The Wheel of the Year


May thru Oct 2013 422

So, I didn’t manage to post our Mabon activities on time but that wasn’t entirely my fault as the WordPress site was acting up. In any event, this has always been a hard Sabbat for me in the past. After having several holidays involving feasts and/or bonfires very recently, it seemed repetitive to do just the same again. I would like each Sabbat to stand out for my kids. I want the themes to be clear and memorable. I don’t want Lammas and Mabon to just blur together as times to make pie and eat a lot, although that is part of it naturally. The same issue came up with the blurring of Beltane and Litha, which was why I came up with a fairy theme for our Litha celebrations.

This time I decided to take another tact. Lammas for us is about community and work, making sure to invite people from outside our family and if possible providing some sort of community service or engaging in joint work with others. Mabon is at its most basic about living an attitude of gratitude. So, I put that together with a tinsy little problem that I have encountered in our exploration of the Sabbats. That is there are a few too many holidays in our year. And voila! A solution. Mabon is Thanksgiving.

Okay, first of all, I don’t even live in the US anymore and the main reason I continued to celebrate American Thanksgiving was that my family back home would always ask, “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Secondly, I was always a bit uncomfortable with that holiday, even as a child. I know it is better than Columbus Day and supposedly it’s about being friends with and grateful to Native Americans, rather than glorifying the theft of a country, but I never could eat a Thanksgiving dinner without remembering the genocide of Native Americans and it frankly spoiled my appetite and overshadowed my gratitude with a sense of deep sadness.

In any event, the real harvest feast on which American Thanksgiving is supposedly based was actually in September, not November. And our harvest also winds down in September rather than in November. In September I often have that comforting feeling of primal security when I look at the rows of canned fruits and vegetables and the bins of apples, potatoes, pumpkins and carrots in our root cellar, the freezers bulging with organic meat we have bartered for, the jars of dried fruit and the containers of dried, emulsified and tinctured herbs nearly falling off every high shelf in the house. So, I simply moved Thanksgiving to Mabon.

May thru Oct 2013 440

This year we invited Ember’s boyfriend’s entire family to a glorious feast of turkey with all the fixings. They, very untypically for Czechs, outdid themselves with skillful and delicious putluck and our huge pine table literally overflowed. We sang our thanks to the earth and sun for the bounty of the harvest. The children delightedly raced around in circles and miraculously were even generous with one another until hours after their bedtimes.

In the days around Mabon, the children also made beautiful Mabon crafts of tiny little acorn people – nature spirits who pain the leaves – and leaf rubbings framed with colorful paper and Mabon blessings. The kids and I spent one whole lovely morning reading in front of the fire, while rain hammered on the roof. We read from several Mabon editions of Pooka Pages, which Shaye now loves, as well as several wonderful books, including “Smoky and the Feast of Mabon” and “By the Light of the Harvest Moon.” As Mabon is also about thanking our animals, we snuggled with Eliska, our hardworking little mouser, and remarked on how we haven’t heard any rustlings in the walls this year. We made sure she got a generous portion of the feast as well.

I made a wreath for our door with corn husks, dried apples, dried herbs and currants, all things actually from our own harvest. I also made a centerpiece for the table consisting of sand in a nice bowl with vary-colored popcorn decoratively arranged on top to form a flat spot. Then, on that I placed a cornhusk doll, symbolizing the full-bodied harvest mother-goddess. Around her I placed the children’s tiny toy animals representing all the animals that either help us in our daily lives or have given their bodies for us to live through this winter.

On Mabon day, the adults who wished to be involved held a lovely Mabon ritual of thanksgiving and reciprocity. We sang the song “Ancient Mother”. And we made up an alternative to the standard goddess chant that focuses more on the harvest goddesses of many cultures.

Lajja Gauri, Zulu, Freya,
Sowathara, Sara Mama,
Rosmerta, Zeme, Demeter,
Oh, Mother Earth!

Lajja Gauri is a Hindu harvest goddess. Zulu is African. Freya is Scandinavian. Sowathara is Vietnamese. Sara Mama is Native American. Rosmerta is Celtic-Roman. Zeme is Slavic. Demeter hopefully needs no explaination.

We made symbolic offerings and blessed a handful of coins that will encourage us to be generous and devote part of our harvest and energy to helping others. I made a quiet Mabon resolution to help the preschool director, who literally saved us winter before last by transporting Shaye to preschool, with a significant long-term task that she has asked me to do without pay. Thanksgiving is after all in the end about interconnectedness.

Too late for the ritual but in time to sing to the barely waning moon, I made up a Mabon song, while walking home from my teaching job after Mabon.

May thru Oct 2013 423

Autumn Song
By Arie Anna Meadowlark

Hail to the Gods of winter.
Hail to the Night.
Hail to the dark times
With your stars bright.

Bring healing with your darkness.
Be gentle with your cold.
Give insight with your solitude
That brings comfort to the soul.

Farewell to the summer days.
Farewell to old man sun.
Farewell to the times of toil
And rough and tumble fun.

And though I love the summer,
I shall not shed a tear.
For the promise has been given.
The sun returns next year.

And so I have made it a full year writing about our celebrations. The real test will be how much of it will become easy and comforting tradition.


The Wheel of the Year writing challenge

I am setting myself a Samhain resolution this year to write about our celebrations of the earth Sabbats. I grew up with an earth-based spirituality but I have only in the last five years decided to focus significant energy on celebrating natural cycles and bringing spirituality into my daily life. Now, that I have small children the practice of traditions and celebrations seems all that much more important and most of what I do is focused on children. I am not Wiccan or anything else with a name but I feel part of a shared community with many who do belong to specific traditions.

There is a growing well-spring of energy among people interested in earth-based spirituality toward creating traditions that will last beyond our generation, including children in spirituality and answering the questions children inevitably have. I myself have found wonderful inspiration from books like Circle Round, online groups like Pagan Homeschoolers and websites like Pooka Pages and, all of which give great lists of ideas for every occasion. I am not trying to give exhaustive lists here or to copy what others have already done. Instead, I would like to record what one family can actually pull off in terms of celebration without a local community of like-minded support but with the help of far flung community.


Samhain has not usually been my favorite holiday. I freely admit that I am still working at becoming comfortable with the idea of death as part of the natural cycle. I don’t have very solid ideas about what happens after we die but I do know that the spirits, energies or something of our ancestors is left and does play a role in our lives. I don’t feel like this is a scary thing. I get more comfort from it than anything else and this is what I would like to teach my children – the connection to and recognition of ancestors that gives comfort and strength. I also don’t see the black pointy hat symbol as having anything particular to do with my spiritual path. My crafts center on natural symbols or stories with special meaning.

Crafts and Cooking

We made a jack-o-lantern that we will leave outside and lit on Samhain to guide the spirits on the night when the veil between worlds is thin.

We went on a walk and collected pine cones and colorful leaves, and I made a fall wreath with the materials and a circle of willow switches left over from making dream catchers. A glue gun is truly a wonderful tool!

We made gingerbread cookies in the shapes of jack-o-lanterns, boys and girls, deer and elk and crescent moons. Then, we painted them with a bread-of-the-dead-type icing made with orange juice and powdered sugar. The deer and elk cookies were inspired by a children’s bedtime story in the book Circle Round, which tells how “Grandfather Deer” (a representation of the old horned god of ancient European Pagans) comes to lead one on a dream journey on Samhain to the Land of Youth, where children can play in the everlasting sun with gentle and supportive ancestor spirits for that one night.

We painted color-diffusing leaf shapes in fall colors to hang on the wall.


First we sang Ring Around the Pumpkin for a few days as part of our regular morning singing and circle games.

Ring around the pumpkin
Pocket full of nuts
Leaves! Leaves!
They all fall down!

I thought it sounded silly when I read about it but the kids loved it and loved inserting “Hop around the pumpkin” or “Stomp” or “Tiptoe” or “Dance”. We did it first on the day we got our carving pumpkin and we put it in the middle still uncut. This may have helped to get the kids excited and after that they insisted that I make a pumpkin picture to put in the middle of the circle, because our jack-o-lantern had to stay outside for safety’s sake.

Then, Shaye kept asking me again and again why there is snow and why the leaves are falling off the trees and why we have Samhain. I explained all of these things in one way or another, more or less scientifically, until I finally made up this little ditty to the tune of “Are You Sleeping” in order to give a quick answer. And she loved it and has stopped bugging me, which I did not really expect.

Samhain is coming. (2x)
The Earth must rest. (2x)
The ancestors are calling. (2x)
We give thanks. (2x)

Children laughing (2x)
Red leaves falling (2x)
It’s time for trick-or-treating (2x)
On Samhain night. (2x)

Salt and apples (2x)
I leave tonight (2x)
For the grandfather deer (2x)
Who keeps me safe. (2x)

As popular as these songs were with the preschool set, neither really did it for me. Especially when the topic is spirits and ancestors, I hunger for something a bit more… well, spiritual. So, walking back through the woods with Marik, after dropping Shaye off at preschool today I made up this song to the tune of “Michael Rows the Boat Ashore”. It works well if you draw out the first syllable of the element mentioned in the even lines.

Listen to the ancestors’ call,
Hush in the wind.
Listen to the ancestors call,
Song in the water.

Listen to the ancestors call,
Dark of the earth.
Listen to the ancestors’ call,
Dance of the flame.

Fun and Ritual

I couldn’t help but sign up for a Halloween party being held by a Facebook group of English-speaking parents in Prague. So, we’ll go there and then even do a tiny bit of tric-or-treating in a neighborhood with a lot of American homes. This will primarily give us a purpose for dressing up, which is simply too fun for children to forgo. As I said before, I’m not overly fond of the gruesome or horrific aspects of Halloween. I think these were made up to make Pagan beliefs seem evil and frightening. Instead, I focus on dressing up that is simply fun or perhaps dressing up in the garb of people in history, our ancestors.

The dressing up and going to the city does tend to put a crimp in my plans for more spiritual rituals involving children, because the kids will be completely exhausted by the time we return from the city. The other thing to consider is that my husband, Dusan has taken the 31st off but not the 1st, so if we want to do something that involves the morning, it is better done on the 31st.

As a result, I’m going to start the Samhain ritual with the children early. Tonight (the 30th), I’ll help them make a “mute supper” of apples, salt and a few of our cookies to put out by the jack-o-lantern, which we’ll light but not leave lit until tomorrow night. (I expect we will do this on true Samhain once the children are a year or two older but for now it seems too difficult to squeeze it in among all the other things.) In the morning the children will find their Samhain gifts where they left the food. I have decided to spread out gift giving, so that the children will get only one gift at Yule but they will get one at other times of the year as well, though they may not be large or expensive. This is primarily in hopes of reducing stress for everyone concerned.

The idea of giving gifts to children on Samhain comes from the assumption that children are closer to the spirits, because they were born only recently. Thus, giving gifts or sweets to small children is a way of giving gifts to the ancestors as well. This year, the gifts will be particularly fun, preschool supplies and a model car racetrack that Dusan acquired and has been aching to share with them. He will then have a whole free morning to play with them and I will have time to do a little reflection, which may take the form of doing an i-Ching reading.

After the children have a brief afternoon nap, we will then take off for the party and trick-or-treating. When we get home the children may, depending on how exhausted they are be able to participate in a short, fun renewal of the year with us by means of opening up the back door to say goodbye to the old year and then running to the front door to welcome the new year with noise makers and a song. We might also sing a more generic song such as:

Round and round the earth is turning.
Always turning round to morning
And from morning round to night.

After that we will send the children to bed and then I will, with any other adults who want to participate, do a more involved Samhain ritual, including purifying our house and specifically our i-Ching and Tarot materials, runes and elements symbols. I have decided to put something up on the wall behind our family alter, because at the moment it is a not-particularly-attractive back of a bookcase. I have made picture-symbols representing the various groups and cultures of ancestors represented in our household. So, there are Celtic, Slavic, Norse, Romani and Hindu symbols as well as symbols specifically remembering the women who struggled through conflict and pain to give us life and remembering those who held Pagan beliefs but had to hide them for a variety of reasons. These are all on little circles that will be placed on a black velvety background around a triple moon symbol.

The ritual will also include carrying the light from our family alter to an earth alter in the stone circle behind our house. There we will burn slips of paper with qualities and problems that we would like to leave behind, and we will leave an offering of food, water, fire and sage. We will end with asking our ancestors, Goddess and God for protection of our home. In the morning we will light our special alter candles again and call in particular blessings or qualities we wish for the next year or make Samhain resolutions. These we will write down and put into a little box to be kept on the alter. We will renew magical protections on our house by smudging and sprinkling salt at entrances and windows.

P.S. All went extraordinarily well and left us energized and joyful. Really! The setting out of the mute supper for the ancestor spirits went better than I ever could have planned. My 3-year-old and 2-year-old were both interested, involved and non-disruptive. They spooned salt onto a plate, arranged apples and cookies and carried it to the door and placed it outside next to our jack-o-lantern. Shaye said with a most serious demeanor, “Tank you ansessors. You eat good cookies.” I did feel a bit more stressed when I had to wake up the kids super early and put them in the car to go to the preschool Halloween party in the city. But they perked up when we got there and had a blast, politely said thank you after receiving candy and didn’t melt down. We weathered some minor changes in the plan. The kids fell asleep in the car on the way home and didn’t want to wake up for any more fun, so we did the welcoming of the newborn year in the morning, as my daughter’s ride to preschool was pulling into the driveway. And so, they got to watch us hoot and holler, shake our seed rattles and beat our big drum in the front doorway while it poured a torrent of rain just outside. I don’t know what the teacher who drives my daughter to school (bless her with a million blessings) made of it but it was fun. The evening ritual was full of good energy and left me feeling great even after not very much sleep. After the inside ritual, we sang and drummed in the moonlight in our circle of boulders, scattered salt and corn meal to protect our home and buried a special crystal given to me by a friend which is supposed to be part of a network of healing crystals around the world.

Bright blessings to all as the wheel of the year turns again!


Fall through Yule 2012 134

This is one of the best holidays. First of all, most of the rest of the world is celebrating with us and that comes with the handy bonus of some days off that don’t exactly coincide with the Solstice but can be made to help out, especially if you celebrate the traditional Twelve Days of Yule in one way or another.

When I told my husband there are 12 days of Yule, he was aghast, saying he can barely handle one holiday. His mother gets very stressed over Christmas and he still has unresolved anxiety around the holidays. I rushed to reassure him. One thing I like about spreading it out is that there is no one big blow-out celebration and thus no one moment when everything has to be perfect or else it is all ruined. There is something, often a minor thing, special each day and a lot of it is flexible. Also children can get several gifts but only one at a time, which cuts down on the extremes of over excitement and focus on greedy consumerism. Philosophically, the focus of this Sabbat should be on mystery and magic (spelled any which way), so secrets around gifts are quite called for as are fables about jolly old men arriving in the middle of the night and other things of wonder.

So, here goes.

Crafts and Cooking

What was supposed to be a Czech advent candle holder easily makes a fantastic four-elements candle holder for Yule!

What was supposed to be a Czech advent candle holder easily makes a fantastic four-elements candle holder for Yule!

Our Yule preparations didn’t start until after St. Mikulas day because we all got a horrible cough for the last half of November and then I got a terrible case of strep throat. It wasn’t until Dec. 7 that I could go out on a crisp, clear day with a frosting of snow and gather twigs from bare trees to make branch candles. Basically, you take a glass or clear jar and hot glue or even just rubber-band a neat row of twigs around the outside of the glass. If you use rubber bands, you might have to cover them with pretty yarn to make it more decorative. Then, you put a candle inside and you have a beautiful candleholder that can be used in the run-up to Yule to symbolize the hidden light of the sun dwelling in the womb of nature.

Next, I need to fix up my Czech advent wreath. In the Czech Republic people put a ceramic wreath accented with twigs of evergreen on their table. The wreath has four candle holders on it and four red candles are placed in these. Then, on the four Sunday before Christmas, they light candles – one on the first Sunday, two on the second and so on. It occurred to me this is a perfect stand for four elements candles. So, I will decorate ours in a similar way and light each candle in honor of one of the elements, calling for the aid of elements in bringing the light and warmth of the sun back. All this requires for decoration is a few sprigs of fir and juniper from our trees and some little dazzling orange suns that I cut out of tangerine peels.

I also want to make a very simple evergreen wreath for our door and paper snowflakes for the windows with the children. We’ll make ice candles closer to Yule, so that they can be used on Solstice night. You do this by freezing a bowl or plastic container of water in the freezer with a tin can positioned in the middle of it, so that when you take it out and remove the bowl and the can, you have a bowl of ice with a depression in the middle for a candle. Again, this is a symbol of the sun being reborn in cold and ice.

I will attempt to make salt-dough ornaments with the children and paint them, although this is really the only major craft I have planned. Instead, I have scheduled Shaye to have extra days at preschool in order to allow me extra time for holiday preparations. This is new wisdom brought on by my recent bout of strep throat.

As a result, there will be goodies of one sort or another. I will try to make pinwheel cookies although this may be another year that I don’t manage it. I already have some gingerbread dough in the freezer and I’ll make sugar cookie dough, so we’ll make gingerbread figures and cookies in the shapes of suns, stars and Yule trees. And I will make our annual, much anticipated pan of decadent cinnamon rolls. All this comes in the context of the in-laws who will supply us with many times this amount in store-bought Czech Christmas cookies and sweets. I think even the children will have to be at least a bit sick of sugar by the time it is over.


Fall through Yule 2012 129

Yule is good when it comes to songs but difficult at the same time. One of the hardest things about not really being able to relate to Christmas for me is that for years I have struggled with the fact that I like Christmas carols. I even like some of the overtly religious ones. For one thing, they have wonderful tunes and for another thing, they speak to some primal instinct for celebration in the season. Even the texts of the religious ones evoke the very spirit of wonder and comfort at the magical rebirth of light and hope that is at the heart of Yule. Certainly, some of the tunes of these songs predate Christianity, though we don’t always know for certain which ones. One that we do know is Pagan for sure is:

Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with bows of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Don ye now your gay apparel
Fa la la la la la la la la
Join the ancient Yuletide carol
Fa la la la la la la la la

See the blazing Yule before us
Fa la la la la la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus
Fa la la la la la la la la
Follow me in merry measure
Fa la la la la la la la la
While I tell of Yuletide treasure
Fa la la la la la la la la

Fast away the old year passes
Fa la la la la la la la la
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la la la la la
Sing we joyous all together
Fa la la la la la la la la
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la la la la la

And here are some others with common tunes intact but with words that have been adapted by modern neo-Pagans. If anyone is upset by Pagans co-opting Christian songs for the holiday, one might point out that the Christians first co-opted the whole holiday from the Pagans of long ago, so it is justice of a sort.

Silent Night

Silent night, solstice night
All is calm, all is bright
Nature slumbers in forest and glen
‘Til in springtime she wakens again
Sleeping spirits grow strong!
Sleeping spirits grow strong!

Silent night, solstice night
Silver moon, shining bright
Snow blankets the sleeping Earth
Yule fires herald the sun’s rebirth
Hark, the light is reborn!
Hark, the light is reborn!

Silent night, solstice night
Quiet rest ‘til the light
Turning ever the rolling wheel
Brings the winter to comfort and heal.
Rest your spirit in peace!
Rest your spirit in peace!

Oh, Come All Ye Kindred

Oh, Come All Ye Kindred
Gather round the Yule Fire
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye,
To call the Sun.
Fires within us
Call the Fire above us.
Oh, come let us rejoice now.
Oh, come let us rejoice now.
Oh, come let us rejoice now
For the reborn Sun.

Yea, Sun, we greet Thee!
Born again at Yuletide!
Oh, Yule fires, Oh, trees bright
Are lighted for Thee!
Come and behold it
Light this day returns to us.
Oh, come let us rekindle.
Oh, come let us rekindle.
Oh, come let us rekindle.
The returning sun.

Finally, here is a Yule song that came more or less unbidden into my head. It insisted on going to another Christian tune that isn’t even Christmas related, but that is how my subconscious works apparently.

Yule Song: Promised Hope
(Tune of Amazing Grace)

O, promised hope that we hold dear
As days grow dark and cold.
All people wait this time of year
As ancient tales are told.

Father Sun departs the Earth.
The Goddess holds her child.
So, here we gather by the hearth,
While winter storms grow wild.

In darkest night, the world so chill,
We watch twelve days of Yule
To see the sun returning still
To herald the earth’s renewal.

I am still working on a version of “Oh, Solstice Tree”

Oh, Solstice tree
Oh, Solstice tree
How lovely are your branches.
Ever green through winter days.
Reminding us of old time ways.

Oh, Solstice tree
Oh, Solstice tree
How lovely are your branches.
Now sparkling with dazzling light
You bring us joy and delight.

Any other verses anyone?

Fun and Ritual

We will get our tree either this weekend or next and on the weekend before Yule, we will decorate the little fir tree closest to our house with strung popcorn and some of the bigger and less vulnerable ornaments. Then, a few days before Yule we will put up the tree and decorate it to make less work at the beginning of the holidays. We will then be set for the great celebrations to begin. This year I’m going to take a crack at some sort of celebration for each of the twelve days of Yule.

On the first night of Yule – that is the evening of the 20th in this case – we will have a special dinner to honor both the sun and the “womb of the night” that holds the sun on Solstice night with round dishes, probably a round cassarole, as well as baked pumpkin and tangerines for the sun and huckleberry pie with stars cut out of dough on top for goddess of the night. We will light our ice and branch candles and as many others as we want, to keep vigil on the longest night. We won’t leave them lit thought, as that is never a good idea. Instead we will try to bank the fire to last and I will try to get up to stoke it once. We’ll light the first of twelve candles and say something we wish for more of in ourselves during the next year. Each evening we will light one more of the twelve candles and tell the children what they symbolize. With somewhat older children one could say something one appreciates about each daily theme with the lighting of the new candle. Then, we will sing and put the children to bed.

In the morning on the 21st, I will wake up the children before dawn and get us all dressed to go outside. We’ll climb up to our stone circle and drum and sing to welcome the reborn baby sun. I will have to pay attention to when exactly dawn comes in order to keep the children from standing too long in the cold and if the day is cloudy, it will probably have to be adapted. The first day of Yule is dedicated to the self and something should be done either to pamper and take care of one’s self. I think I may be able to bake my favorite cinnamon rolls on this day. I will also find some quiet time to do an annual Tarot reading that I do on the Winter Solstice. It is made up of a circle of twelve cards, each representing a month of the coming year, and one central card. It is the only truly predictive reading that I use.

The 22nd, the second day of Yule, is dedicated to wealth and possessions. So, this is a logical time for giving and receiving, which is handy because this year it is a Saturday. The children will wake up to a present under the tree from Santa Claus and stockings full of good things. In this sense Santa Claus is the spirit of the old year and the old sun, he is an old man with a long white beard, dressed in the warm red of an old fire. We’ll also have a special family meal and give thanks for all that we had or gained in the old year.

On the 23rd, we will find time to go for a walk and sing carols. The third day of Yule is dedicated to communication and voice, thus singing.

The fourth day is dedicated to the home, so we will stay home and make a special Czech holiday dinner of carp and potato salad and there will be another gift under the tree in the evening for the children. Again, it is handy that hear the 24th is a state holiday here. This time the gift is brought by the newborn Baby Sun (a Pagan take on the atheist Czech tradition that has it that a magical spirit called, oddly enough for the Czech anti-thiests, “Little baby Jesus” sneaks into the living room to leave gifts while the family is somewhere else in the house). One of us will distract the children in another room while the other puts out the gifts, rings a small bell and jumps into the bathroom to pretend that he or she wasn’t actually there when Baby Sun showed up.

On the 25th, we will bake star-shaped gingerbread cookies that are made to stack one on top another to form trees. These we can decorate with white frosting and sparkles like Yule trees. We will make enough to take with us to the cousins the next day. This fifth day of Yule is dedicated to play and creativity.

The sixth day of Yule is dedicated to health but as it is a state holiday here, we will go to the in-laws and see the cousins there. I wish we could have a sauna on this day but we are unlikely to get that because we have to leave. I will try to do something healthful, such as take a big long bath in the huge bathtub at the in-laws. Eating healthfully is unfortunately illegal in that household. The children’s health activity will be to go outside and play with their cousins.

The seventh day is dedicated to love relationships and, as we will be visiting the relatives, we’ll seize this rare opportunity to have babysitters, and go on a date – the first in three years, I believe. It probably won’t be anything special, a walk and a little while in a café in the picturesque little town of Trebon.

The eighth day of Yule is dedicated to change and cycles and so it is a particularly good day for a ritual around something that needs change. It is also a time to honor the natural cycles of rebirth in some way. On this day we will go home and stage a change-of-the-guard pillow fight. This is where the children, as symbols of the new sun, pummel the parents, symbols of the old sun, with pillows and eventually “win” by exhausting them.

The ninth day of Yule is about learning, so we will surely read some of the Yule stories in the book Circle Round on this day and perhaps have some fun learning games as a family. This is also Dec. 29, which is a day on which we honor our children’s birth families, because it is the birthday of one of their birth mothers. We will light a special candle.

The tenth day of Yule is dedicated to career and life path. For older children this would be a good day to play the game of life, dress up as various professions or have a discussion about what they want to do with their life path. We will probably read picture books about different professions and try to act them out. I will also do a ritual for myself around figuring out my own life path.

The eleventh day of Yule is for friendships and community. It is also New Year’s eve, so it is a good time to get together with a circle of friends that is broader than family. It is also a good day to discuss with children and decide something to do to help the community or other people in the world during the coming year, a special kind of New Year’s resolution. We may also visit an elderly neighbor on the day its self.

The final, twelfth day of Yule is dedicated to dreams, the subconscious and mysteries. If one has not overindulged too much on New Year’s night interesting dreams might come. It is a good time for introspective writing. I will try to make a mystery treasure hunt inside the house for the children to find a final treat of the season.

P.S. Okay, all went more or less according to plan. Well, we didn’t manage to light the correct number of candles every night. Somehow bedtime rituals of that complexity are difficult with toddlers. I think it could be done with older children and could be quite fun. Sometimes, we adults lit the candles after the kids went to bed, but often we were too exhausted. We did manage at least some small ritual, candle lighting or offering each of the twelve days of Yule, which I would say is doing well. We pulled off all the major fun parts. No, the sun did not shine on Solstice morning, which was too bad, but we did get to light our outdoor tree in the predawn light and even Papa got on board with calling the sun. The children were enchanted by making cookies, reading Yule stories, putting out offerings for the spirit of the Sun and opening presents. The opening feast on Solstice eve was particularly magical. I’ll include a photo of the beautiful round feast, although even that doesn’t do justice to the great candlelight atmosphere. On the down side, there was some over excitement of children about presents and not much in the way of humble gratitude. That is really hard to exact from two and three-year-olds, but it was much better than last year, when our older toddler completely melted down from the immense pressure of a pile of gifts. Spreading them out over different days of Yule worked quite well and I was pleasantly surprised that there was only minimal dismay when the end finally came and the “last gift of Yule” was announced. Our almost-four-year-old gently explained to the two-year-old that Yule will come again next year. I will admit that the effort involved in this much celebrating is significant, and if it were not for generous European vacation times and mother’s leave, it would be very hard to do. We are all counting our blessings and wishing blessings upon all of our friends and readers.


Seven candles and crystals as a table decoration and focus for introspection

Seven candles and crystals as a table decoration and focus for introspection

Okay, I’m very very late on this one. Imbolc is February 2 and it has taken me far to long to write about it. Imbolc is one of the least flashy Pagan holidays. It is also probably the least oriented towards children. It is primarily reserved for introspection and seeking inspiration. Every year for the past six years or so, I have held a small women’s gathering with a group of old friends as an Imbolc celebration. We have always managed to somehow get the men to take care of the children and do a bit of introspection. This year, the gathering was cancelled due to various illnesses and childcare troubles. Dusan and I had our share of those. Somehow, this felt like a long and particularly dismal winter.

We did celebrate Imbolc as a family however and I probably got more true introspection out of it because there was no gathering that I had to lead. Here’s what we did.

A Brigid's Cross by the hearth

A Brigid’s Cross by the hearth magickly protects the home from fire. We used another one in place of a wreath on the door.


For the first time, I made a Brigid’s Cross. Named after the Irish goddess of fire and healing, Brigid, the cross looks like a runic type symbol of a square in which each of the four sides extends on the right hand side, making it look something like a wheel of fire. This is made by weaving together 12 sticks or stalks of grain from the previous harvest. The cross is traditionally hung by the door of a dwelling to protect the home from harm in general and fire in particular. I made two, one to hang on the door like a seasonal wreath and one to hang near the hearth throughout the year.

I also made a Brigid doll, which turned out quite well. It was made with twigs and dried herbs from the previous harvest as well as scraps of yarn and white cloth. The doll was used in our Imbolc rituall.

The children and I made snake shaped candle holders in triplicate and painted them white, red and black. Imbolc is particularly associated with the goddess Brigid and her animal symbol is the snake.

Imbolc crafts

Imbolc crafts

We decorated a special wish jar with tissue paper and sparkles. Imbolc is a time of making wishes for the year ahead and hoping for prophesy.

The kids also colored in some beautiful Imbolc coloring pages that we got off the internet.


I made a traditional red-colored Imbolc soup that includes red lentils, lots of red peppers, pumpkin, carrots and red onions. I also made garlic rolls with seeds in them. Given that Imbolc is associated with the very beginnings of life and spring, it is always fitting to cook anything with seeds at this time of year.

Ritual and fun

The kids experimented with planting beans in a box that had one side cut off and covered with plastic wrap. They were supposed to be able to see the seeds sprout and put down roots. The only problem was that the seeds we planted right next to the plastic wrap didn’t sprout well, but other bean seeds in the box sprouted and grew like crazy, all over the window.

An Imbolc candle crown is a craft out of the book Circle Round.

An Imbolc candle crown is a craft out of the book Circle Round.

It was effective in getting the kids thinking about how seeds sprout because beans sprout so quickly, but it would have been more practical at this time of year to plant something that needs weeks and weeks to sprout before being transplanted outside in the spring.

The children participated in their first real ritual with all the trappings and Dusan videoed a good portion of it. We used our various crafts. We lit candles in our snake candle holders, let the kids cast a circle and sang songs such as “Rise up, oh flame” and “The earth, the air, the fire, the water returns”. We then had the kids color papers and tell me what to write for their wishes, that we then rolled up and put through a slit in the lid of the wish jar. We made an offering to the spirits of our hearth and asked for protection. We then used sage smoke to purify our Brigid’s Cross, which we hung above the hearth.

I managed to do a bit of my own introspection with i-ching yarrow sticks after the kids went to bed.


Ostara is one of Shaye’s favorite holidays. She still clearly remembers hunting for eggs, which we miraculously managed to do on the equinox last year, although timing isn’t an absolute necessity. Our other major family tradition is decorating a plum tree in the front yard with blown eggs. So, it is time to start looking for white eggs and egg dye. This is where Easter directly came from, so a lot of the holiday will be familiar to non-Pagans. There is the same egg and rabbit focused crafts. It is only that we have reasons for the eggs and the rabbits. There is a goddess involved here too, Ostre. Her animal symbol is the rabbit or hare, which gives you both the name of the holiday and of Easter as well as the rabbit symbol. Eggs are an obvious seasonal symbol as the beginnings of new life.


I have already started on one craft. One can make great little candle holders by tapping the end of a raw egg and pouring the egg out, then carefully chipping away the egg shell so that there is an opening large enough to put a birthday candle in and pour hot beeswax around it. I’ve got the egg shells ready. I’m also going to use a couple of these to plant herb starts that will hopefully be sprouting by Ostara. All of this egg decore is good for alters and tables.

We will blow and dye eggs. We’ll also boil and dye them. With such young kids our dyeing is likely to be pretty boring, dip and coat. We might use a little crayon to try to make some basic designs. There are very complex things that can be done but they are for people with more time and older children.

One craft that I am excited to try, whether my children can really do it with me or not, is an egg shape that doesn’t actually have any eggs involved. You blow up a small balloon just part way, to form an egg shape. Then, you drape pieces of yarn dipped in watered-down white glue all over it in a lacy pattern. Supposedly this can successfully be dried. Then, the balloon can be popped and taken out, if you have left a big enough hole somewhere. I have some suspicions about how well it will work but the result looks so spectacularly beautiful that I’m going to try it and I’ll report back.

An early spring fairy combining some extra Ostara crafts with Romani dancing for International Roma Day on April 8

An early spring fairy combining some extra Ostara crafts with Romani dancing for International Roma Day on April 8

We’re also going to make very simple heart-shaped fairy baskets with the kids. Because we’re going to be studying rainbows in our homeschooling unit, we’ll be making various rainbow crafts, handprint rainbows and such, that will nicely mesh with the colorful holiday.


It’s still all about eggs. Well, given that a lot of eggs get used in the crafts, it only seems reasonable that one should eat them. We’ll make quiche and tapioca pudding at the very least.

Ritual and fun

I am not planning any major ritual yet, although the adults around will probably do something. The main attraction is again decorating the outdoor plum tree and setting up an egg hunt for the children. Last year, Shaye was young enough that I engineered it so that there were a bunch of boiled eggs and then one chocolate egg that I made sure she would find last. I don’t like to overdo the sweets because I want my kids to be able to enjoy sweets with abandon on two days a year (Ostara and Samhain). As a result, I try to make sure that there is just enough around that abandon isn’t going to hurt anything. One chocolate egg per kid would be harder to coordinate this year, with Shaye old enough to be a hawk and Marik old enough to care. So, my mother sent me plastic eggs from the great land of consumerism and I am going to put little bits of chocolate or yogurt covered raisins in each one and let them find them and eat to their hearts’ content. They’ll find the boiled eggs as well and hopefully they’ll eat some of those for ballast.

What Really Happened

Okay, this was probably our least successful attempt to follow my plan, so far. There was no point during the season at which no one in the household was well and at full health. It was a particularly long and dreary winter. We somehow managed to do the important Ostara traditions, but really only because we didn’t do our outdoor stuff on Ostara its self. On the equinox there was four or five inches of new snow and Ostre’s hare was curled up by his fire. But we had had divine inspiration, apparently, and did the outdoor parts two days early, when there was actually weak sunshine and a mild promise of spring.

Cooking and photography were my least successful parts in this season. I did make a quiche at some point but no cookies. We made do with simple chocolate cake. I have yet to put photos on my computer, so there aren’t any yet. But I have better than pictures. I have a video. This is the part I had to get done because I promised to do a workshop on Pagan parenting at a Czech conference in May and it seemed like a good idea to bring some multimedia. I don’t know how to post it on my blog yet, or whether or not it would take up precious space for photos, so here is a Youtube link. The children are cute. Enjoy.



For me Beltane to Mabon is the season of opening up and including people beyond our family in our traditions and celebrations. As such, we have decided to invite family friends, who are open-minded non-Pagans, to participate in the fun parts. We have the advantage in the Czech Republic because not only is May 1 a state holiday with no school or work but most people of all persuasions still celebrate April 30 as “Witches Night”. The main features of the Czech celebrations are bonfires and sometimes raising ridiculously tall maypoles. So, we will not feel so lonesome for these celebrations.


I have made another door wreath, although I’m not all that excited about it. It is simply some tissue-paper flowers and ribbons glued onto a cardboard circle. I have the nagging feeling that it is all synthetic and tacky, but Shaye loved it and I guess that is what really matters. With all the gardening and frantic activity of the season, this was the best I could do.


Other than that, we have started by painting a pile of color-diffusion leaves in greens and pinks. We’re going to use these for various decorations and Green Man masks (which mainly consist of making a simple cardboard eye-mask, painting it green and gluing on the leaves in an outward spray). We also painted some interesting hanging flower decorations that I acquired at one of my favorite craft shops. We’re going to use these to decorate the trees around where we’ll put up our maypole. We made a few extra tissue paper flowers and we plan to make little May baskets and fill them with cookies, chocolates and tissue paper flowers, to be delivered to our neighbors in secret, while they are still sleeping off the “Witches Night” revels.

We will try to make Goddess headbands with beads and ribbons. And my most ambitious craft will hopefully be “flower babies”. We’ll put a thin layer of paper-mache over small Styrofoam balls and then paint them like faces. We will then glue on tissue paper in the shapes of flower petals (or really wild hair) around the faces and stick them on sticks and add some paper leaves. These can be used to decorate indoor planters or as temporary decorations around the maypole.

Okay, I didn't cook what I said I would but I did good anyway and Beltane carrot cake looks like a keeper as traditions go.

Okay, I didn’t cook what I said I would but I did good anyway and Beltane carrot cake looks like a keeper as traditions go.


‘Tis the season to clean out the freezer. We have very little growing yet. I may be able to make nettle rice, which would be delicious. Otherwise, I plan on making fruit pies and a chocolate zucchini cake (symbolizing earth) with colorful frosting in the shapes of flowers.

Ritual and Fun

Local Czech Pagans actually invited us to a big ritual, but they aren’t particularly prepared for children. Mainly our celebration will be less private in this season. We will probably go to the local town bonfire in the evening to see how that looks this year. Then, in the morning we will deliver our baskets to the neighbors and return for a leisurely breakfast. We’ll go out into our little bit of woods near the rail line to gather flowers and herbs and welcome the nature spirits and fairies back. In the afternoon, our friends will come and we will build our maypole and try to weave the ribbons. This is likely to be chaotic, given the presence of quite a few small children. But this season was simply not meant for serious rituals in my view.

I am still looking for a way to make this the day to honor mothers. Beltane is the original Mothers Day. My mother is far away across the ocean and the only older woman we know and are close with in town is actually there visiting her. I’ll post later, if I find something suitable.

What Really Happened


To the right of your partner, to the left of your partner, to the right of...

To the right of your partner, to the left of your partner, to the right of…

I was particularly excited because I discovered "the source" for ribbons in this craft-supply-starved country - wedding supply stores! Round and round we go.

I was particularly excited because I discovered “the source” for ribbons in this craft-supply-starved country – wedding supply stores! Round and round we go.

Ah, the beautiful maiden of Beltane!

Ah, the beautiful maiden of Beltane!

For a change we actually did better than expected. We made great leaf/flower crowns, a maypole centerpiece for the table along with flower babies, hanging flower decorations and a real maypole. On the eve of Beltane, we attended a neighbor’s Witches Night bonfire and took cupcakes decorated with chocolate flowers. The children ate way too much junk food and crashed early. On their way home from the bonfire, the children stopped to put a dish of milk and some flower-shaped cookies out on a rock at the edge of the woods as a gift for the fairies and nature spirits. Naturally, Mama just happened to have some milk, a dish and some cookies stashed in her basket.

After dark, some of the adults wandered away and made another bonfire for a small ritual focused simply on absorbing the joyous life energy all around us and relaxing after a hectic season of work, garden-planting and preparations for the festivities. Almost as soon as we had settled on the grass to relax and watch sparks and stars, it started to rain. I think the nature spirits were telling us to absorb the gift of sleep, so we went home and did.

I managed to get up before everyone else in the morning and go out for a brief walk in the magical Beltane dew, during which I put very simple May Baskets for the children on our fairy rock. After the children got up but still early, we secretly put paper baskets of flower- and moon-themed cookies and tissue-paper flowers on our neighbors’ doornobs. Given that our neighbors think that the morning after Witches Night is reserved for sleeping off alcohol consumption, they were a bit confused and some of them came over later to ask if we had “lost” any baskets recently. Naturally, we refused to tell and speculated that some fairies might have left them.

Later, Tomas (Ember’s boyfriend and the children’s teacher from preschool) and his 11-year-old sister Eliska came over to help us construct and dance around our Maypole. It was a bit chaotic, given the ratio of children to adults and the complete lack of anyone who had ever danced a real Maypole before. But it was fun and pretty and definitely put us in a festive mood. We then made a spring lunch of Greek salad, cornbread, fish-lemon sandwiches and carrot cake decorated with flowers. It was originally supposed to be a picnic lunch but the weather did not cooperate.

Later Eliska and I went out to play in the garden dirt and transplant chard and kale starts. All in all it was pretty close to a perfect Beltane, though I will admit it took a lot of work and energy and the mother theme was mostly about this mother working herself until she dropped. But it was what I felt like doing at the time. I seemed to be overflowing with the energy of the earth, so I suppose that is simply what a mother is supposed to be doing at this time of the year.

P.S. On Songs


I didn’t make up any songs for this holiday but there are a couple that work well. Basically anything that celebrates nature, life, love, mothers and/or the earth will do. My favorites this year were “Tis a Gift to Be Simple” and “The Earth is Our Mother.”

Lyrics for “The Earth is Our Mother”

The Earth is our mother. She will take care of us. (2 x)
A hay yanna ho yanna a hey yanyan (2x)

The Earth is our mother. We must take care of her. (2 x)
A hay yanna ho yanna a hey yanyan (2x)


Better late than never. I’ve had very little chance to write while living with my family in Oregon. Here’s a brief rundown of what we did for the summer solstice this year. Litha is a bit like the Pagan father’s day. The focus is on the sun in its full glory. This is also a time for the myths of fairies and nature spirits.

First we made sun decorations, including cardboard cutouts of the sun painted orange and red and sprinkled with butterfly stickers. We also made sun shapes from glue on cardboard and sprinkled them with red lentils. Then we covered the rest of the cardboard with more glue and black beans. The result was a beautiful sun mosaic. We also baked a sun-shaped loaf of a honey bread, which we cut into oddly shaped slices and buns and then slathered with butter and honey. Delicious!

Some of my nieces and nephews came together for Litha weekend and we had a beautiful ritual by the Pumpkin Ridge ancestor rock, including constructing an outdoor alter and scattering cornmeal for the fairies and spirits of the land. We feasted on our traditional seasonal strawberry shortcake!

We also had a special dinner with my father, in recognition of fatherhood and our connection to the sun’s strength. My husband Dusan wasn’t with us because we were visiting my family in Oregon and he had to stay in the Czech Republic to work. He’ll get to be the guest of honor another year.

We spent a week learning about old fairy legends, making fairy wings and leaving tasty offerings to the fairies. All on her own, Shaye made an outdoor alter for the fairies up in the woods behind my mom’s house. Finally, we invited a group of little girls from the ridge to have a “fairy party” with us. The girls dressed up as fairies and then walked up to the area where Shaye had built her alter to find a surprise feast laid out for them by their fairy mother and grandmother, including miniature cracker sandwiches, nuts, berries and tiny puddings in plastic goblets. They were mesmerized. What a glorious summer treat.


Lammas is one of the most difficult Sabbats for me because I am generally so overwhelmed with the herb and garden harvest. I have always sort of chuckled over the idea of harvest festivals. We are not entirely dependent for food on our own harvest but it isn’t an insignificant part of our family finances and survival strategy. How did people who were completely depended on their own harvest manage to have any sort of party during this season?

In so far as I can do anything beyond my own harvest and giving thanks for it, my focus at Lammas is on strengthening community and sharing our bounty with those in need. This year, because we were in Oregon, community was easier. We had a small women’s ritual with other spiritually oriented women from our circle of friends. The focus was on bringing the spirit of bounty and fullness to our work. We made an alter surrounded by harvest and work symbols and each took a turn telling about our struggles with work and receiving the blessings and support of our community. The men and children of my extended family took a trip to raft and swim in the Minam River during the day and then returned for an early harvest feast in the evening.

Our celebrations at this time of the year generally include bringing a meal to someone who is lonely or otherwise in need. Last year we were able to pull off anther community service activity by visiting my nephew’s preschool in Oregon to do a presentation on Czech and Romani culture. We didn’t do it this year because of general exhaustion and because my nephew wasn’t attending preschool this summer and we had no other reasonable contact to such a place in Oregon.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie Farnam
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 04:59:00

    How inspiring. Can’t you get it to go out like a normal posting? It was hard to find.


  2. Ember
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 09:35:47

    Beautiful, Arie! 🙂


  3. Trackback: Long gloomy winter | Outside the Lines
  4. Joya Feltzin
    Mar 08, 2013 @ 18:03:41

    Arie – We have never met. My name is Joya. I am partnered/married to Bill Gray, a longtime friend of your parents who knew you as a young child. Through Bill, I have gotten to know and care deeply for your parents (though distance makes visits few and far between) and become acquainted with your brothers.( As I think about it, I believe that we hosted a visit from Dusan and his parents several years ago, at our home in Takilma in Southwestern Oregon.) You and I may never meet in the flesh. I just want you to know that I follow your posts and very much appreciate your approach to life and your big heart. You are so inspiring and never fail to amaze me how you manage to do all that you do. Blessings to you and your family.


    • ariefarnam
      Mar 08, 2013 @ 18:36:33

      Hi Joya, yes, I have surely heard of you in family stories. Thanks for writing. I’m glad you like my informal writing here. My thanks for hosting Dusan and family back in 2000. They had a good trip. Wishing you well.


  5. Julie Farnam
    Mar 09, 2013 @ 04:10:10

    Hi Arie, I wish you could get photos of some of your other crafts like the ice candles and the latest ones for Ostara and Samhain (the cross and the doll and the bread dough snake candle holders). I remember seeing the doll and candle holders on Skype and they were far lovelier than I had imagined. I think these things are kind of intimidating. and if seen would be really inspiring to others to make.
    I love the ideas you are describing — I’d love to hear more about the kids’ responses (when you have time…ha ha ha.) Does it feel crazy stressful like our typical holidays often are? You’re doing so many things, it seems like it could end up feeling overwhelming. Julie


  6. ariefarnam
    Mar 09, 2013 @ 14:58:59

    Yeah, uploading pictures isn’t my big strength. 🙂 There is actual a reason why I am good at doing crafts with the kids and not particularly good at maintaining a blog. I can do the crafts with the kids. In fact, with my kids’ demanding temperaments I pretty much have to have things planned, otherwise days on end alone with them and without much community interaction become intolerable for all of us. The crafts help us to “do isolation well” as the Ridge Rats might say. By the same token, finding time to write on my blog or upload pictures is like stealing milk from the baby. It either results directly in screaming children and flying breakable objects (if I try to do it while they are awake) or results in me either not having anything prepared and thus ending in the same result the next day or results in me being sleep deprived (if I do it while they sleep, as I am now). We’re currently at the inlaws and I don’t have my photos, which is why I”m writing instead of getting the photos. 🙂 Drat. But I will work on it, hopefully before the spring rounds of gardening begin.


  7. Trackback: A video of the winter celebrations | Outside the Lines
  8. Julie
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 19:41:32

    The video is GREAT! I am surprised at how into it Shaye seems to be. And Dusan is a super good sport. Great video work by you and Ember. Wanted to see Ember though! It’s a grandma thing.


  9. ariefarnam
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 05:35:23

    Yeah, I know there’s no Ember. It wasn’t really meant as a family video but for this conference and nothing with Ember was necessary for it. Someday, when I’ve got tons of time, I’ll put together family videos too.


  10. Trackback: The Festival of Spring | Outside the Lines
  11. littlehobbitgirl
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 17:21:20

    Hi Arie! I just want you to know that I came across your video on Youtube, and everything you are doing with your husband and children is just positively wonderful! You have given not only me, but many others I know such inspiration to include our children in these beautiful holidays. You are an amazing person and I just wanted you to know that!


  12. Trackback: I finished my year-long writing project… | Outside the Lines
  13. beverlycgfl2014
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 19:51:27

    It has taken me a year to find and read this section of your blog. My hat is off to you. What a beautiful, beautiful childhood you are providing Shaye and Marik – and Ember when she is there.

    As a former and long-time hospice chaplain, I was struck by your comment in connection with Samhain that you are still not completely comfortable with death being part of the circle of life. Yet in connection with a later harvest festival (excuse me forgetting the name), you gracefully mentioned your gratitude for the animals that gave their lives that your family could live through the winter. Part of the same circle. I have become more comfortable with death by realizing how I have incorporated into myself something of everyone who has influenced me – in small ways as well as in large ways. From my father I get not only my prematurely white hair, but my love of music, food, math, science and serving others. From first and last ministry supervisors (not the one in between) I received my sense of how to write a grace-filled and pastoral final evaluation for my students – and they are as grateful as I am about that! From my dear friend who died prematurely of ALS a few years ago I received the gift of expecting serendipity in life – a huge gift, which I must remind myself of each time I remember and feel crushed by her untimely death. I hope this helps you as you search for meaningful ways to celebrate the entire cycle of the year and of life.

    Peace and blessings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: