Ringing in 2018!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

2017 has been a crazy year in many ways, and been rewarding in others.  The good news is we can resolve to make the changes that improve the stuff we didn’t like.  We can look ahead with hope and take action.

I hope y’all enjoy your last night in 2017 and ring in 2018 safely.

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Yule: The Longest Night

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is the longest night of the year.  In Paganism, this is when the Sun is reborn (or the Oak King, depending on your tradition).  Basically, it is the return of the days getting longer until the peak at Midsummer.  Believe it or not, many other Winter holidays celebrate this return of the light as well.  Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, with their progressing candle-lighting, are two that do.

There are many ways to celebrate Yule.  From Yule logs to pomanders to wassail (spiced wine) to making donations, several can be incorporated into other Winter festivities.   One year, my (Pagan) church had an overnight.  We lit candles and waited for sunrise in our jammies, entertaining ourselves with games, story-telling, and holiday-inspired snacks.  Most of us fell asleep by 4-5am but we had a great time celebrating Longest Night.

Traditionally, Yule logs were burned to bless the coming year and a piece was kept to light the next year’s fire, for continuity of blessings/protection.  These days, fireplaces are less common and most people won’t hang on to a charred piece of wood a whole year.  As a practical alternative, a reusable Yule log can be made by drilling holes into a small log and fitting it for candles and/or incense.  Sometimes, certain woods are preferred for the blessings they bestow (i.e. oak for strength, pine for prosperity, birch for fertility, aspen for spiritual wisdom, etc.).  It can be anointed with oils that are meaningful to you.  In short, they can be customized to fit the family.

Yule log-candles

Spices are a big part of all winter celebrations, am I right?  Whether you’re spicing up your mulled wine or baking gingerbread cookies, they bring a warmth all their own.  Speaking of spiced wine, the activity of wassailing – going door to door with song and drink – is the precursor of Christmas caroling.  The idea was to bless one’s neighbors, by drinking to their good health, and pouring a bit on the ground to assist Spring’s fertility.

Pomanders, made by punching cloves into oranges, create a nice holiday scent.  Experience tells me they can be somewhat messy to make and draw flies after a few days, though.  This year, I think I will just diffuse some clove and orange essential oils (1 to 5 ratio, respectively) instead.

In my family, we celebrate Yule in concert with Christmas.  After all, from Mithras to Horus to Jesus, it is celebrated as a birth of a Holy King in many traditions and for many years.  The winter holiday is a marking of a natural rhythm for me.  As a family, though, the most important thing for us is the time spent enjoying one another’s company.  And the sumptuous feast doesn’t hurt either…

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Samhain, a Celebration of Life and Death

Samhain reminds us to honor our ancestors, celebrate life, and not fear death.

I’m pretty late with this post but better late than never, I suppose. 🙂  For reference, the Gaelic word Samhain is pronounced ‘sow-en’ or ‘sah-wen’ – not ‘sam-hane’ – and the featured image belongs to DragonOak.

Samhain is considered the 3rd and final harvest of the year, in many Pagan traditions.  It is the turn of the wheel that marks the finishing of Fall’s work and the brief resting period that sometimes follows, as we move into the darker half of the year (Samhain to Beltane).  For us, the bit of rest helps us gear up for the upcoming Holiday season.

Samhain is the Celtic/Gaelic version of an ancient holiday that reminds us to honor our ancestors.  Mexico’s Day of the Dead is similar in many ways.  It is the time of year the veil between our world and theirs is believed to be the thinnest.  Many choose this time to communicate with loved ones who’ve passed on, through divination.   Others may set an extra place at the table in remembrance.  Still others simply look back with fondness.

A secular celebration for many today, Halloween activities have a basis in these ancient Pagan traditions.  Dressing up was once meant to frighten off spirits who may wish to do harm.  Guising started in the Middle Ages, when people in costume went door to door asking for food or money as payment for songs or prayers for the dead.  This became trick-or-treating in the early 1900s, when kids would prank those who didn’t “treat” them.  Somewhere along the way, their end of the exchange became forgotten.

For me, the main point of Samhain is to honor those who came before me and respect Death as a natural part of Life’s cycle.  It is, effectively, the final harvest in this life, though I personally believe it is only the body that dies.   Far from being “scary” or “gruesome”, it is a reminder that life is a continual thing and death is nothing to fear.

However you celebrate, or choose not to, I hope you all enjoy the remainder of your Fall season and the time life gives us with our loved ones.

Duties, Delays and Docs: A Summary

I did not mean to stay away this long.  It’s been a wild month.

I got caught up with a writing project I was working on for a client, which was way more work than I originally anticipated.  Then, my family and I passed around this awful Ping Pong cold for a couple weeks.  We spent Samhain, and my birthday, sick and it put me further behind on my project.  Lovely, LOL.  Thankfully, my client worked with me through it and extended the deadline.

Then, I had to train for the Election Day duty I signed on for a few months ago.  It wasn’t easy to do so much sitting for 15 hours straight but, considering that some countries don’t have democratic elections or ones in which citizens are involved at all, I felt honored to have been part of it.

A visit with my primary care doctor uncovered an issue (enlarged vein) that a previous doc found way back in 2012 but never mentioned to me.  Why?  Who can say, but it was the same doc who messed up a surgery I had that year and got kicked to the curb.  Oddly, another doc missed it in another ultrasound done 2 years later.  I have a check-up with my new specialist scheduled for sometime next month, so I’ll bring it up then and discuss my options.

I finally have a moment to breathe, in between events and with my project draft now in review.  With any luck, it won’t need much, if any, editing and we can move on to the next phase.  Fingers crossed, especially since I’m in discussion for another project that will ride alongside this one.

So, I apologize for not getting my Samhain installment posted on time.  My OCD isn’t happy about it not getting done and I’m hoping to get it before Yule’s installment.  In any case, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving this Thursday…eat well and enjoy the time with loved ones!

Original Stenciling? Oh, yes, please!

My old house obsession just got majorly fed.  I found a Maine lovely with an 1800 build date, complete with 9-over-6 windows and original stenciling.  Color me stoked!

The stenciling is thought to be inspired by Moses Eaton.  He, and his son Moses, Jr., were renowned Early American stencilers in the late 1700s-early 1800s.  Examples of their work still survive and are icons of Early American home decor. Seeing as Moses, Jr. did go into Maine during his career, I wonder if the work could be his after all?

Back in the day, the wallpapers the rich enjoyed were out of reach for poorer households.  So, they did like they do now…DIY their way to a sexier home!  This meant floor treatments (i.e. oilcloths, handmade rugs, paint, etc.) and stenciled or muraled walls.  Paint could still be expensive but smaller designs, rather than full coverage, made it doable.

Wall stenciling_crossett library cite
Example of wall stenciling.  Photo from Crossett Library (link to flickr)

Not everyone had the skill to do a righteous stencil job.  When possible, it got hired out to folks like the Eatons.  And, if you couldn’t tell already, I’m a Moses Eaton fan.  My ebay wishlist is full of Eaton-inspired stencil patterns.  Once my house and budget is ready for my decor plans (some ugly paneling to replace with drywall), my living room will feature some stencilwork along the doorways, wainscotting, and ceiling beams.   Worry not…when I get there, I will post pics!

This Circa home is pretty close to a time capsule home, in my opinion.  Suits me fine…they’re my favorite kind of old house.  When you can feel the history just from the pictures, you know it’s something special.  If you’re an old house junkie like me, you’ll definitely appreciate the original cook hearth, woodwork and (yes) the stenciling.

Enjoy! 😉

Fall into Mabon

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are falling, garden harvests are happening, and back-to-school schedules are being settled into.  We’re on the cusp of my favorite season – Autumn.  Time to celebrate Mabon!

Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox, is the second harvest celebration of the Pagan year.  Today, day and night are in equal balance, with the Wheel turning toward the coming winter.

Often celebrated as a wine festival and widely known as a Pagan Thanksgiving, it is a time of balance, relaxation, and completing tasks.  Mabon offers a brief respite between harvesting summer’s bounty and storing it away to last the winter.  It is also a time of reflection, as we look on the year thus far to see what worked for us and what didn’t.  What didn’t work is a lesson on improvement and a plan to look ahead, to do better next time.

My Autumn Doll
This is Autumn, a doll I made at a spirit doll workshop a few years ago.

Many foods and drinks are associated with Mabon, as it is a time of plenty.  The cornucopia is overflowing!  While wine is a common component, apples (cider…mmmm!) and root veggies also play a role.  Fall leaves, acorns and pinecones are frequent decorations on the Mabon altar, representing the continuity of life even as the world turns increasingly cold and dark.

Ways to celebrate are as unique as those celebrating.  From a simple meditation to creating gourd art to a full-blown ritual with the coven, pick what works for you.  So, pour a glass of wine/cider, eat a little root stew and sit outside to enjoy the fall leaves blowing about you.  Or have a bonfire and usher in Fall with some good friends and music.  Or teach your kids to make gourd art.  Or….oh, just get out there and have fun already!

 

*Featured photo isn’t taking caption…photo by OakenHoof, found at http://cloggin.co.uk/content/incredible-edible-harvest-festival

Maple Apple Bourbon Sauce

One of the things I wanted to do with this blog is share recipes, both my own and those I find.  This is one I created a couple years ago when I needed a sauce for pork chops.  It’s quick, easy and so tasty…enjoy!

 

1/4 c. apple butter

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

3-4 tbsp. REAL maple syrup

2-3 tbsp. bourbon/whisky    (any you like will work…I plan to try apple pie moonshine next time I make it)

garlic & pepper, to taste  (small dashes work well for us…just enough!)

 

Combine ingredients and stir together.  Add to chicken or pork, either before or after cooking.  Yields us enough for a 4-person meal (4-6 chops or so)…increase as needed.