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It’s beginning to look a lot like…

…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.

Our Christmas/Yule/Family tree
Our Family (Christmas/Yule) tree
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Honouring our Ancestors

It’s Samhain time again.

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.

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Candles for the Ancestors. Conceição da Abóboda church. Photo taken by yours truly

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Furry Family

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.

Syl
My Syl

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.

Syl, Truska and Traquinas
Syl, Truska and Traquinas. PomPom’s photo is not available, unfortunately.
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‘Tis the season…again

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.

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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.

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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.

It is time to look forward to brighter days while being prepared to the darker ones.
And we can only do so if we, as John Beckett wrote in one of his posts on Under the Oaks (on Patheos) blog, ask ourselves the big questions of life.

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Alban Elfed

Alban Elfed. A time of balance and harvest.
The hours of daylight become once more equal to the hours of the night, right before the days grow shorter.
The culmination of the year’s endeavours, for those that work the land.

And also my birthday.  Harvest 2017_1

This is a time I use to ponder upon my life, to assess my accomplishments, my fulfilments, before starting a new year (until my following birthday).
I look at how far I’ve come, analyse what I’ve done, what I could have done differently. I pretty much look at what I have sown and I count my blessings.

So far, what I have learnt:

1. I am loved.
I have a loving family.
My parents, siblings and siblings-in-law. My husband and my in-laws. My uncles, aunts and cousins. I have a large family that loves me.
I have friends and coworkers that care for me.

2. I have a job I love.
I am fortunate to have a job I love. When I feel like staying at home, it is because I feel under the weather, not because I dislike my job.

3. I am part of a wonderful Community.
Although I mostly keep to myself (in general and as a Pagan), I am lucky to be part of a community, both Portuguese and International), that fights for what is right.

4. I am part of something bigger.
I am still learning the best way to hear and understand the Gods and Goddesses, the Ancestors, Fae and other Unseen Beings.
I know there is a Path I must follow that I am only now beginning to see. Lets see where it’ll take me.

Harvest 2017_3

 

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Yule/Christmas

Once again we have reached the Yule season.

This year it has been more family and ancestors-oriented, and far more introspective as well.

6 months ago, I lost my grandmother from my mother’s side, and this was the first Yule without her.

A cycle was closed with her physical departure, but I know she is still with us.

Honouring her and my other ancestors feels natural, in a society that is terrified of death and avoids anything that pertains to death.

Take care of the living loved ones, honour your ancestors. This is part of the life cycle.

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Winter Solstice/Yule and Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

I see this as a season for letting go of the past, and to looking forward to a new cycle.

A season for introspection, for releasing the old, and embracing the new. If this was a tarot card, it’d be the death card. 😉

A season to be spend with my loved ones, the ones that have been on my side through thick and thin, and love me unconditionally.

I have already said my goodbyes to past cycles I needed to close, I learnt from the experiences I lived, and I am looking forward to new experiences (I would prefer them to be pleasant ones, please).

I spent time with my Family, helped Mom with the preparation of our traditional foods.

I spent time with my Deities and offered them good wine.

Yes, I am a Pagan on the Druidry Path and I celebrate the Winter Solstice (Alban Arthan), the return of the light, the balance between light and dark.

But my Family is Catholic and I see no inconvenience in celebrating this Family season with my own Family.

Before I return to my Family, my Goddesses (yes, almost forgot to tell you! Besides the Great Queen, Epona also chose to be part of my life, and I am delighted to get to know her better) and Gods, I wish you peaceful times. May you always find balance in dark and light. And may this season be an enlightened one.

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Detail from my Yule Tree