Merry Meet and Welcome!

Merry Meet and Welcome!

We hope that you will find our content to be uplifting and educational. Please keep in mind that this is not a space for debate or criticism but rather a place for respect, curiosity and learning.

You are encouraged to take what you can from what we share here. If you want to know more, do not look to the contributors of this blog to teach anything beyond what we post. Seek out what feels right for you, trust the Spirit to guide you and have faith in our heavenly parents who are the givers of all pure knowledge.

January 29, 2011

Celebrating Candlemas at Our Home


February 2 is Candlemas also known as Imbolc, Imbolg, Bridig, Brigit, and the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Originally this holiday was of mostly Celtic and northern European origins. This was the time of year when the milk began flowing again after the birth of the baby goats. It was a time when the light was growing stronger and we celebrated the waxing sun as the light of spring becomes visible through the chill of winter.

In Ireland they celebrate Saint Brigid, the midwife and foster mother of Jesus Christ at this time of year. In the Eastern Orthodox Church this holiday is known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In the gospel of Luke, chapter two we read the story of Joseph and Mary presenting the baby Jesus at the Temple 40 days after his birth, which was the custom at the time.

They offered two turtle doves and two young pigeons for a sacrifice. Simeon, the Righteous, assesses baby Jesus at this time and prophesieds of the redemption of the world brought forth by Christ. A prophetess named Anna also makes similar prophesies.

Saint Brigid became associated with this holiday when Christianity reached Ireland. Saint Brigid was the daughter of a pagan chief. She grew up to become one of the only female Bishops (or Abesses) of the early church. She is called Brigid, Brigit, Bride, Abbess of Kildare, midwife of Christ, Mary of the Gael and Noamh Brid. She founded a school for art and metal work during her life. She was tied into this holiday as the midwife of Jesus and foster mother of our Lord. Her sacred flame is still tended in Kildare to this day.

Candlemas is a time of many things and can be celebrated many ways. It is a time when the ground is awakening after it's long winter's nap. It is a time of purification and renewal. Some people remove their Christmas decoration this day. Fire, candle making, sacred flames, bowls of fresh cream and milk, colors of red and orange as well as Brigid dolls made from straw are all festive and traditional ways to mark this day.

Here are some of the ways we celebrate this day.


Dancing out in nature to awaken the ground and the seeds


Since Saint Brigid is associated with art we often do a  lot of painting on this day. Here are our fire paintings done with tumeric and red food coloring.


Here Nykki paints with the juice of a blood orange

Baby Ronan paints on his first Candlemas


We used our fire paintings to add quotes from Luke 2 to our nature table




She's not made of straw but here's a picture of a Brigid doll we made a few years back.

Candle lit dinner with homemade tomato soup

Creating center pieces with candles and herbs


This year's center piece. We collected all our candles we have used this year and bunched them together. The small white one in the middle was the vigil candle we got at Winter Solstice at the Spiral Dance. The flame we used to light it had come from Saint Brigid's sacred flame in Kildare!

"... a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people of Israel." Luke 2:32

"The thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:35

"...and the child grew, and waxed strong in the spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:40

Blessed Candlemas!

January 26, 2011

Just some things to keep us on track

My decision and commitment to observe the wheel of the year with celebrations and ritual has helped me complete a project in my que for quite some time.

Would you believe an unschooling family did not have a wall calender in their home? Shocking I know. I kept stalking the dollar store and finally found one I liked. It made it home but never to the wall. Boo. I went to finally put it on the wall and it had disappeared! I remembered that my oldest sister had one from oriental trading co. However after two October birthdays and Christmas I am on a serious budget diet. And what sewer/crafter doesn't look at something like that and think "hey - I can make that!". Psst, stabilizer. (It's your friend and would have been mine had I thought to use it.) But that is a post for another blog.

I am pretty happy with how it turned out and as we put it up last night the kids had so many questions about full moons and waxing vs. waning. I loved answering them all.



It hangs just under our visual Wheel of the Year. My wonderful husband helped me to enlarge and print it out. The kids (5 1/2 and 4) helped me modge podge it to some cardboard. Their involvement in these projects really gets them involved in these celebrations.


We don't have an advent wreath (much as I would love one) and I wasn't planning on spending money on one (remember that diet?). My plan was to simple arrange the candles in their holders into a circle with seasonal decorations in the middle. But (here it comes!) when we went to target for the colored candles they happened to be clearancing a lot of their candles and holders. This one spoke to me. The older two helped me find the right candle colors (right now I can't be picky about the scents and whoo are they gonna clash!) and arrange it on our table. My youngest (15 mos) popped the bubble wrap around the glass holders. East: Blue (for blue skies) South: Red (for fire) West: Green (for green sea waters) North: Yellow (for fields of yellow flowers on the earth) Goddess and God (or Heavenly Mother and Father) candles: White (for spirit and purity)

I love that I can arrange it in a circle or a half helix.


Finally - my very own copy of Circle, Coven and Grove. It came very highly recommended and I am greatful for its ideas and suggestions.

Blessed be.

January 25, 2011

Everyday Rituals and Ceremonies by Lorna St Aubyn

"Today, ritual has almost disappeared from Western society... In many people's lives the only important milestone or rite to be observed is their funeral. Other major events of all kinds remain unacknowledged; no cycles are defined. Instead of celebrating beginnings and endings and transition points, we drift through the years, dragging behind us tatters of the past which should have been unequivocally buried. This in term prevents us from stepping into the future whole heartedly.
"The return to performing rituals is one way to reinstate a belief in the connectedness of all life. In today's society many people feel a sense of separation and isolation. For many there is a nagging sense that there must be something more to life. Rituals can help us to see we are part of something larger, a part of a living breathing earth. They can give us a feeling of unity and a sense of security and support in an increasingly difficult world. We can again begin to sense the sacredness in the ordinary which can add the depth and meaning so often missing from our lives."

~Lorna St Aubyn  in Everyday Rituals and Ceremonies

This book is not so much one for reading straight through as it is a reference book for specific rituals. I did not read every page, I just skimmed through it and read a few of the specific rituals. It is not a religious ritual book, although the rituals do usually connect to Nature/Mother Earth or the elements in some way. It would be very easy to adapt these rituals to your own needs and beliefs.
Honestly it was not my favorite ritual book, because so much is already laid out that it feels like it takes more effort to adapt these rituals than it would to just invent one from scratch. Most of the rituals are fairly complex, and involve lots of props and steps. However, for someone who wanted something to start with, this might be a good resource book.
The thing I appreciated the most was the kinds of things this book had rituals for. For example, most of us recognize the validity of doing a ritual for the birth or death of a person, but isn't it also appropriate to formally recognize the death of a beloved family pet? Other changes, such as starting a new job, having surgery, or even just responding to a public event (political or social) can be valid reasons for holding a ritual.

Here is a list of some of the rituals in the book:
  • Rituals for life stages (puberty, menstruation, marriage, naming ceremony, child leaving home, divorce, menopause, becoming a parent-in-law, retirement, death)
  • Rituals for your spiritual journey (incarnation, taking your power, re-attaching yourself to the Source)
  • Rituals for traumatic events (rape, abuse, before surgery, abortion, miscarriage, a public tragedy, death of an animal)
  • Rituals for new beginnings (ending therapy, the end of an illness, leaving an organization, making resolutions, a birthday, starting a new project).
  • There is also a section of rituals for opening/closing/healing each chakra.

January 24, 2011

Imbolc, Brigid, and Candlemas

Imbolc is now just over a week away (on February 2), so today's post is to share some background on the Sabbat, as well as give ideas of ways to observe it. (Please note that, as with all sabbats, the celebrations/observations traditionally begin at sundown on the night before, in this case, February 1.)

Background:
The First of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk") or also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g), two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.[source link]
Brigid
Brigid is the goddess not just of fire, but also of hearth and home, smithcraft (blacksmiths, goldsmiths, etc), poetry and creation, healing, women's health, and childbirth. She is an incarnation of the Maiden form of the goddess, and our word "bride" comes from her name.
Imbolc is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth. [source link]
Brigid's Wheel aka Brigit's Cross
When Ireland was Christianized, veneration of the Pagan Goddess Brigid was transformed into that of St. Brigit, said to be the human daughter of a Druid... Pagan lore was incorporated into the Christian traditions and legends associated with Her as a saint. She was associated with miracles and fertility. Into the 18th century a women's only shrine was kept to her in Kildare (meaning Church of the Oak) in Ireland. There, nineteen nuns tended Her continually burning sacred flame. An ancient song was sung to Her: "Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom." [source link]

According to some sources, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent, singing this poem:
Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)


Symbolism:
purity, growth, renewal, new beginnings, commitment/dedication, birth, creativity, healing, brides, virgins

Symbols:
white flowers, candles , torches, grains, seeds, acorns, plow, snakes, poetry, blacksmiths/goldsmiths,

Foods:
  • poppyseed cakes or muffins
  • breads, cakes, scones
  • seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc)
  • dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)

Activities:
Imbolc decoration on etsy
  • On the evening before, each family member leaves one item of clothing outside for Brigid to bless. In the morning the clothing is brought back inside, with Brigid's blessing of healing and protection (see here).
  • Make herbal salves, teas, or other healing things.
  • Make your own butter.
  • Read scriptures about light, the Light of Christ, candles, or fires, as well as the things they stand for (testimony, example, etc)  (Matt 5 is a good place to start)
  • Sing hymns or other songs about light, such as Pass it On.
  • Use straw to make a Brigid's Wheel, or a broom, to hang on or above your door to bless your home
  • Make fire starters
  • Make a Brighid's Crown or a Priapic Wand.
  • Go outside and encourage things to grow, perhaps while waving your priapic wand, and/or with a verse like this "Wake, wake, plants in the earth, / spring is a time of light and rebirth. / Hear, hear this magical sound, / and grow, grow, out of the ground."
  • Sweep out your home to cleanse and purify it. 
  • Clean your fireplace/hearth and sweep out the ashes
  • Write or read poems 
  • Since Brigid is the goddess over childbirth, share the birth stories of family members together
  • Candlemas is the day when the Catholic Church blesses their candles for the year. If you use candles in your home (especially if you use them for spiritual purposes) you might consider blessing them.
  • Light candles.
  • Make candles! or Ice candles.
  • Have a candlelit meal with your family
  • If any early flowers have come up where you life, bring some inside.
  • If you grow a garden, this might be a good day to start your seeds indoors.
  • Plant a garden of healing herbs.
  • Help at or donate to a women's shelter, women's health organization, or pregnancy/childbirth support group.
  • (if you have other ideas, please share them in the comments!)
 

Source links:

January 18, 2011

January Full Moon Ritual inspired by Circle, Coven, Grove

In preparation for the full moon tomorrow night, I looked in my copy of Circle, Coven, Grove to get ideas for what my family could do.

The book suggests for the January Full Moon to perform a group dedication ritual. Its a fitting idea for my family to in a formal way dedicate our family to our observance and celebration of the Wheel of the Year. I expect that I will follow the ritual described in the book in a loose fashion, reword it to reflect our beliefs and values and simplify it for the young minds in my household. I'll post afterwards so we can see what we did!

The ritual will basically be a statement of intent that we as a family plan to observe the Wheel of the Year and give thanks for the cycles of life as we seek to find spiritual learning and joy from our shared experience. I guess I've got tomorrow to plan and assemble materials!

Jenni here on Mother Wheel as a rule prepares a feast for the Full Moon celebrating the fullness and richness of the earth's bounty. Depending on how on it I am, I like the idea of incorporating this idea as well.

The book Circle, Coven, Grove is designed to be used starting January and going through the year which is how we happen to be using it. If someone were to start their Wheel of the Year observance in another time of year, it makes sense to me to perform the group dedication early in their observance rather than waiting for January to come around to do it.

January 11, 2011

Contemplating Mother Goddess

Last night my baby was having a hard time sleeping, and I sat in my room rocking him back to sleep for over an hour. As I rocked him, I sang to him. Truthfully, when I sing to my babies I'm partly singing for me, so I pick the songs I like best. One of my favorite hymns is "How Great Thou Art," and since I know all the words it frequently appears in my lullaby repertoire.

As I sang the third verse of that hymn, I thought of my love for my own sons, and of our understanding of  "God" as including both Father and Mother, and I was overwhelmed at the thought of not just a Father 'sending his son' but of a mother--what if I were asked to send my son. Somehow viewing it from a motherly perspective made the atonement infinitely more personal for me: voluntarily sending one of my sons to give his life for my other children. Truly, I scarce can take it in! In all honesty, I don't know whether I would be able to do it.
And when I think that God [her] son not sparing
Sent him to die
I scarce can take it in
...

Then sings my soul my [Mother] God, to Thee
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

(Hymns # 86, v. 3)

I was overwhelmed.
The brilliant white waxing moon shone through my bedroom window, illuminating my entire bedroom in spite of being only a crescent. As I absorbed the moonlight I pondered on nature and the beauty of the universe, and thought it was no wonder that ancient cultures had attributed feminine deity to the moon.

Of course, I then turned to the one hymn that openly acknowledges Heavenly Mother, and it does so in such a straightforward and pure way.
O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood
Was I nurtured near thy side?

For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.
(Hymns #292)


Moon Goddess by Josephine Wall

I did not come to Mother Wheel with the intent to develop a relationship with the Divine Feminine (our Heavenly Mother). I have always liked the idea of Her, but have honestly never given Her very much thought. I came to Mother Wheel with the intent to observe the passage of seasons and increase my connection to cycles and awareness. However here we are not even two weeks into the year and I find that the simple willingness to acknowledge Heavenly Mother is broadening my understanding of (and relationship with) Deity in ways I had not anticipated.

January 7, 2011

Lioness



I was born and raised in a traditional LDS family. After a pretty uneventful childhood and young adulthood I experienced a huge trial of my faith shortly after the birth of my son in 2006. I slowly fell into inactivity where I stayed for three years.
As we added to our family (another daughter) and my children grew older I felt a void growing larger within me. I didn't know what I would tell them if they asked me what I believed with regard to religion. I was in an awkward place of "not LDS but not post LDS". I felt adrift with no anchor, a tenuous plant with no root system. I began to evaluate my feelings and decided that I needed to learn if I still had a testimony of the gospel.
During my time away from the micromanagement of the church I learned more about what worship looked and felt like for me. I feel a wonderful sense of stability and comfort in ritual (action). To me the Pagan path is very wise and ancient - without corruption.
Of all the amazing women here I am by far the one with the least experience and knowledge. I look forward to a year full of faith building traditions, a vast increase in knowledge and a deep reconnection with my Heavenly Mother.

January 4, 2011

Teaching the Phases of the Moon

For Family Home Evening this week, I decided it would be time to introduce the concept of the New Moon to my 3 year old. He is already familiar with the Full Moon as well as the crescent moon(s). But tonight would be the first time I called his attention to the seeming absence of the moon in the sky.

The night of the New Moon (Jan 4th), we'll take a trip outside to observe this natural phenomenon and in preparation for it, I wanted to teach a some intro. A visual would be necessary and given the difficulty of modeling it with balls and flashlights (which we've done before) I turned to something a little easier (for the parents at least, and I hope it was as effective as, if not more, for learning from a child's perspective).

What did I turn to? Youtube, of course!

A search for "Phases of the Moon" will pull up some fun, interesting, and easy to understand results.

Like, this one from the History Channel.


This one provides a good one for parents to stop and talk about what is being seen in a way that in understandable to the age and cognitive ability of children without worrying about a soundtrack to get in the way:


And for a little more in depth conversation and discussion:


And this one is just a bit of fun. Please don't get too frustrated with the egregious mispronunciation of Waning.


Another resource for teaching the phases of the moon would be in books. Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me by Eric Carle is our favorite at home and one that taught Chunka (my three year old) to recognize when the moon "is little" (a crescent) and small enough to pull down from the sky.

To bring language development and kinetic learning in (and this was Chunka's idea, not mine), we talked about the ASL signs for moon. (Search Main Dictionary, In "M" scroll for moon which also includes videos for crescent moon and full moon).

Those are my ideas for a short, engaging and developmentally appropriate lesson on teaching the mechanics of the phases of the moon. What else would you add? I'm particularly interested in books. What books do you know of that illustrates how the moon changes throughout the month?

Next will be teaching and sharing the spiritual, biological, cultural and historical significance of the changing phases of the moon. One step at a time...

Though, that does give a good lesson plan for the next few months.

So please, what resources can you think of to teach these concepts to young children? Please respond in the comments or by writing a post of your own!

January 1, 2011

Purification Moon

During each lunation this year I am going to be choosing a different area of focus for myself. I will begin most or all of them with some form of fasting during the new moon (more about that as each one comes). During the full phase of the moon, she shows her full beauty and light, but during the new moon phase she hides her face, perhaps to rest, perhaps to cleanse herself and prepare for the next cycle. As I've pondered over what felt like an appropriate way for me to observe each new moon, I concluded that I wanted to use it as a cleansing time for myself. In some months it will be a physical cleansing, in others it may be a mental or emotional...I will evaluate my own needs as each one approaches.



In the midwinter, many ancient cultures named this moon the Hunger Moon because it was a time when food was scarce and they (of necessity) ate less food and less variety of food. At least one culture called it the Purification Moon, because the hunger--even fasting--of winter was seen as a form of purification.

After the dietary excesses of the Christmas holidays, I find myself feeling lethargic and craving sugar. I know it is because I have consumed too much of it these recent weeks, and so I am spending the new moon of my Purification Moon in a fast from sugar. This doesn't mean I'll be eating sugar substitutes either. My intent is to clear my system of sugars, so I'll be avoiding fruit juice along with candies and cookies, and drinking only water. I'll also be avoiding white flour and yeast breads  (though not quite as strictly). After my week-long fast, my body will have regained a better balance, having subdued the cravings, and I will be able to allow myself sugar in moderation again. (I have done fasts of this nature before, and the first few days are hard as I have to actively battle the cravings, but it does get easier, and in the long run it's always worth it.)

On the non-physical front, I will be utilizing this Purification Moon to evaluate other aspects of my life, such as how I spend my time, or how I interact with my family, and to make goals for improving myself in those areas.