draw pictures of the people or animals she wanted to talk to.  She wrote adorable letters instead.  One to Anakan the snake, one to Grandma Kat, and one to Grant, her mom’s boyfriend’s brother who died a few years ago in a car accident.

20171023_111031We decorated the alter (the wood stove) with a beautiful nest we had found, a feather, and a butterfly that has passed away on my porch.  Her letters and a bell were really all we needed.

20171023_111026She chose a candle and so did I.  I chose pink for love and she did the same.  We thought of our people that we loved and missed (for me; Nancy, Kat, Great-Grandma, my Uncles…) and lit the candles.  We looked at pictures.  She sat in her little chair and read the letters to them and listened.

20171023_111014By incorporating the original spiritual belief systems and the nature based holidays, children learn connection to all things and great empathy.  Children naturally understand.  Giving them a basis to work with as they get older to celebrate and remember will help them create their own traditions.  It helps children learn to deal with grief and I know Kat, Anikan, and Grant enjoyed hearing that little voice.

Lughnasadh and the County Fair

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Lughnasadh (loon-ah-sah) is one of the Gaelic harvest festivals of old.  The word is from old Irish text and is a Pagan holiday celebrating the first of the harvests.  A harvest festival is always a welcome holiday in this farmgirl’s mind!  Tonight is also a full moon and I can just imagine my grandmothers of old times dancing under the moon celebrating the harvest of grains and other summer bounties.

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I study all religions and see the similarities in all of them, the same God with different names, the same holidays, many customs “borrowed” by other faiths, and the joy in all of the different ways to honor the great Creator.  Paganism was not a religion pre-Christianity since everyone from childhood was brought up with great respect for Mother Nature and the holidays were based on the agricultural calendar.  Paganism reminds me greatly of the Native American ways of worship a continent away.  The Christians use many of the same elements and traditions as the early Pagans.  I was always brought up thinking that Pagans were Atheists, this is not so apparently.  I love the various celebrations.

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Did you know that the local county fairs were originally the celebration of Lughnasadh?  The first harvest festival, showing off goods and livestock, morphed into what we now know as the county fair.

There I am on the Swingers, again 11 years old!

There I am on the Swingers, again 11 years old!

The ride that bankrupted Grammie and Papa!

The ride that bankrupted Grammie and Papa!

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This year’s county fair was more fun than ever with rides and a two year old who loved everything from the young people competing with their horses to the motorcycle ride she would not get off of until we were completely broke from buying tickets!

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Our friends at the annual Dutch oven cookoff.

Our friends at the annual Dutch oven cook-off.

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So tonight, the holiday brings with it a bright full moon, a promise of more crops, and a sense of peace.  The traditional way of late is to enjoy a beer (grains) and a bit of bread (or pizza?) and celebrate and have gratitude for the harvest.  And maybe a little dancing in the moonlight is in order!

Pumpkin Hollow Farm

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Autumn may be my favorite time of year but this month sure is close.  To spend all day with my hands covered in dirt planting seeds that will become food is my favorite pastime.  Not until my tired post-Winter body finally yelled, “Enough!” did I grab a beer and head to the porch to see all we had accomplished.  Emily and I spent the whole weekend digging up the front yard.  While others tend meticulously to the non-native grass borders, applying weed and feed and watering, Emily and I had different plans.  A full working farm on our minds.

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Steve brought over their rototiller for us to borrow and we put Doug to work plowing eleven long rows.  We went back through digging and releasing weeds and crabgrass creating a divot in the dirt that we then filled with organic garden soil and blended it all together.

Colonies of ants came forth, small black, monster black, and stingy red, eager to eat seeds that we would offer them.  I gave them cornmeal instead.  This works in the house as well.  They take the cornmeal back to their colony and I am afraid they do not return.  Now I am a peaceful girl.  I do not want to kill.  I have been vegetarian for twenty plus years.  In high school I cut my own hair and botched a section, shaving a small piece off by accident.  I had my sister shave a peace sign out of it.  She mistakenly only did two lines making it a Mercedes sign.  I had to use a marker to fill in the third.  (My father was incredibly mad!)  Anyways, I promote peace.  But ants can be really destructive in a garden and a nuisance in the house.  Rather than bringing out toxic chemicals, Raid or who knows what else, simply sprinkle cornmeal about.  Works like a charm.

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Then in went the seeds.  Black Aztec corn and multi-colored Smoke Signals corn seeds went in for festive Autumn décor and cornmeal.  Bantam corn went in for sweet eating.  All heirlooms.  Next to them went Bird’s Egg speckled beans that were brought over by covered wagon, large brown Dutch beans for winter simmering in a Dutch oven, and small, white cannellini beans for sage and white bean soup.  Six different tomatoes.  I do hope the “Mortgage Lifter” tomato does its job!  Six different peppers.  Orange watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini.  All organic.

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Since the farm is called Pumpkin Hollow, the rows in front of the house will be overflowing with tangles of delightful color.  The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch in the world, were you to ask Linus from Charlie Brown’s Halloween special.  Strawberry colored princess pumpkins, Jack Be Littles, Heirloom pumpkins, organic sugar pumpkins, and today I seek out one more varietal.  Perhaps the awesome white Luminaria pumpkin.

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The front row nearest the sidewalk will have herbs scattered and clustered about for medicinal and culinary use.  A fence is planned around the perimeter of white picket with a welcoming arbor.  My dear friend, Rod, is creating wood burned signs for the farm.

We have been offered free alpacas and plan on getting their “barn” (the garage) ready.  I was showing Steve the tour of what our farm will look like (use your imagination)….here are the large garden beds, more in front, alpaca and goats, new fruit trees….He asked what I was doing with our oversized dirt driveway.  “Festival Parking!” I exclaimed.  Can you see it?  A roadside stand.  A pumpkin festival.  Field trips for children at the nearby school where they can go back in time and see how to hand wash clothes, make butter, spin wool.  The piano and fiddle playing folk songs.  Period pioneer dress.  Vegetables growing everywhere and fuzzy farm animals.  Education, inspiration, teach kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.

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We have never missed our annual pumpkin festival that we attend with the children every year.  This year Maryjane will go with us.  Us big kids and Maryjane making a scarecrow and touring the old structures at Four Mile Historic Park.  I would love to create a place like that for young families to make memories.

In the meantime, I have pumpkins to plant.