Every year I go into solstice with idea about how I might mark the occasion and every year it works out differently. Think I’d learn wouldn’t you.

I began this year thinking I might see if anyone was around to drum, then quickly realised everyone was working, then I thought I’d watch the live link from Newgrange and during the day make a Despacho, a form of prayer bundle which I could then offer to the spirits in a solstice fire in my stone circle. This way I could drum while the spirits consumed the bundle along. Did any of this happen? No!

Instead an incredibly dark solstice morning found me driving to the dentist as I had a niggly tooth and needed to get it checked out before Christmas. During the drive, feeling disappointed not to be watching the sun fail to rise and illuminate the passage at Newgrange (it was a dull misty, damp morning everywhere in Ireland) when I realised that just as I often do a sign and omen walk I could do the same whilst driving as long as I was careful to also pay attention to the road of course. So shifting my awareness I asked for signs and omens for the day that was in it. Sure enough I soon became aware of my focus being drawn first to the bare trunks of clusters of birch trees as I drove past, then my gaze lifting above the trees and hedgerow to the lightness beginning to grow in the sky in the distance and finally to the crow flying directly towards me. As crow is someone I work with and whom is around often I asked for confirmation and was rewarded with a second crow immediately flying from a tree across the road in front of me. As with all signs and omens the real comes later in interpreting these and so I held onto them until I could sit, journey, gain insight, reflect and make sense of what I had been given.

Returning home, tooth sorted I was again disappointed that the weather was even worse. I had driven home through thickening fog and miserable drizzly rain neither of which are conducive to drumming outside and fire ceremony. So a quick rethink found me in my log cabin where I was guided to select two cards from Ted Andrews, Nature Speak Cards. I thought I was drawing these for myself until I was guided to draw a third which was solely for me and realised the first two were also to share here.

The first card was drawn for the darkness and was: Tulip – Trust in your efforts

Sometimes we feel that we aren’t really getting anywhere, making any progress but our efforts are working and rewards are coming if we continue to stay focused on them and to discriminate as to how and where to use them.

The second card was drawn for the light and was: Garden – Time for nurturing

This is a reminder to nurture yourself and to do things that give you joy, to sow new seeds in your life and then watch them grow. Doing this will stimulate new energies around you.

I have a suspicion that the signs and omens I received on my drive were also meant to be shared hence this blog post but as with all shamanic work the interpretation of them for anyone other than me is not mine to make. Basically, without going into details, for me the three signs together show me what I need to release and what I need to grasp hold of and carry with me as the shift from darkness to light takes place.

Maybe the signs I was given resonate with you in which case do reflect on them and what they might mean to you, or maybe this might inspire you to do your own signs and omens drive or walk.

I did drum, but out of respect for my drum, in my log cabin and not in the rain in my stone circle.

Just an aside here as yesterday where I live it was a seriously dark day, no sky visible, absolutely no light to be seen. I was out last night and I have never experienced such a deep and dark night, total blackness everywhere. I really do think this was the darkest solstice I have ever seen. May the light come quickly and shine brightly on us all in the coming months.

 

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

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Although I live in Ireland I am sadly the other end of the country from the Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange where hundreds gather for the sunrise of Winter Solstice. Those few lucky people enough to be able to enter the tomb gather in the darkness to await the rays of the sun which light up the passage.

In the past I have been able to watch this online via a video link but the last couple of years this stopped. This year though it is not only back but is being broadcast worldwide for the first time ever.

So if it is a clear boring on either 20th or 21st December this year we will all be able to join the lucky few and watch the sun light up the passage tomb by tuning into Ireland’s Ancient East YouTube channel

 

 

 

 

The Holiday Tree

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This might look like a Christmas tree and most people who call to us would say that’s what it is but if they look closely they will see that it really isn’t.

Ok, we have lights, a few baubles and the odd Santa but almost all of the decorations on our tree have been brought home by us from holidays. We have for instance a koala from Australia, elephants from India, a Tibetan bell from Nepal, an orangutan from Borneo, palm fish from Cambodia, figures in national costume from Bhutan, a hummingbird from Costa Rica and most recently a maple leaf from Canada.

I love that this is how the tree is for every year when we unpack the box to decorate the tree we revive memories of the places we have visited through remembering where each decoration came from.

Our tree is always up before Winter Solstice which has far more meaning for me than Christmas does so the fact that it is more a holiday tree than anything else is absolutely perfect 🙂

Three Days of Stillness

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Although many people seem to believe that once Winter Solstice is passed the days immediately get longer again this is far from true. Instead the sun  maintains its Solstice position, resting on the horizon, for a total of three days providing us with three days of stillness before we turn towards the light once more.

In what can be ‘crazy season’ even if we don’t buy into the enforced celebration of commercialism that Christmas can bring, three days of stillness sounds like magic. Three days in which we can rest, go within, gain insight, release, give thanks to Mother Earth, the sun, the moon, tune into and recognise the turn of the wheel and make plans for the new year ahead. How many of us though allow ourselves this ‘time out of time’?

I do always manage to stop and mark Winter Solstice itself in some way but three days? Not if I am being completely honest.

This year though is different as I really have no choice. Many times, being less than patient with myself, working through anything rather than giving in, this would be a problem, but at the moment I am strangely Ok with it all, perhaps because my own need to be still coincides with the Earth’s need to stop so we are in some way energetically empathic with each other at the moment. I know from past experience that being still and going into the void often brings me the greatest insights and so instead of being concerned that the house isn’t tidy and that I don’t know what the next meal will be I am just allowing myself to consciously take three days of stillness, admittedly on top of the several days I have already had.

I had begun this part of the year with the idea that I would do some serious reflecting aware that there was a lot that I was pushing myself to do that was maybe not completely right. I had intended to be journalling every step of this process so that I had a record of my decisions, I had decided I would weigh up the pros and cons of everything and then that I would release what I needed to into the fire at the ceremony I had arranged for today. Spirit though seems to have other ideas for I have not picked up pen and paper once but have slumbered in that ‘in between’, state, journeying to non ordinary reality and have thus done all of this there supported by my guides and allies, throwing away things that my guides have then been showing me that I need to reconsider and realising that I was not seeing things clearly. Then being shown how much I still have that does needs to be gone through and sifted out, things that in ordinary reality I might not have even identified. Not one word of this has gone onto paper but it is burnt deeply within me now, so much so that this morning I found myself thinking about whether my shamanic practice  could possibly fit what someone was looking for, before quickly realising that I wasn’t going to do that any more, that the only thing that mattered was what I actually did and not what anyone else was doing, that I didn’t care anymore. Total freedom.

I still have two more days of stillness to come and I am going to make the most of them, excited in many ways to see what other insights and understanding come to me when I completely surrender.

So what else could we use these three days of stillness for should we choose to take the time out to use them?

There are many ways to spend this time including giving thanks for and making offerings to our Earth Mother but these are a few simple ideas of ways to take some time to be still.

  • Sit by a window and spend time gently observing nature
  • Curl up and listen to music, allowing ourselves to receive healing from the sounds
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset
  • Hold a simple fire ceremony, writing down what we wish to release and then surrendering it to the element of fire
  • Sit in the darkness and spend time in reflection
  • Light a candle and welcome the light back in, perhaps thinking of our plans for the coming year, sowing the seeds that the light can germinate over the next months
  • Journey or undertake a guided meditation to meet our guides and ask for support or guidance
  • Journey or undertake a guided meditation to ask to be shown our soul’s purpose for the coming year
  • Make a vision board of your intentions or hopes for the new year

This is a symbolic time, a time of new beginnings, of setting intentions, of the light returning to shine in and push back the dark and lead us forward, so taking time out gives us chance to go into this consciously not blindly in the rush of it all. I for one am determined this year to make the most of it all, working in harness with the energy of the earth instead of running against it.

 

The Night of the Mothers – Solstice Eve

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I am quite poorly at the moment with a very nasty virus that is doing the rounds here. It has left me coughing and totally wiped out, so much so that I have had to cancel the Solstice Gathering with friends that had been planned for tomorrow. This is very sad as its the first time we would have been able to gather for Winter Solstice for some years due to work commitments and the first time my stone circle would have been used for a group celebration but it is sensible, there will be other times.

As I am really not up to concentrating to write anything at length at the moment, or not anything that makes much sense anyway, I thought it was perhaps worth revisiting two posts from previous years that relate to today, the eve of solstice, things that you might not find unless you delve back through the archives.

In the first post I talk about discovering  Modranicht or Night of the Mothers which can be seen as the beginning of the Solstice festivities

And in the second Elen Sentier, talks about her own experience of honouring the feminine on the eve of Solstice 

Whatever and however you are celebrating at this time of the year may I wish you all Solstice Blessings and Seasons Greetings. Here’s to a healthy, happy, peaceful and abundant 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Deer and Elk Solstice Rattles

 

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The empty and dried shells

The rattles that I began at solstice are finished at last 🙂 I should probably explain here that the delay isn’t that I have been very slow in finishing them, rather that they have taken a long time to dry out thoroughly. This wasn’t helped of course by stuffing the wet heads with damp sand which became damper and heavier as it soaked up the water from the hides.

After 27 hrs, a large proportion of which was with the rattles hung on the washing line to dry with the elements of air and fire doing their best to assist, I decided to take a chance that they were hard enough and empty the sand out to create empty shells so they would stand a better chance of drying. This helped enormously and once the hide was hard I could play with adding and subtracting the stones that I had been drawn to use to make the ‘rattle’, until I found a sound for each of them that shifted energy in a way that spoke to me.

I then of course had to empty the stones out and place them safely to one side so that the necks of the heads could be re soaked as I needed them soft enough to fit the handles tightly when they were re tied.

Having earlier decided that I would experiment with deer and elk lacing to fit the heads to the handles this had been soaking in the same water I used to soak the heads and so by now was ready to go. Once the necks were soft I refilled the heads with the stones and then laced them to the handles which I had by then polished with beeswax.

Then as with everything else with these rattles, they needed to be hung again so the neck, lacing and heads could completely dry out. I have now lost track of the time these have taken but like everything when crafting, especially when creating tools, there is no way of rushing, everything has to be done with awareness and given the time and space to develop its spirit as the work progresses.

I still have to spend time meeting and working with the spirit of these rattles, getting to know and understand them,  how they will work with me and if they wish to be decorated in any way. But for now at least my solstice rattles are complete 🙂

Deer Rattle

Deer Rattle

Elk Rattle

Elk Rattle

 

Darkness to Light

We are just about to enter the darkest part of the year, the few days that lead up to the Winter Solstice on 21st/22nd December.

Usually I love this time of year, the chance to sink into the darkness, to drop into the void, release, let go and be reborn into the light as the wheel of the year turns once again. I always enjoy Winter Solstice more than Summer Solstice because as much both Solstices offer the chance to reflect, release and move on, the Winter Solstice also offers the promise of brighter times ahead, the ‘stretch in the day’ as we say here.

This year though the run up to Solstice has been difficult even before we get into the next few days. I have lost count of how many times I have heard someone say to me that they will be glad when Solstice is over. I don’t think I have ever heard this before.

The reason for this is that in Ireland we have had very bad weather; storms, floods, weeks where it hasn’t stopped raining and days where there has not really been any daylight. This has come on top of a very poor, cool, summer with little in the way of sunshine.

I don’t suffer from SAD, depression or anything similar plus I am lucky enough to have had winter sunshine, yet I am very aware of the effect that the lack of light is having on me. I don’t think I have ever been as aware of the dark days ahead as I am at the moment.

Solstice will come and go, the days will grow longer, the darkness will lose its grip. I am just hoping that in the days ahead there will be enough light for us to notice this.

Modranicht – Celebrating the feminine

I have just come across Modranicht which in Old English is said to mean ‘Night of the Mothers’. This was an event held on either the eve of Winter Solstice, or Christmas Eve, although as it is thought to have been an Anglo Saxon Pagan event it does seem to me, more likely that it was held on the eve of Solstice rather than Christmas.

What caught my attention about it at first was that the person mentioning it spoke of it their seeing it as a night for celebrating Mother Earth and giving thanks to the Earth Mother which seemed a lovely thing to do at any time of year. How nice to have a day in this festive season to take time out, to reflect on, celebrate and make offerings to the Earth.

Then having looked at it a little more closely today I have also seen that it can be a time for celebrating Brigid as the representation of the triple goddess, one of the great mothers of the Celts. As a healing goddess and goddess of fertility Brigid oversees childbirth. Although Brigid has her own day on 1st February it is clear why some choose to celebrate her at Mondranicht as well.

The translation as ‘Night of the Mothers’ seems to suggest that this would have been a time when the feminine as depicted by motherhood in all its creative forms was celebrated which seems to me a very worthwhile celebration. How lovely if we could bring back a celebration of Mother Earth and the feminine at Modranicht in some way. This year on the eve of Winter Solstice I for one will be doing just that.

Celebrating without consumerism

I’m sitting here having listened to yet another radio ad urging us to go out and spend money we don’t have before Christmas and it’s left me wondering just why it is people buy into consumerism so much. Recently we have had Black Friday, Cyber Monday and because I live in Ireland, the 8th December which as it was on a Monday this year, also seemed to spread out to include the 6th and 7th as well.

For those of you who don’t know about 8th December, in Ireland it’s the national shopping day, the day where historically ‘culchies’ those of us from the countryside, would travel into town and do our Christmas shopping tempted in by 10% off just about everything. Of course the days of only being able to travel to the city one day of the year are long gone, but the 10% tradition still remains. Town apparently was packed on that day which is good for local traders and people’s pockets of course.

But do we need to be spending so much at any time of the year, let alone this one? The answer is of course we don’t. For many the whole idea of a consumer driven lifestyle is an anomaly. The rush to spend money on things we don’t need and can’t afford just doesn’t make sense.

As a fairly low key pagan who has drifted towards paganism gradually, one who is living in a very Catholic country, I celebrate pagan festivals and will be celebrating Winter Solstice but I also take part in Christmas festivities for this means I get to spend time with friends. For Solstice any presents are hand made, or small things that I hope will have meaning for the person receiving them, at Christmas any presents are also small, tokens rather than anything more. In our family we don’t do Christmas presents at all now, nor do we stock our cupboards full of food that never gets eaten. This is not us being miserly but is about keeping it all in perspective.

I don’t usually talk about this with anyone but the other day, out with friends for lunch the subject of Christmas arose and out of the ten of us present most of us hadn’t made any preparations at all. In fact when someone said ‘You don’t still do the present thing do you?’ most of us there said no, only something small and then only for children.

This heartened me for as a country creeping out of recession, one where the poorest in our society have been hardest hit, one where the numbers of homeless have increased dramatically I believe it is what we need to be doing as opposed to borrowing money needlessly. It doesn’t mean we cannot celebrate whether it be Solstice or Christmas, but hopefully it means we can do so while thinking about why we are celebrating rather than what we have gained materially at this time of year.