Samhain Activities

Samhain quickly approaches and among all the candies and costumes it can be easy to forget the purpose of this day — Honouring our Ancestors.

It is believed that at this time of year the veil between this life and the otherworld is at its thinnest and it is therefore easy to connect with the dead. This can take many forms but if you are looking for ideas that may be more group or family friendly here is a good place to start.

Take a walk

I know I put this in every blog but… WALKING! Take a nature walk and discuss or contemplate the nature sloughing off its colourful garb. The flowers wilt and the trees have begun to drop their leaves. The ground is cold and things are rapidly preparing for winter. Remember that this is a cycle and like the plants and creatures around you, life will return.

Host a feast

Invite family and friends around out of the cold and offer them some comfort with food and drinks. This is a great time to share stories of those who have passed. It can be reflective and morose or jovial. There is no obligation to take any one path and often one will lead to another. Celebrate those who came before us and honour them by keeping their stories and memories alive.

Review and share photos

Bring out the old photo albums and sit with friends and family to talk about “that time when…” it can be a great way to remember our ancestors. You may even become inspired to create a collage or scrapbooking page for your altar.

Create the change you want

This is also a good time of year to let go of things. If you have a bad habit, feeling or activity that you would like to let go of, there is no time like the present. If you want to bring it into ritual or even just make the letting-go seem more tangible you can write it on paper and burn it or you can collect all the items that bring you to that action and discard (or donate) them.

Dance and Sing

Many people find that they feel a greater connection to their spirituality by moving or singing. Dig out some music that helps you connect and embrace what your body needs in that moment. This is extra fun to do with friends but I am a big fan of what I call “Solo Dance Parties”. This can also be a great way to shake off some of the impending winter blues and help you to remember that Death is a part of the cycle. It is just as important as Birth and embracing that is the reason for the season.

How ever you choose to celebrate please do it safely and take care of each other. Give thanks to the beautiful Autumnal world around you in whatever way feels best for you; your family/friends and your Groves. If you are alone, be mindful of your body (and mind’s) needs. If you are in a group, help those around you but never neglect yourself. This can be a trying time of year for some but remembering it is all part of the natural cycle will help to strengthen everyone.

Blessed be

Making your own incense

This week we looked at making our own incense as another means of being creative and further connecting with out grove members / values. We had a blast and we documented the whole thing for you so have a look.

Firstly you will need a few simple tools:

Blank Incense Sticks

Dropper

Small Dish

Oils of choice

An Olive Oil Dish

Jars

I say you need these – you don’t NEED all of them but they will make it a whole lot easier and tidier.

Firstly, you should know the difference between Fragrance and Essential oils. There are many factors to consider but to put it simply, Fragrance Oils are chemically created, and Essential Oils are naturally derived. Each has its merits, and some may be stronger than others so be sensitive to those around you and to yourself when you are choosing. You should also know that some of these oils can be corrosive so be careful and cover any surface you deem precious.

Lets get started:

Set your Blank Incense Sticks out in your Olive Oil Dish.

Each stick will require about 20 drops (1ml) of oil to fully saturate the stick. Grab your bottle or small dish if you have mixed oils and your dropper. Have fun with it — mix and match your scents.

Load the Dropper up and start to work your way down the stick one drop at a        time watching how the oils spreads. Go all the way from one end to the other but stop at the stem, that wont burn anyway. Because the sticks aren’t all perfectly uniform you may need a couple more or fewer drops depending on the size of the stick.

Once you are confident the sticks have been fully covered set them in a Jar to dry for a minimum of 24hours.

There! You did it! You made your own incense sticks! Find what connects/relaxes you and enjoy.

Always remember to burn your incense safely with a proper holder. I have seen people stick incense in potted plants and regret it later. Never leave your sticks burning when you are not around to supervise, where there is an ember, there could be a flame.

Blessed be.

The Grove does The Corn Maze

For the past couple years our Grove likes to hike up our rubber boots; get in the car and drive our sorry city butts to the Riverbreeze Corn Maze. It is always a blast for the kids and some good exercise and fresh air for the old folks.

Here are some lovely pictures of some of the fun we got to have.

Sharing this time with the extended family always renews my connection and recharges my batteries. I am so lucky to have them all in my life <3

A visit from the ArchDruid of ADF

Last week, our grove had the pleasure to host the current ArchDruid of ADF, Jean “Drum” Pagano for a few days in our little corner of the world. To say that I found the experience to be both humbling and deeply inspirational, still wouldn’t do this visit justice, but I will do my best.

Most of the grove together for ritual during Drum’s visit

You can only learn so much about a person by interacting with them online. Over the years I have always been pleased with the Mother Grove’s general leadership, but it was a wonderfully reaffirming experience to have a leader of our faith travel to the Maritimes, with a sincere interest in learning who we are, and how we represent ADF in Nova Scotia. To find that leader to be intensely knowledgeable, deeply considerate, and without a demonstrable hint of ego, just further reaffirmed my confidence in both my personal path, and the direction of our organization’s leadership.

After picking up Drum from the airport, we proceeded (in somewhat typical Nova Scotian fashion) immediately to a local pub, and dove right in to wonderful discussion of everything from religion and politics, to our grove’s borderline obsession with bacon.

Despite some fairly wet weather, we were determined to do some sightseeing the following day, stopping at the Atomic Cafe (an excellent, Druid-owned coffee shop), York Redoubt (a historical site and national park where we frequently conduct public rituals) and Peggy’s Cove (a classic NS tourist spot). After a quick supper at the home of the amazing hosts Brian & Karen, a few of us joined Drum for a live radio interview on the local pagan program “The Witching Hour”. Despite the late hour and busy day, Drum still happily continued the conversation and questions that spun out from the interview at a local coffee shop.

Saturday was again a flurry of activity with a quick visit and breakfast at the Halifax Seaport Market, followed by two wonderfully informative free public talks on the history of Druidry, and devotional work as a part of pagan practice.

Following the talks, we toured the Halifax Public Gardens, before continuing on to the home of our members Marc and Lily, for a ritual of welcome and a potluck.

A special thanks to Brian and Karen Larter, without whom, this visit may not have happened – and who opened their home not only to Drum but also to the tagalong van den Hoek family, and were most excellent hosts. Thanks also to Marc and Lily Meadows, who opened their home to the whole grove on Saturday for a fantastic ritual and potluck. Thanks also to Kelly Moore, Don Adams and Dan Negus, for bringing us on the The “Witching Hour” on CKDU radio.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to have hosted a member of the mother grove. May we continue to grow stronger together… “as fast as a speeding oak”  😉

Hiking & Sage Harvesting

HEY! Remember when I wrote that blog about Harvesting Sage in September and how to make your own sage bundles? (No — Here, I will help: http://novascotiadruid.com/?p=864) Either way, we finally got to do it as a grove.

              

It was a fantastic day where we did a little hike in a local park and then we all came back to the Larter house to pick, bundle and tie up our very own sage bundles. We also had BBQ and someone was nice enough to bring clay for some bowl and goddess making which I will totally have to revisit another time.

            

Needless to say this was a resounding success. Everyone enjoyed themselves. We all got a little exercise; some time to commune with nature and we enjoyed the companionship of our amazing grovies.

I would encourage you to push for things like this with your own groups. I have been on a week long high from spending time with people who warm my heart and doing this that enrich my soul.

P.S. For your viewing pleasure, I tried to take a selfie…

Summer Solstice Activities

With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching I felt it prudent to get a post out about some fun activities that you can do by yourself; with your girls; or with your family.

Whatever your pantheon, the Summer Solstice focusses on honouring the sun. There are many things that you can do to celebrate and enjoy the sun. The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year, the day with the most sunlight and what better way to honour that gift then to spend as much time as you can out soaking it up. Grab your sunscreen and try one of the following activities.

You can make some Sun Tea. Grab yourself a nice jar and pop in some water and edible herbs and let the tea steep by the heat of the sun. Some herbs to consider our mint, rosemary, basil, lemongrass, cilantro, lavender, chamomile and if you can get your hands on it some hibiscus to brighten it up and sweeten the deal.

You can go for a walk; a run; or a swim! Enjoy the outside as much as you possibly can with your friends and family. Have fun using the gift the gods have granted us.

You can make flower wreaths either for your door or your head. Go outside and find as many wildflowers as you can and make them into a beautiful crown or decoration for your door. This is a fantastic activity to share with children and will be greatly enjoyed by those with friends and family.

If you are looking for more contemplative activity you can try doing Sun Salutations outside. Grab your yoga mat and salute the sun. This is a fantastic way to the get outside, enjoy the sun and get a little exercise while still maintaining quiet reflection.

Gardening is always a fantastic idea for the longest day of the year. You can do this alone or with friends. If you have already started your garden you can spend some time reading it or rearranging. Time spent in the garden is never wasted.

Finally, if the weather is poor or you are on able to go outside but would still like to celebrate you can create a gratitude journal. Grab a pen and paper and reflect on everything that you are grateful for. The sun and more Vitamin D tend to revitalize many of us and we should be grateful for it. Along with the renewed energy of summer often come renewed projects or new endeavours. Take a moment to write those down. Something else that can be great exercise is to share this with your family. Have everyone share something they are grateful for every day or even set up a chalkboard to write things on to be shared with your family.

Again, there are many ways to celebrate this holiday and I encourage you to explore them all.

Brightest blessings

Making your own Sage Bundles

Smudging is a widely used practice to cleanse the body, mind or space of any negative energy. There are several herbs that can be used and several ways to smudge but the most commonly used in our grove is a Sage Stick.

Light the stick and once you have achieved a decent burn you can extinguish the flames and let the sage smoulder. Using your hands, you guide the smoke around and over your body or space to be purified and through ritual or meditation you fill that clearing with your intent and fresh energy.

With this being our most common practice, I started to grow Sage in the garden and dry it to be used as offerings and for smudging. This year I am making my own Sage sticks and I wanted to share that experience with you.

                        

I had sage from a couple years past that needed pruning so you will see both youngling plants and some that have clearly been around for a couple of years in this post. Once the sage is fully grown and ready to be picked you can trim the stem back about half way or, pluck leaves if you are looking to have loose herb. The best time to do this is late summer or early fall but my older plants were wild and crazy so I jumped the gun a little.

Making your sage bundle:

Once your have sized up your stems (I like to keep my sticks about 3-4 inches) you can then begin the binding process. (Note : I like to allow freshly cut branches to wilt for a day or overnight before beginning the next step.)

Bundle the branches together to your desired thickness (I go about an inch)

With the tips of the branches pointing down, begin wrapping the cord tightly around the base of your bundle. I use a natural twine or hemp cord for my bundles but many people prefer to use brightly coloured string. You will need about 4 times the length of your sage bundle.

Then, wrap the cord around the bundle (while firmly pressing the plant material together) working your way to the top of the bundle

When you reach the top, begin working your way back down toward the base.

Tie the two ends of the cord together at the base.

Trim the edges if you’d like to make it look all nice and neat.

Set the smudge stick to dry in a basket or on a drying screen for about 7-10 days. Alternatively, you can use a food dehydrator to speed up the process and have your bundles ready in a couple of hours.

In my garden, Sage seems to grow like a weed so this is a simple process for me. This is a fun activity and can be done in quiet contemplation or as a group/ family activity. It is enjoyable, productive and you can use it all year long for ritual. I would encourage you to give it a try but also to share your sticks with grovies, family and friends so that everyone can enjoy the fresh scent of sage and its purification properties.

Best of luck and enjoy!

Beltane with the Family


Image Source: Carlotta Marie Bonnecaze (1887)

Fertility and sexuality are natural parts of life. There are few times in the druid calendar that would traditionally better suited to celebrate one’s sexuality than Beltane. Once upon a time, this might be celebrated with couples enjoying a good dance around the May Pole and even a bit of  coupling in the Forests. But as natural as this is, it is not for everyone, particularly those with young children who are not yet ready for the complex topic of human sexuality in its many facets.

Don’t worry momma, you can still  go a-May-ing during naps…;)

Beltane offers us many types of fertility to celebrate. Notably is the return of all things green and beautiful after the long cold winter. Let’s look at a few “ family friendly” ways to celebrate this turn of the wheel.

1.      Making flower baskets or crowns to wear and share. This is a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about respecting and appreciating nature. It is also a fantastic crafting session where they will learn to work with their hands and build something beautiful. They can either keep their creation or share it to brighten someone’s day.
2.       As always, and for all Druid celebrations I would encourage you to get outside. Have a nice walk and maybe bring a journal to jot down or draw all of the new life you see emerging around you. Take turns identifying the flowers and trees. This is another great learning opportunity for all.
3.      Beltane tea party is a great opportunity for children to celebrate. Your children may not be ready to view prolific drinking or blatant adult content but there is no reason they can’t  join in to celebration.. Why not host a beautiful Beltane Tea?  Use bright colours and fresh flowers to decorate your table and enjoy a little bit of nature inside or out with some sweets and tea. Don’t forget to share with the faerie folk, they love treats.
4.      If your children are a bit older and you are comfortable having them around fire why not stoke a Bale Fire. You can discuss the turning of the wheel while making s’mores and enjoying the fresh night air. (Just be sure to check burning restrictions in your area)
5.      Beltane is a wonderful time to set out goals. Have your family write down and place their goals in a box and kept secret until the next year when you can revisit those goals and celebrate or reestablish your plan. Encourage anyone who wants to discuss to share and be supportive of their desires to grow like the new spring flowers. Your family is your  greatest asset and can be an amazing source of support if you all practice.

These are just a few idea, but there are many more things you can do with your family.

Don’t be afraid to discuss sexuality once you feel the time is right. There are many resources online and in books to help with this difficult topic ones you and your child are ready.

Best of luck to you all and Blessed Beltane

 

 

The Grove of Nova Scotia Druids and ADF

We are aware of the recent allegations brought forth concerning sexual misconduct by a former ADF Leader, the late Isaac Bonewits and we extend our compassion and care to those affected.

We want to affirm to our community that this type of behavior has no place within GNSD; it is directly opposed to our values; and is, quite simply put, wrong. We abhor any such behavior against any person, whether they are members of GNSD or not.

We understand many in our community are seized by these recent allegations; we are too. If you have suffered harassment or abuse, within our community our without, please know that we support you with compassion and care. We have clergy and leaders available should you wish to speak with someone. [The ADF Human Services Specialist and Member’s Advocate are available to listen and care and are reachable at humanservicesspecialist.adf@adf.org and adf-members-advocate@adf.org respectively.]

GNSD continues to be an open society focused on our family-knit structure. We remain committed to all practices of the ADF such as love and kindness for one another; courtesy and respect in language and actions; and refraining from actions that hurt or damage any person or property. We will be reviewing our own policies to ensure our community continues to grow with compassion and love.

If at any point you wish to speak on this, or any matter, do not hesitate to reach out.