Posted in Holidays

The Season of Remembrance

The wood stove ticks along as the sun rises fuchsia pink across the horizon. The warmth feels good on this cool morning. I can scarcely believe it is October. I am mostly finished canning and preserving. Just need to put up some jars of beans for quick dinners. There are a few winter crops left in the ground to water today. The freezer is filled with sustenance along with the shelves of brightly colored jars. Yes, autumn is upon us. And though there is plenty to do to keep my fingers nimble, there is more time to think and reminisce.

I keep seeing the name Dahl many places I go and on things I notice. Not a popular name to keep seeing, but there is Lisa sending love from beyond the veil as I weave on the loom she gave me. Her last name was Dahl. It is the time of Samhain, you know.

I think of Grandma as I crochet a blanket for a baby I will help deliver soon and remember her gentle instructions when I was a young girl crocheting my first blanket. I pull up the collar of Aunt Donna’s shirt and look at how well her rhubarb is doing in my garden. I brought it over before her house was sold last month. I raise my glass of wine to Steve and can finally listen to Andrea Bocelli again without tearing up. I keep seeing people that look like Kat out of the corner of my eye. Yes, it is the holiday of remembrance.

They are referred to as pagan holidays because pagan means “peasant” and the country folks of Europe didn’t easily give up their spiritual beliefs when the church demanded them too. Pagan was used derogatorily, and the agricultural festivals of old were considered of the devil. (A character not created until later.) Just as the beliefs of Native Americans, and the Aztecs, and many cultures around the world nearly lost to organized religion, did not want to give up their original faith, neither did the early Europeans. The original spirituality did not need to be taught, it was felt, and still, the original ways feel natural, particularly if one is a farmer.

Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen)- much like the Day of the Dead and other celebrations around the world- is the time of remembrance. We have been busy all summer, we now sit and tend to our quiet chores by firelight. We set an extra place at the table. We light candles for those that have gone on before us. Pull out photographs. Notice odd activity- creaking cupboards, names popping up, songs that keep playing, activity that lets us know that the dead didn’t go very far, but are helping us along our way. We remember, we mourn, we find joy.

But Samhain is not just for remembering and honoring the dead. It is a gentle reminder that we are alive! Let us be alive! Call our loved ones. Hug our grandchildren. Be kind to others. And make memories with those we love. There is nothing more important than family and chosen family. That all comes together during this sacred time of Samhain.

Posted in Holidays

12 Days of Yule and Being the Light

Greetings Folks! I am reporting here from piles of wrapping paper and dirty dishes. My heart is happy, as all of my children and grandchildren slept over Christmas Eve and Santa arrived sometime in the night. The morning is sunny and crisp and fresh with new insights, hopes, and dreams. And gratitude. Always gratitude.

For here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm (where I recover from the flu and a sprained back) I watch the chickens drinking deeply of their water, the large fluffy giant at the back door wondering if I will finish my breakfast cereal, and the cats sprawled about while the kittens play. My abode. I wonder which animals will be sent to our care this coming year.

2020 sounds awfully futuristic, doesn’t it? A dear friend of mine that I used to visit at a nursing home was born in 1892. It is all really a blink of an eye. I intend to notice more. Use my senses more. Lead from the heart. Proceed with love. Oh, I have a plethora of things that are going on a list of resolutions and vision boards, I’ve got molding to do! But I also am looking forward to a new year with my dearest friends. My beloved family. My animals. This land. And myself. ‘Tis a blessing to be here indeed.

The Holly King

Yule is not over! Our ancient tradition included 12 days from the 20th through the 31st. It was not until 567 AD that the Christian church decided it would become a part of Christianity and changed it to overlap their perceived Epiphany. Yule is all about the end of darkness through the birth of the light, the son of (the) God. It is about the sun returning. It is about banishing evil spirits and good luck for the coming year. For twelve days, the people would gather and tell stories, visit others, and celebrate the sun’s precious rays growing stronger. Is there someone you can visit in your community? Can you take a basket of food and crossword puzzles to an elder? Can you put bird seed out for the feathered ones?

photo from RangerRick.org

As we think of ways to improve our own health and habits, let us also think of ways to be more of a light to those around us. Wishing you all health and happiness on this glorious morn, and I hope you had a lovely holiday with ones you hold dear.

Posted in Holidays

What Samhain is all About

The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.

Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.

Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.

Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.

I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.

Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.

Grandma Nancy and Aunt Donna

Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.

May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!

Posted in Holidays

Imbolc- Following the Agricultural Calendar

The agricultural calendar has eight farming and community holidays and celebrations making a wheel.  Every six or so weeks is a corresponding holiday that helps denote the time of year and gives us space to receive blessings and to show gratitude.  These holidays are Celtic historically but they are celebrated still.  The first of these holidays in the year is Imbolc.  Pronounced im-bowl-g.  It begins the eve of February 1st and sometimes goes until February 2nd.  It is not too late to bring back some of our most beloved traditions and wisdom.

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It is interesting to note that in each culture around the world, the gods and goddesses looked very similar and had similar roles.  Brigid is the goddess of spring.  She brings back the light of the sun.  She awakens Mother Earth to warm and bring spring.  She travels through the night on January 31st blessing articles of clothing that are left outdoors.  In her wake life is sparked. 

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Now as Christianity came rolling through, destroying cultures and people in its wake, the church demanded that the peasants (another word for peasant is Pagan) stop worshipping gods and goddesses.  But the people so adored Brigid that the Catholic church finally made her a saint so that the people would at least be praying to a saint.  St. Brigit was born.  Her Celtic cross is not a crucifix, it is a symbol of the four directions. 

Imbolc is one of four fire festivals.  The elements are revered in every original culture for their power to destroy and renew.  Fire warms, awakens, enlivens, brings life. 

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Imbolc translates to “In the belly” or “Ewe’s milk” depending on text and is the celebration of lambs being born.  Fiber, milk, and meat were of course ways of survival before we could truly choose compassion completely.  This is a time to bless seeds.  And each day gets a little longer and a little warmer and gives us hope for spring and a break from the cold. 

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Ways to Celebrate and Prepare

Sweep out the house and set out a bouquet of fresh flowers. 

Mix in a small spray bottle a blend of essential oils along with witchhazel or vodka to suspend.  Try lavender, cedar, sage, orange, frankincense, sandalwood, vanilla, rose, or other intoxicating, cleansing scents and smudge your home and yourself with the oil spray.  Your house will smell fresh, negativity will be released, and a fresh start will commence.

This evening, start a fire or light a candle.  Ask Mother Earth and Brigid and Creator to bless your seeds and gardens. 

Prepare a glass of warm almond milk with herbs steeped in it like lavender or green tea and enjoy before the fire. 

Place a scarf or hat or other article of clothing outdoors to be blessed. 

In our world of science and seriousness, we have lost the enchantment of what was.  People would not have been doing these traditions and celebrating these holidays for thousands of years if there was nothing to them.  Accept your blessings, feel renewed, and enjoy the warmth of Imbolc. 

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Posted in Farmgirl Decorating

The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

Posted in Holidays

Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

Posted in Holidays

Keeping Yule Celebrations Alive

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The nights were dark and starry.  Cold as the winds blew and the people of the time stayed indoors, lamps and fires lit, families gathered in the dimly lit homes of the land.

The solstice was coming soon and across the lands the sun would shine a bit more each day.  This was a cause for great celebration among the people.  Twenty-thousand plus years before organized religion the families of the ancient lands bundled up in furs and lit lanterns and went from house to house bringing light and song to their neighbors.

The spring prior the God and the Goddess conceived and on December 21st the Goddess would give birth to the son of God, the sun.  The Holly King and his reindeer came around with gifts in exchange for a bowl of porridge.  And during the twelve days of Yule fires were lit, celebrations were had, and light was spread by all.

The newer religions of today borrow the same concepts of celebration and light.  What can we do today to celebrate Yuletide?  Spread light around you.  Compliment strangers and friends.  Check on elders and see if they are well fed and if they need company.  Invite folks into your home for a warm pot of soup and a game of cards.  Give simple, handmade gifts.  Set up twinkly lights and a Yule tree.  Sing and rejoice for the Sun God is coming and will brighten each day.

Xmas card 2017

Happy Yule everyone!

Posted in Holidays

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.

Posted in Holidays

Yuletide Wishes

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My granddaughter spent the night.  This morning in the cool of the dark morning I pulled the soft covers up under our chins refusing the late dawn.  The smell of coffee wafted in the door.  The cats purred and stretched.  Bits of light cascaded past the window to announce the winter solstice.  Last night was the darkest and longest night of the year.

Maryjane and I went out last night with a small bow of pine from the Christmas (Yule) tree.  We lit the end of it and let the smoke rise up to the bright stars above (the only kind of bonfire allowed on an apartment balcony!).  We said hello to Kat as well as our animals, friends, and family that have passed on to the next dimension among the star people.  We said thank you for all the many blessings of the year and welcomed the new sun.

The people of the world for centuries upon centuries have held bonfires and feasts to celebrate Yule.  Using precious food from their dwindling larders as a way of letting Mother Earth know that the people trusted her to provide for them in the fields of Spring.  Bonfires on the darkest night, perhaps a bit of spirits, food, and festivity sang through the cold night air.

Today starts the sun’s presence growing stronger over the next six months.  Each day it will be light a bit longer.  Yule is a celebration of light and renewal.  The 12 days of Christmas was actually the 12 days of Yule, beginning on the winter solstice and lasting until New Year’s.  Greenery was thought to protect the home from illness and bad luck and as much Fir as one could put in their humble abode was good.  Boughs of greenery were decorated with ribbons and candles.  From the Yule log, to the 12 days of Yule, to the birth of the new sun god by the virgin goddess all seem to ring of coincidental familiarity.  This is the time of year to be close to the hearth, family, and loved ones, and to celebrate the light growing each day.

This is the time of the year to review our lives, our habits, and decide what will make us better, happier, and more peaceful people.  May your day be filled with light!

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Posted in Holidays, Uncategorized

What is Yule?

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What is Yule?  Is it the same thing as Christmas?  You know, the Yule log was from Yule.  Turns out it is not a dessert but rather a celebratory log that creates a symbolic fire.  Many of the colors and traditions of Christmas are actually from Yule.  Even the 12 days of Yule!  Yule was around a long, long time before Jesus was even a twinkling in his mama’s eye.

It was decided to place Christmas at the same time as the pagan holiday Yule to overshadow it.  So, was Yule a time where witches went singing about town creating havoc and devil worshipping?  Goodness, no.  Yule is the celebration of the solstice.  From the 21st on towards summer the sun shines for a bit longer each day.  If you were a farmer (remember pagan holidays are also called agricultural holidays) you can bet your Yule tree that you would be celebrating!  Woohoo!  Bonfire and dancing in the moonlight!  Get me my seed catalogue!  Or on the darkest night of the year perhaps we have a feast with family and friends and sit by the fireplace.  We revel in the rest winter brings in its quiet reverence and dream of the season to come, ever being grateful for all we have and all we are.