Litha, or Midsummer, is the mid-point of the year – the Summer Solstice – a time of balance and transition from the light half of the year to the dark. One of my favorite myths is that of the Oak King and the Holly King, and Midsummer is the counterpart to Yule (or Midwinter). At Litha, the Oak King is slain and the Holly King rises up to lay claim to the latter half of the year. That’s not really relevant to this post, because although I love the retelling of that story at the vital points during the year, this Litha is all about housekeeping.
I have been remiss in my home-blessing duties; however much I try to re-frame ‘chores’ into ‘home blessings’ or ‘creating sacred space’, the fact is that I am just not a great housekeeper. There are always more interesting things to do than scrub the cabinet fronts or clean the ceiling fans… and so every once in a while it gets so bad that to not take the time to do some deep cleaning is just… well it’s just time to clean. And so this is where I have found myself now,coming up on Litha.
I really felt the need to ‘brighten’ things up – it felt dark and gloomy, and I know it’s my lack of attention to the space that’s allowing those energies to pile up, so I started in our living room. I went through an intense decluttering phase a few months ago, and though I did very well with cleaning the stuff out of the places it was cluttering up, I never got so far as to actually take the things out of my house. So they’ve been sitting in a corner, sucking up space and energy. Much of that’s actually, truly gone now, either out into the proper closet/storage spaces or tossed out into the rubbish bins. A few things made their way into the car to be taken to new homes, but the end result is amazing – so much brighter and cleaner and ‘light’ feeling! Sadly, even knowing how amazing ‘clean’ feels doesn’t help motivate me to be a better housekeeper much of the time… but I digress.
I also spent some time in the kitchen, enlisting the kids’ help in deep cleaning everything from the ceiling (and fan) down; cabinets, appliances, counters, organizing drawers, floors… all of it. Our table sits in a corner, and the actual corner tends to be a catch-all spot (for my things, especially) but even that’s now clean and tidy. There’s a little left to do; we’re supposed to clear out the living room and get a new sofa and coffee table soon, and I have a feeling paint will soon follow, depending on the colors of the new furniture, but even just those few changes have really shifted the feel of the space.
Litha and the Full Strawberry Moon both fell on Monday, so I did a simple ritual with the kids. I bought new Goddess and God candles and a new working candle for my altar, and changed the decor to reflect the warmer colors of summer. We also did something new; we set up a family altar in the living room. We have had a shelf with a smaller, less conspicuous altar space in there, and directional candles have always been at the cardinal points of the room, but now there’s an actual, dedicated altar there too, and set for Litha with deity candles and a family offering bowl. After our morning routine, we tidied things up, then smudged the house inside and out and laid new salt barriers on the windows and doors, walked the boundaries and left offerings for the border spirits. Afterwards, we spent a little time on Intentions and spellwork for the waning half of the year, celebrated the Moon, and had strawberry shortcake with sweet red wine.
How are you celebrating Midsummer this year?
I’ve been a bit absent over the last few weeks; it seems like every time I get into a good groove, something happens to throw it off. It’s often that I lament the fact that the Universe doesn’t run according to my plans. However out of whack things get, they do always seem to find their way back to the course, but not without some action on my part.
I’ve been focusing on self-care for the last month or so; something I tend to neglect when I work a lot or get wrapped up in being busy. I love being busy, but it does catch up with me now and then, and I’ve been in a slump lately. Something I have noticed is that as I have become better at being in-tune with myself and meeting my own needs, I am able to recognize the beginnings of the down-slide sooner and respond more quickly to correct the course, which makes these little lapses much more tolerable. I wouldn’t say that I have a handle on it, exactly, but things are much improved, in any case.
This is where I am now – in the ‘action’ part of getting things back on track. The pattern seems to be:
- things are going well
- something happens and things are shitty
- I feel bad; wallow in bad feelings; complain and wish things were better
- recognize that things CAN be better; I am the key to making things BE better
- develop a plan; pay attention to self-care; start making things better
- things are going well
Whereas I used to get stuck in stage 3, I find that stage 4 and 5 come somewhat easier the more adept I become at managing step 5. No one wants to feel bad, but I think a lot of us just get caught in the loop and don’t know how to break out of it. For me, the cycle stops when I focus inward.
This has become my focus for Beltane this year: the idea that self-care is worship. The idea that I am a representation of the Divine Mother, and care of myself is care of Her go hand in hand for me. If the Divine Spark in me is a part of Her, then it would be negligent to allow that spark to be snuffed out. There are a lot of ways that the Spark can be extinguished, from a shift in focus or being distracted by everyday things, to something big that happens that rocks you to your core, like a loss or something catastrophic. I deal with chronic depression and anxiety, and sometimes I struggle to feel Her flame within just because the darkness is overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of things – but when I take a break and focus inward, it’s always there; I just have to look for it and coax it back to roaring life again.
What are you focused on this Beltane?
This is Part I of the Pagan Parenting Series. Raising children is hard enough, but when you factor in being part of a religion or spiritual belief system that falls outside the mainstream, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In addition to criticism by the mainstream, there is also a decided lack of resources for Pagan parents that deals specifically with the particulars of raising children in an Earth-based belief system. In the interests of full disclosure, I developed this series based on a discussion centering on the book, Circle Round: Elements of Spiritual Parenting, but you may find the self-assessment questions relevant even without the book. I looked for the original discussion, but could not find it to link. If this sounds familiar, and you have a source, please let me know and I will update the introduction with a link. However flavored by the original discussion, I have put my own spin on it for publishing here. In this series, I invite you to explore some of the topics and issues of concern centered on raising children as a Pagan parent.
Part II: Beliefs
All children eventually ask hard questions about the natural and supernatural world. What do we say when they ask about heaven or hell? Reincarnation? Deity? Do we pass our beliefs on to our children as ‘truth’, or do we want them to come to their own conclusions? Asking yourself these questions and others along these lines can make the difference between being prepared to answer or being blindsided when you’re not expecting them! As parents, it can be hard enough to answer those kinds of questions when you’re part of a mainstream religion, but when you fall outside of the norm, how do you answer? It can be very difficult to decide how much information is age-appropriate, or how much is ‘too much’. It can also be hard to find ‘traditional’ information to pass on to your kids.
Over the years, we’ve relied on literature, mythology, philosophy and religious studies to round out the kids’ knowledge base. Most Pagans I know personally don’t indoctrinate their kids into their path in the same way that other religions tend to assert you should. That presents problems for some; how do you teach them without forcing it on them? I think that has a lot to do with just exposure, and how you present things. My kids have always been welcome to attend Circle events and Ritual with me, and we’ve also taken them to other church services and allowed them the choice to attend, participate or opt out. We’ve always been open about XYZ being ‘one way to think about things’, or ‘this is what Mommy believes; this is what Daddy (or Auntie or whoever) believes’ with the approach that belief is a personal thing, neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’. Your approach may differ based on what your goals are.
One thing I know about my own beliefs is that they’re ever-evolving. There are ideas and concepts that I ‘like’, but don’t necessarily ‘believe’ and figuring out how to explain some of those things to my children has been challenging. Fortunately, if you’re interested in sharing your beliefs as a Pagan, or person on a more Nature/Earth-based spiritual path, there are some things online that can help to explain, or at least give you a starting point to start teaching your children. I have found it helpful to have a starting point, and for us, that was defining what it is that I believe in; what goals I am trying to attain as a person. Since we are somewhat secular, I was drawn to the 15 Guiding Principles of Secular Paganism as a teaching tool. I also appreciate the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru, and the Golden Rule as it is explained in other various religions. If you’re more traditionally Pagan or Wiccan, then The Witches Creed, The Wiccan Rede, or 13 Goals of a Witch might be more fitting, or have attributes that you want to include in your children’s education. As an eclectic practitioner, all of these have value for me.
In my practice, gratitude and mindfulness are two concepts that I am deeply attached to and so I try to incorporate those ideas and ideals into my life on a daily basis. While this doesn’t involve ‘giving thanks’ to a deity figure, it does involve being mindful of the good things in my life and focusing on the positive. Depending on your feelings about and/or interpretation of Deity, you may include prayers, devotions or other ‘little rituals’ that are meaningful for you and your child(ren). We have Goddess and God and Sabbat candles in the kitchen that are lit almost daily, and directional/elemental candles that are lit for various reasons. Other things, ‘traditions’ that are rooted in belief and practice have their place as well: decorations (besom, Witch Balls, altars, ritual sweeping, smudging, etc.)… those things are just part of ‘our house’ and are normal for my kids. Other facets of your belief system will depend on your personal interpretation of your path and what religion and belief means to you. I like the Four Centers of Paganism as a model for understanding, and teaching as well. Defining where you stand, and how you interpret your path can make it easier to articulate and demonstrate to your kids.
In conclusion, I think the important thing is to prepare yourself for those hard questions, and not to leave your children out of the process of discovery. Whatever your approach, and whatever their path, the journey towards a personal style of spirituality and belief is interesting and full of self-discovery. Whether they agree with you, or take off on a completely different spiritual path, they’ll make it their own just like you have.
Here are some books and other resources that I’ve found both interesting and helpful at various times over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am not affiliated with the authors, publishers of distributors; the links are just for ease of locating them if you think they may be of use to you. Please feel free to comment with other books and resources you’ve found helpful, especially if they’re specific path relevant (i.e.: Druidry, Asatru, etc.)
Imbolc is a time to ‘wake the Earth’ from her slumber. For many, it is also seen as the Return of the Goddess from her trip to the Underworld that started at Samhain. Traditionally, Imbolc is the Sabbat celebrating the passing of another winter, and the start of the agricultural year. For Pagans who celebrate the Triple Goddess, Imbolc is the point where She transitions from Crone to Maiden.
A big part of Imbolc for me is the celebration and honoring of the Goddess Brigid. Brigid is a Triple Goddess, and so gets honoured in all of Her aspects. Though technically Imbolc is the beginning of Maiden energies, as a mother, the Goddesses of Fertility, Birth, Midwifery and Motherhood feature prominently in my practice since that’s where I am at this stage in my life. Brigid, being associated with midwifery, would naturally fit, along with Frigg, Hathor, Nephthys, Hera, Artemis, Bast, Diana, Hekate, and Juno, among others. With the birth of the Sun at Yule, I love the imagery of the ‘baby’ Sun nursing from the Goddess’s breast. Now that my kids are older, I sometimes miss the (admittedly sometimes frustrating) nights awake with just my baby to keep me company and Imbolc is a time to honour not only the Goddess and Her Son, but also my own.
Brigid is the Goddess of things you make with your hands, and in the aspect, as an artisan, appeals to me greatly. Imbolc is Her day; a festival and Goddess figure so important to ancient Celtic peoples that is reflected in the Christianization of Her into St. Brigid. The Church couldn’t eradicate Her as they did with other deities, so they adopted her. Craftsmen and women invoked Her in the crafting of everyday items, from clothing to farming or animal husbandry equipment, to poetry and art. I keep a mini Brigid offering dish in my kitchen window in remembrance of how essential and influential She is in daily life, and usually keep my Brigid devotional candle lit while I am crafting.
I am part of a Flamekeeping Cill for Brigid, Cill Willow, and have been for several years now. Every 20 days, each of the 19 people in our Cill takes a ‘shift’ tending the eternal flame, saving the last day for Brigid. Though I participate in the flamekeeping vigil during my appointed shift, Imbolc is also a time for communing with Her and tending Her sacred flame.
After the dearth of Winter, Imbolc is a celebration of Light – the return of the Sun and celebration of its returning power. The God may be visualized as a lusty young man, spreading his warmth and attention to the Earth (Gaia), fertilizing and encouraging the growth of the early Spring flowers and vegetation. The connections to fertility are obvious; so fertility rituals and the ‘rekindling’ of everything – activity, agriculture, the birth of animals and babies. The connection to warmth and heat and light and Fire is and important on for me. There are several ‘fire’ associated traditions that appeal to me; the snuffing and re-lighting hearth fires. We don’t have a fireplace, but have found that ritually re-lighting candles symbolizes the same. Other traditions include sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new, filling the house with the smell of baking bread, making corn dollies filled with intentions for the year, and other such ‘Spring Cleaning’ activities that set the tone for the coming season.
With the kids, taking time to celebrate the beginning of the calendar year, recalling seasonal and Sabbat Lore to strengthen their connections to their paths is always a focus. Though I don’t seek to indoctrinate my kids into any particular pathway, offering various Spring seasonal stories, recounting traditions and coming up with ways to honour that passing of season to season is important to me; much more than cementing a particular belief system is just the recognition and honoring of the Turning of the Wheel. Since this is a devotional Sabbat, it re-affirms my own path, and helps me maintain my focus for the coming year, and whatever my children take from that to form their own path works for me.
I have said in the past that I feel a special affinity for cross-quarter days (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh & Samhain). These ‘in-between’ times are times of change and examination. This is when I evaluate, and make adjustments when needed, to my path or journey towards a goal. I update my journals, Shadow Books, make changes and consolidate information, and occasionally add a new Shadow Book or section in my existing Books if I need to. It’s a time of ‘housekeeping’ and organization in both a literal and symbolic sense.
This year, I am focusing on ‘simplicity’. Though I tend to focus on the Sabbat throughout the month, I have lately felt the need for a simplified ritualistic practice that marks the occasion on the day of. I recently found this Simple Imbolc Rite that really spoke to me, and thought I would share.
Here’s my Imbolc altar and simple ritual:
How did you celebrate Imbolc this year?
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Yule is the Winter Solstice as well; traditionally a time of rest – settling in with kith and kin by the fire, counting blessings and weathering out the last of winter. Though I’m in the Southern United States, and our temperatures reach to 80’s (F) sometimes, the sentiments are the same – gathering close to freinds and family, and counting ourselves fortunate.
Another observation that I feel is important to do is ‘Walking the Boundaries’. Every year, on the Quarter Days (Yule, Ostara, Litha & Mabon), I walk the boundaries of our property and leave Thanks and Offerings to the boundary spirits for continued good-will and protection. We share the land with Those Who Came Before, so we try to honor them with a little something.
If you’re so inclined, feel free to use the same promt and write your own blog post. Be sure to link back!
This is the first year in the last several that I haven’t celebrated Samhain in a group setting. Our Circle group has been somewhat disjointed lately, though we are getting back to regular studies (though the Ren Faire has interrupted our regular classes lately), but it’s hard to plan a group ritual without a space.
Lacking a group observance, I’ve had to observe in solitary. It’s not unfamiliar to me; I was a solitary for years before working with a group. In a sense, it was like slipping on an old familiar pair of shoes – shoes that had been molded to my feet, specifically; well-worn and perfectly fit. In another sense, it was unfamiliar – different from the feel of celebration and observance that I’ve become accustomed to. I both enjoyed it, and felt a pang of regret that I wasn’t with my Circle. The past few months of solitary observances have made me appreciate more than ever the group I have in my life now, and I can’t wait to get back to practicing and observing the High Holy Days as a Coven.
This time of year is all about remembrance for Pagans the world over. Little bundles of rosemary adorn collars and altars to scent the room and pay honor to our beloved dead. Family, friends, forgotten ones – all hold a place in our hearts throughout the year, but at Samhain, they draw a little bit closer to the veil and, I find that certain spirits weigh on my mind more so than at other times of the year.
This year, I’ve been thinking more about the baby that I lost a few years ago. This was the first year since that brief spark flared to life and then was prematurely snuffed that I didn’t make a specific memento or act to call the baby’s spirit to me in some way, and I find that it’s here anyway. A few changes have been going on recently – I started working as a doula again, one of my very good friends is due with her second child in a couple of weeks (and I will be one of her birth attendants), and October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. I am sure those things all play a monumental role in where my subconscious thoughts are, and why my sweet babe is on my mind. That said, it’s not been a ‘sad’ sort of presence. More like a nostalgic one – a fleeting touch here and there that is more comforting than anything else, which is a nice change. In the past, it’s been very sad for me to think about and remember. This feels like healing, which is a big part of Samhain observances for me – the reminder that though our Beloved Dead are not here, they’re never far away.
Hoping your Samhain was beautiful!
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.