Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winter begins: Dia de Muertos, Frida Kahlo and Paper Lanterns

Winter is coming and the world seems to be becoming quieter. I have finished my painting of Keridwen. She looks different than I thought She would, not scary but mischieveous. I am having not such a bad Samhain time this year. I feel cosey and looked after and dealing with diffulties when I can and then letting them go and just trying to accept them when I can't.
Last Saturday Mitja and I went into town to get some groceries and stumbled across an exhibition of Dia de Muertos and La Catrina, the mexican tradition of honouring the Dead by setting up colourful altars for them. I was delighted at the sights, the tables were decorated with paperflowers in shining colours, photographs, food, alcohol, skulls, skeletons, sugar skulls, skull candles, bone shaped cakes and loads more. They even had an altar to honour Frieda Kahlo there, which made me quite happy because I admire her. Besides all of the things mentioned above it was decorated with lots of little photographs and prints of her paintings. A mexican lady explained all the decorations to me, how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, how the sugar skulls are given to children, how nobody touches the food on the altars, because their scent is food to the Dead (there was one chicken dish wich they served their Deceased with a sauce made from hot chilies and chocolate!) and also how important Frida Kahlo ist to the mexican people until today. I loved the colours and the vivid energy of the altars. Such a different way from our celebrations at Samhain, Allerseelen and Totensonntag.

The trees have nearly lost their leaves now. When I crossed the Rhine a few days ago, the Seven Mountains were hidden in the mist, the water soft blue and the sky white, blue and pink. It looked totally enchanted. It was very quiet also, because many people who usually walk their dogs and go jogging by the Rhine had stayed in, because it was so cold.

Two days ago while I was working, I suddenly heard a marching band outside. We all left our descs and went to the window, and there were children walking candle-lit paper laterns through the streets. Here in this catholic place they claim it has to do with St. Martin, they even have somebody in a wannabe Roman uniform on horse, rding ahead. But I think it's a pagan thing, come down to us from Samhain lighting lanterns in the darkening season and possibly from making lanterns from beets to either scare away hostile presences or to light the way home to benign ones.
When I cycled home later I saw that many houses and shops had hung out illuminated paper lanterns outside their windows and placed candles in their flowerpots. It looked so beautiful and so pagan.

I love how this is living folklore, autumn is over, winter is beginning, and soon the Wheel will turn towards Yule. I have made fruit bread and christmas buiscuits and Bratäpfel, and in town they are putting up the Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Samhain Blessings

Samhain is one of the most important festivals in the year of the Goddess. It is celebrated on the night of the 31st October. This is a night out of time, where the veils between this world and the Otherworld are thin and the gates are open. It is a night out of time. The old year has died and the new one hasn't yet begun. It is a time where spirits can travel between the worlds and our ancestors are among us. I always put a candle in the window, so my ancestors find their way to me. Samhain is the beginning of winter, of the dark season, a time of introspection and it is the season of the Dark Mother, when the Goddess takes on Her face of Crone and Bringer of Death. In Avalon we honour Keridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron of Transformation. It is good time to realease old things, that no longer serve us or Her. In Her cauldron everything is transformed.

I went to a Samhain celebration in Bonn. Mitja was lovely enough to drive me there. It is so sweet of him. We went in silence through the darkness until we came to an old cemetary set inside some woods. People had lit candles on the tombs and it looked beautiful. I was afraid there might be teenangers somewhere on the cemetary drinking beer, it was Halloween after all, but we encountered nobody. We then cast the circle, called the Goddess, the elements and the ancestors to be with us. We then remembered the loved ones we have lost since last Samhain and remembered all the nameless Deceased who have died in war and in nature catastrophes in the last 12 months. And then we gave them a blessing on their journey and sang for them to help their souls find their way onwards. I think that is such a lovely thing to do, to say goodbye to the ones you love and set them free to go, and also to sing for the ones that nobody sang for.

This is what I like to sing for them:
Buzzard call you back to the wild land
Heron fly you home
Journey to the soul of your own land
Where the Mothers wait for your return
Heron fly you home
Carolyn Hillyer

I hope when I die one day, I'll have a huge family, which sits around my bed and that they will sing this for me to help me on my journey back to the Source.

We then lit more candles for the Souls and then left in silence.
Back home we honoured our ancestors. First we did a meditation journeying into a cave to meet the heritage of our ancestors, seeing what was theirs and not ours, what had been insignificant to them but was meaningful to us, leaving and offering and receiving a gift. We travelled to the land of our ancestors and I firstly wondered whether I should go to eastern Germany or to western France. I found myself on a rocky coastland with grey skies above, and neolithic tombs. I knew I was in the West, to the East lay the whole of the continent, which was all the land of my ancestors and to the West lay many islands, which were also the home of my anceszors. When I pondered the islands I felt the wind and heard some keys of a harp. Then the baby started hopping around madly in my belly and I felt "Is this where you came from?" Am I having a celtic baby? I realise that there is no question whether the land of my ancestors is either France or Germany. It is all Europe, I've known that before, but the link that helped me see and understand them as really connected as one in this meditation, were the standing stones. I have visited so many standing stones in Brittany and Western France and loved them so much, and it never seemed to be meaningful to me that the Lüneburger Heide and the Altmark, the areas that surround my mum's house where I grew up are the areas of Germany with the most remaining megalithic formations.
Then we journeyed through the elements acknowledging the parts of our heritage we were proud of and the ones that made us cry. It was very powerful.
After a delicious feast we closed the circle.

It was a beautiful ceremony, I was really happy to keep the focus on the ancestors. In Avalon I think we might probably have focused on releasing and rebirthing, and that is very powerful and important as well, but I miss doing ceremonies to honour the elements or in this case the ancestors, without hoping for something for myself. We do so many ceremonies where we want a special outcome, a healing experience, or something similar, I feel serving is also just tending the elements, honouring the ancestors, the Moon, the Sun, anything really with maybe moving the focus away from ourselves and back to the practice.
Having said that, a day before I had already done my own ceremony to honour Keridwen, and to release my old destructive patterns and ways of thinking into Her cauldron. I'd feel very rude if I didn't honour Her apropriately. Since my birthday is merely 8 days gone I consider Her to be my special guardian.

Come and taste of the cauldron's brew
Magic She will give to you
You will dance in the eye of the storm
You're Keridwen's children
The cauldron-born
(Damh the Bard)

Mitja found the coin in the fairy cake. I had made special pumpkin fairy cakes for the occasion and baked a coin into one. That is a very good omen for our family abundance in the coming year. I found it very hard to articulate an intention for the coming year, seeing as I have no idea how becoming a mother will change my life. So I have just planted the seed of love. My intention is to spread the love, love my family and myself. Then I brought Mitja some hot spiced apple juice and read my belly the chapter on Keridwen and Morgen La Fey in Luna Moon Hare. And then the sun set, the day of Samhain ended and the new year began. Blessings of Love and Growth to all, may this new year be the best yet.

Come with your depth and your ageless wisdom
Come with a cake and a warming brew
Carolyn Hillyer