…that time of the year with so many festivities. There’s Christmas, Yule, Alban Arthan, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Koliada, Yalda, and so many others.
I am a Druid, so I celebrate Alban Arthan. But my family is Christian, so I celebrate Christmas with them. How come? Christmas, to me, is about family, is about of those I am from. My siblings and siblings-in-law, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my fiancée and my in-laws and, of course, my ancestors. So I celebrate my family and friends, I celebrate our tiny community, I celebrate that I have a family and I am not alone.
Although I am a Pagan, I will always continue my family’s tradition, and any other tradition we might create. My family accepts me for who I am, and I accept them as they are.
To me it’s beginning to look even more like family, love and acceptance, comfort and warmth.
Yesterday, for many people was Halloween. At home, was my Dad’s birthday. But it was also time to honour my Ancestors – the ones that came before me: Ancestors of blood (whether I knew them or not), Ancestors of Spirit, Ancestors of Land and Ancestors most Ancient (John Beckett, “Who Are Our Ancestors?”).
In general, I tend to notice patterns (not that I have a mathematical mind, as I always sucked at Maths while at school). And some are really easy to notice, if you keep your mind open a little.
And this season (if you will) is not different for me.
In Portugal, some people are really against celebrating Halloween – a “Trick or Treating” tradition brought from abroad, unlike our very own “Bread for God” (“Pão por Deus”), celebrated on November 1st, where kids go door-to-door, asking “Bread for God”. Notice the pattern? Because I did. I am certain both stem from a Pagan common origin.
Also in Portugal, a culture that is a mix of Catholics and Atheists (with some other paths in between, such as Judaism, Islamism, Hinduism, and Western Paganism), I noticed another pattern (when we went today to visit the closer cemeteries where our loved ones are buried – the ones in Lisbon district, as we will be visiting the ones in Coimbra on the second half of November). Honouring our Ancestors – Atheists, Catholics, Pagans, we all honour our Loved Ones that have already crossed to the Otherworld.
This season I honoured, once more, my Ancestors. Yesterday, while at home, with my very own solitary ritual (not a very elaborate one – I light candles, burn incense and meditate on my Ancestors). Today at the cemeteries (placing fresh flowers at my family and friends’ graves) and at a Catholic church (with my Catholic family, lighting candles).
I do my best to keep in mind that “Honouring the Ancestors” should be a daily practice (and in my immediate family we try to visit our Ancestors graves on a weekly basis).
But it is comforting to think that this, too, was adopted into other paths and not left behind when Christianity took over the Iberian Peninsula.
Candles for the Ancestors. Conceição da Abóboda church. Photo taken by yours truly
Yesterday, I went to Sintra. I noticed what my body and spirit have been telling me for a while, despite the Summer heat that we have been experiencing during the day: Autumn is here to stay.
The days are already shorter and the trees’ leaves have been dancing on their way to the ground, wearing beautiful tones of orange, gold and red.
At night, the temperatures have been dropping a lot and you can feel the humidity in the air promising rain soon.
But there is something else in the air that makes this time of the year different. Besides the thinning veil to the Otherworld, Autumn invites you to introspection, to focus on Nature’s visible changes that remind us so much of the advanced stages of the human life cycle, to remember and celebrate our Ancestors – those that came before us and that, despite that they have crossed over to the other side of the veil, they created the basis for our existence, for our path, including our spiritual one.
This season allows us to look back, to assess our path, to assess our choices, and it allows for new possibilities, new potential choices for the new cycle ahead.
This season, for its association with the changing cycles, to the change of states (from the Summer dryness to Autumn’s rains), the celebration of those that crossed over and often with reunion with them in so many different cultures, we could infer that this season celebrates the cycle of change and the cycle of life as a whole, looking at death as part of the life cycle and not as the end of it, a taboo that we should never address.
Autumn has the potential to allow us to face our fears. It is not by chance that the Samnhuinn’s masks (that were a protection against evil entities that came from the Otherworld to take the living with them) were adopted by Halloween. And it is not by chance that, between 1995 and 2015, most horror movies were released in October (see link).
However, besides facing our fears, we should all transform that courage into a motor for change, to change within us and in society what no longer serves us and what no longer serves (or never did) the others that we see as different.
Autumn is a season of changes, the best time to face our fears. So let us change, let us face our fears, but let us do it in a positive manner for all.
Otherwise, we won’t be facing our own fears, but losing our sovereignty to those fears. Otherwise, we will not be promoting true change, but only a deterioration of the situation, comparatively to what it was in the beginning of the cycle that is ending.
Face the fear to question yourselves, your statuses and beliefs. Face the fear of leaving your comfort zone, and start seeing the world through the eyes of the other person, under the light of their life experiences. Face the fear of feeling empathy for all living beings, no matter how different they are from you.
Your life is part of our history, Your path led up to mine. Your steps and thoughts have guided me. Ancestor, we are entwined. May I drink of your wisdom always. May I find within myself The courage with which you lived your life. May I discover within the strength You used to, your obstacles, overcome. May my life never lessen yours, May my thoughts always stem from thyne And, together, reach further than before. Ancestor, your life originated mine. I come from you and, one day, you I’ll join. I will honour you throughout my life, And your life I’ll celebrate until the day I die.
Last night one of my cats crossed to the Otherworld and I am a mess. I take comfort in the fact he is no longer in pain. But still… He died by himself in his box and I was not there with him until the end, as I would have liked to.
I was just reading John Beckett’s most recent blog article and I realised I have lots to learn about the Otherworld. In his most recent visit to Ireland, John and his party came across a Fairy dog that seemed to be guarding the place they were visiting.
Here’s the thing: I am a weird person. I might go the distance to avoid addressing most people. But cats and dogs… I can’t help it! I am drawn to them. You can find me lowering myself to their level, soothingly talking to them, showing them I mean them no harm, and hoping they will come to be an allow me to be friends with them.
Should I have enough money, I would adopt all abandoned animals and give them the love they deserve. That is me.
So, basically, I wouldn’t even notice that the dog John Beckett and his friends met was a Fairy dog. I would only see a beautiful dog I would love to be friends with and that I would adopt given the chance.
Yes, Fair Folk, I am an idiot. But I am an idiot that would protect any animal from getting hurt, even if it meant to risk my own life.
As for my Syl-ly cat, I will always cherish the time I spent with him. And I invited him to visit us whenever possible, and to bring our dog (his adoptive mother), Truska, our other cat, Traquinas, and my long gone dog, PomPom. I love them all. They are part of my Ancestors, family. Because that is what animals are to me: Family.
I am an animist, polytheist pagan on the Druidry path.
I need to be surrounded by trees to feel alive and energised.
Too bad I live in the outskirts of Lisbon and work in Lisbon city itself. It drains me out and sometimes it is very hard for me to have any energy at all.
The concrete and cement, all the buildings and cars and pollution, and even the huge amount of people around drain me so very much, unlike what happens in rural spaces.
Perhaps this is due to my need of closeness with Nature, or my need for personal space (please don’t get me started on public transportation during rush hour).
However, today something was different. I am still living in the outskirts of Lisbon, in a very urban area. But, today, I somehow felt the connection to the land and its spirits, I felt the connection to the few trees in the sidewalk. I felt like they were saying “I know how you feel”.
About a week after my experience with Danu, I started praying daily (usually twice a day) to my Ancestors (of blood and of spirit), to the Spirits of the Land, to the Deities I follow (Cernunnos, Danu and The Morrígan).
This connection might be due to my recent daily practice. If it is, I hope it continues.
But what I am taking from all this?
I am learning to be mindful of the Land Spirits around, even in urban grounds. I am starting to feel the Spirits of the Land in a place I never had before (cities).
My spiritual practice is gaining a greater importance in my life and I am enjoying it very much. I am learning and improving through baby steps and I am ok with this. Good things take time and require resilience, practice and time.
OBOD has this wonderful exercise where you visualise yourself in a grove. Mine is always deep within a forest. It seems I am finally learning to carry the forest within me.
I finally did it! I went ahead with the initiation into the grove of the Bards (OBOD ritual).
I had been postponing it since 2015 – too many years of Catholic ceremonies and rituals. I am slowly getting over that… trauma, for the lack of a better word.
It was not how I envisioned it would be back in 2015. I had pondered of performing it outdoors, in an actual grove, with other Druids.
Instead, I performed it at home, by myself but, in my mind’s vision, I was in a grove with other Druids. I used a tea light candle, a selenite, an amethyst, petrified wood and cinnamon.
I am a sensitive person. For many people, what I am about to share would sound crazy (and, no, I do not suffer of schizophrenia nor anything like that). Sometimes I can sense those that have moved on to the Otherworld, Ancestors or not.
I was not alone, last night.
At some point, I actually felt as if someone was placing their hand, gently, on my back.
I have never felt so peaceful as I’ve been feeling since yesterday, in spite of life’s current challenges. And I am also more sensitive to the energy flowing around me, even when shielding.
This afternoon, at some point, I felt as if I was floating about two steps above my physical body, and very energised. Not a bad feeling, just different.
Of course, the full moon also contributed to this. The moon affects me, especially during the full moon.
Still, I am glad I chose last night to perform my ritual.
As you might already know, I am following the Druid path.
I enrolled for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) back in 2015 and I went through crazy times (family health issues, as well as professional ones) which caused me to place the course on standby. Things are still rather intense and insane, but I have made my peace with it; after all, there is no rest for the wicked.
Recently I have decided I needed to do this for myself, so I went back to very beginning and started with the Introductory Gwersi. It was the best I could have done, really. It restored some of my peace of mind and that is grand.
Recently I also enrolled in Ár nDraíocht Féin (A Druid Fellowship, ADF), as I feel its teachings complement OBOD’s rather nicely. I am not starting the Dedicant Path just yet, as I wish to start by getting acquainted with the website, all the information in it, the resources, and then I will start the course more actively.
I have also changed my altar. Now only 2 Deities are present, Cernunnos and The Morrígan, with candles (green for Cernunnos and red for The Morrígan). There is also a white candle for focusing.
I still need to acquire material. An altar cloth, and I have my eye on a statue for The Morrígan and one for Cernunnos (expensive items so, for now, I will be saving for them).
I also have an altar for my Ancestors (it has some photos from closer family members, candles and plants) but I still want to add more items. One of the items I wish to add, for example, is my genealogical tree, although I don’t know all my lineage from both sides of the family. I foresee it will be a challenging work.
So this is where I am, now. Working on advancing on my path. If all goes according to plan (even if it never happens in such a way), by Alban Arthan 2018 or Imbolc 2019 I will have my Bardic Grade completed.
The wheel has turned again (I seem to say that a lot), life challenges us time and again and, suddenly, we’re back to Yule/Alban Arthan/Winter Solstice season.
For some odd reason, 2017 flew by. I hardly had time to adapt to so many challenges that have been thrown at my family. To be honest, since July last year.
Life has basically been a rollercoaster with everything happening at one and my family and I having to adapt to everything on the fly. Such as our impending move to a new house and serious health issues that are not to be taken lightly.
My parents and I have decided that I am moving in with them. Easier to keep and I on them and support them in any way I can.
But I haven’t been inclined to decorate my current house this year, with being on the verge of moving and being preoccupied with my parents.
This is how I cope with the challenges life throws at me: I become more introspective, I withdraw from my emotional side to some extent so I can take care of those in a more fragile state, while I keep my light and shadow sides balanced.
This can be unsettling for people around me.
Mom hadn’t been handling well the fact that I hadn’t decorated my house. So, last night after dinner, mom asked me to go with her upstairs (my apartment is in the floor above my parents’) and we decorated my house together.
And now you ask: You are a Pagan. How do you handle Christmas.
Well, my family is Christian. I am a Pagan following the Druid path (member of both ADF and OBOD). For us, this season is to be with the family. So I do what I do best: I find balance.
I have angels in my tree (an artificial tree because I hate the idea of killing a tree, especially for decoration purposes) to honour my ancestors. I have photos of my family (similar to a family tree) featuring my grandparents (now part of my ancestors), my parents, my siblings and their life partners, and soon I will be adding photos of my in-laws as well as of my beloved and I.
My tree has pine cones, balls, bells, stars, deer and snowflakes, lights and ribbons.
My table’s centerpiece (made by my cousin – she knows me too well) has pears and apples, greenery and an owl made with a pine cone.
I included my family’s beliefs because I respect them. They also respect my chosen path, even if they don’t understand it.
It is, once again, time to look back, to analyse what life has given us, to look ahead and prepare to what is coming.
It is time to find balance in darkness and in light, to nurture both our shadows and our light side.
It is time to take care of ourselves and each of our loved ones as whole beings, to cherish and respect them.
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