Thursday, August 6

Making Smudges for Lammas

Just after Beltane every year, Mama Stacey drags her clan to a wonderful little herb festival tucked into the hills of Cooks Forest State Park.  It is a small gathering and one of those best-kept-secret type of events for the area.  Local greenhouses, mini-farms, fiber artists, jewelry makers, and pottery workers converge in the forest.  It's the best!  We always find unique items there, like cotton candy spun from pure maple syrup and plant varieties you can't find at big box stores.

We pack snacks and stake out a picnic table.  We see many area Pagans strolling through each year.   

On the right, some local Pagans. 
On the left, Mama Stacey, Doodle Bug, and Adventure Girl.

This past spring, I bought a Pineapple Sage plant and an Apple Mint plant amongst the other treasures we filled our car with.  They have both grown monstrously.  I chopped some of the Pineapple Sage and added it to the peach salsa I canned in July, but that barely made a dent in the bushiness of this plant.

I have always wanted to make smudges, but as a container gardener (we living in an apartment complex), I don't usually have enough leaves to work with.  Although my sage and mint are traditionally culinary herbs, I decided to give them a try in some sacred herb bundles to burn this autumn.  I was warned by the great internet that they may not work out because not all great tasting herbs smell good when burnt, but I thought it couldn't hurt to try.

**UPDATE: These smell wonderful when burning!  Very much like white/desert sage bundles I've bought online.   I have decided to make more to give away at Yule.**

To start, we selected some precious stones to gift our plants.  We watered them well and then carefully pinched a few dozen leaves from each plant.  I'm no expert, but we made sure to only take one leaf from pairs and distributed our clippings all over so as to not strain any particular stem/branch.

We collected from our Pineapple Sage and Apple Mint, along with our rather robust Citronella and a few sticky Morning Glory blooms from a plant Doodle Bug gifted me with at Mother's Day.  We used 100% cotton thread to bind our smudges.

I made them two different ways: folded and stem-down.

To make the folded one, I kept the stems all pointed towards the center as I layered the leaves.  After everything was added, I rolled it like a tight tiny burrito.  This was admittedly the hardest part.

I then folded the rolled herbs in the middle and tucked in some of the Morning Glory blooms (which had wilted, but not lost their sweet stickiness).  I then tied the thread around one end and began to tightly wrap the thread up to the top and then down to the bottom again.  I tied it off and let it dry for 10 days.

The second type I made was not folded.  It involved layering the leaves so that all the stems pointed in one direction.  This was to provide a natural handle at the base and allow for some tapering.

After layering, I rolled them like a burrito again and bound with the cotton thread.

This image shows the pattern I wrapped them with a little better.  The thread is straight and closer together on the first wrap (from stem to top).  On the second wrap (from top to stem), the thread is spaced out more and obviously diagonal.  I tied the thread off at the bottom.

These will darken and the loose bits will curl a bit as they dry.  We ended up drying these for around 10 days and they did burn, but I would recommend longer on future smudge-making projects.  Probably closer to a month.

In the end, these dried to a thickness of my index finger.  I imagine they could be made much thicker, but for one or two uses, these are perfect.

Tuesday, July 14

Introducing, Adventure Girl!

Our youngest has been known on this blog as 'Baby E' for over two years.  It was a nice place holder, but it is time for something new.

She was a ridiculously chubby and cuddly infant.  Those blue eyes and happy hugs have warmed hearts and endeared strangers.  The infant stage is a favorite of mine.  That rolly-polly, drooly giggle stage.  That cling-to-mommy stage.  That Elmo-makes-her-go-wild stage.  Adorable.

In her second year, Baby E's personality began to emerge.  She is a walking, shrieking beauty queen  with a solid stubborn streak.  She is fearless and determined.  She tackles things I am NOT ready for her to be doing, like climbing ladders, running free at the playground, or mixing cake batter with abandon.

Doodle Bug, her 12yo brother, was a skirt-clinger.  He didn't stray.  He didn't chase dogs and conquer the playground.  He didn't walk up the biggest slide just because it was the biggest.  He didn't grab the hands of other children and lead them on adventures.

Our little girl does all of these things and more.

She is an explorer and dabbler.  She is wild in the best of ways.  She is that girl wearing a ballet tutu and skull shoes.  She is that girl collecting worms with glitter pink polish on her fingers nails.   She wrestles her brother and dances with her mother.  She is the perfect blend of herself.

No longer a "baby" in the pediatric sense, I feel it is time to remove that from her title.  Especially with our son, 'Baby O', due in November, our daughter needs her own mark.

We debated quite a few names, like "Godzilla" (a family joke), or "Khaleesi" (our ode to Game of Thrones).  However, I wanted something she could grow with.

So, she will from this moment forward be known to you, our internet family, as...


Wednesday, July 8

The Sea Goddess at Lammas

I can't tell you how it started, but our family has a growing tradition of honoring the sea and ocean spirits at Lammas, right alongside the usual sun and grain spirits.  Our First Harvest altar has always been bedecked in sun imagery, sheaves of wheat, ears of corn, and the like, however as the years go by, it is becoming crowded with sea glass, shells, turtles, mermaids, and sea creature crafts made by the kids, as well.

We seem to honor male deities through the harvest but our Goddess energy comes from the seas, rivers, and oceans at Lammas time.  Almost any book you'd read recommends honoring Goddesses of the Harvest and Earth Mother archetypes, such as Corn Mother and Demeter.  Personally, I find that I associate these ladies more with Mabon, when the harvest time is deeper and stronger.

This has been an informal incorporation in the past.  Our ceramic corn plaques and wooden sun shapes still dominate the altar, with our sea-green Goddess elements keeping to the fringe.  However, this year I'd like to fully accept water spirits as part of our celebration.  I'd like our water dish to be filled with water from our favorite beach.  I'd like our bowl of soil to be replaced with beach sand.  I foresee a bundle of shimmery blue-green cloth splaying across our altar like a river running through a field.

Lammas can be a blazing hot time, and perhaps this is a magical way of bringing balance to the day.  Last year we also adopted the growing tradition of Tailteann Games on Lammas but spent a lot of time in the pool as well (before we had to duck and cover from the rain!)

Anyone wishing to honor an aquatic goddesses has many to choose from.  Aphrodite was born of the sea by her Greek ocean mother Thalassa, after an unfortunate incident with those gruff boys Cronos and Uranus.  Asherah, often referred to as the 'Queen of Heaven', is an ancient Middle Eastern/Semetic goddess of motherhood and the sea.  Mazu is a Chinese sea goddess dressed in red who tames storms for sailors.   Mami Wata is a powerful Vodou and Santerian water goddess who takes the form of a mermaid, at times.  Tiamat is a creator goddess and ocean mother in Sumerian culture who birthed all of the gods and created dragons.  Namaka is the Hawaiian goddess of the sea and all powerful sister of Pele.  Salacia, Roman goddess of the Ocean, is the wife of Neptune and patroness of salt water.  In Hinduism, Ganga is the sacred yet stubborn patroness of the Ganges river.

Along with goddesses, water spirits and mythological creatures abound across the globe.  Oceanids, water nymphs, mer-people, sea dragons, and sirens fill mythology.  SJ Tucker (one of our household favorites when it comes to modern Pagan music) offers up the song 'La Sirene' to these creatures.

I am most touched by the Greek goddess, Tethys.  She is featured only in archaic Greek mythology, never having more than a passing mention as Oceanus' wife in classic Greek myths.  She was a Titaness who become mother to all of the Oceanids (water spirits) and gave birth to the rivers of the world.  While this cements her as a mother figure, she is also revered as a grandmother spirit.  There are very few depictions of her in Grecian art, but her face is always full and her hair thick, as if woven with sea grasses.

Tethys and her husband Oceanus. 
The power of sea goddesses is strong for me at Lammas time.  Again, I cannot explain where this influence came from.  Perhaps it comes from a July spent in the water.  An entire month spent swimming and gathering nature's trinkets from beaches and creeks.  We spend days in my mother's pool, cooling ourselves from the blazing sun.  Doodle Bug's skin takes on a warm tan that cuts off just at his tailbone, where his swimming trunks are usually placed.  Baby E's hair has gone summer-blonde, bleached by sun and chlorine.  Inevitably, we visit the aquarium in Pittsburgh and spend hours watching jellyfish, eels, piranhas, and sharks living it up in the water.  It is my witchlings' favorite part of the zoo. 

We spend rainy days painting watercolor turtles and wire-wrapping river rocks.    All of this tapers and blends in nicely with the August activities of corn-dolly making and berry picking.  It flows for us and so has become our unintentional tradition.

If the idea of embracing water spirits at Lammas time, or any other sabbat as I imagine this would also fit Litha/Midsummer very well for some folks, appeals to you... here are some groovy ideas I have come across.

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We have made mermaid-style strings of dime-sized mirrors (glue them back to back with twine or fishing line in the center), shells, and glass beads to drape around our altar this year.  I image one could even dangle green and blue crepe streamers if the weather cooperated.  A quick trip to Goodwill produced the blue cloth I will use to create our river.  This children have also used shimmery acrylic paint to spruce up a few clam shells.

I have eyeballed these Water Bottle Spirals from Happy Hooligans this year and feel that they will blend perfectly.

Crystalized sea shells bring that glitz we all love to see on the altar.  It's also a quick science lesson for your witchlets. These take a few hours to set.  Little Bins For Little Hands has the scoop.

Think Crafts has these rockin' jellyfish, although we may do something in more oceanic colors than neon.

And how adorable is the Puffer Fish???  He's made from paper plates and straws, along with a bunch of glue.  Visit Danielle's Place for instructions. 

And that bucket of stones, driftwood, and shells can be made into a mobile with very little effort.  Thrifty Fun instructs you hand bore holes in your items with a screwdriver... however we've had much less cussing simply using a power drill LOL.

Making mock coral and sand dollars will allow you to be more ocean-critter friendly by leaving these valuable habitat finds behind for the animals living there to use.  My Pinterventures has the recipe and some great tips.

Friday, June 26

Flashfloods and Midsummer

If you're a regular festival goer or a habitual reader of the Wild Hunt, you've probably heard about the earth-shattering closure of the 35th Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois.  This festival, with over 1,000 attendees and volunteers, has endured torrential rain, crippling windstorms, attempted raids by the media, and even a tornado over the years.  It has never stopped the community from carrying on.  This year, however, a flash flood did it.  With the area rivers rising and the overflow from a dam about to be vented across the site to prevent damage to the structure, PSG board members, with tears in their eyes, announced the first ever shut-down of the festival.  Facebook lit up and I watched from my living room as people shared their stories.  And I cried for them.

It's like watching your church burn.

Luckily, there was no loss of life and a lot of talk of returning in 2016.  The Mama Stacey Clan hopes to be there as well.  I haven't attended since about 2008.  The site has changed.  Also, many members of the tribe I knew no longer attend or have even passed away.  It will be a brand new experience and one I want to share with my family. 

Back at home, I packed for a local camping trip.  Each day, the weather forecast grew more ominous.  Tropical Depression "Bill" (who came up with that?), the same storm that had triggered the flooding in Illinois, was causing thunderstorms in my area.

What was once predicted as a clear and hot weekend was now to be a weekend of rain, rain, rain.  I don't mind if it rains a bit while camping, but I didn't like the idea of setting up our tent IN the rain, on water logged soil.  I didn't like the idea of my children not being able to swim or bike or visit the deer park, as we'd planned.

Essentially, our Midsummer plans were crushed by rain, the same as those at the Pagan Spirit Gathering had been.  #wearetribe

Friday morning, I canceled our state park reservation.  I was bumming and bitter.  We'd already had to cancel plans for the creation of a large Pagan event in our area and now I'd had to call it quits on our private camping trip.  On top of reading about the trauma happening at the Pagan Spirit Gathering, I was feeling lost.  I thrive on sharing the seasons and sabbats with my children and I felt utterly done-in.

Around noon that day, I was sipping a fancy iced coffee and having a walk through the garden when I decided that I could not give up.  There were only about 9 hours left in the day, but I wanted to make them count.  I made a quick plan in my head and grabbed my car keys.  

I ran to the store and picked up some frozen pizzas.  I have off-and-on considered the idea of making "Pagan Pizza".   Simply, you lay your toppings on in a design like a spiral or a rune and bake.  We made a Solstice Sun and a Pentacle to honor the day. 

I also picked up a ready-made cake and some piping icing.  I scrawled the words "Happy Litha" on top and decorated the edges with suns and spirals.   

We also stopped at the craft store to grab some sun colored yarn to make something similar to God's Eyes.  Below, you can see that when we got down to it, we added an extra spoke and made Solstice Suns to hang up outside.  

On the way home, we passed a community park where I could see that the weeds were tall at the edge of the field.  I remembered the Grass Doll craft I'd had planned for the camping trip.  They are painfully simple to make, so I turned into the parking lot.  The kids and I cut tall grasses and wild flowers, hand picking the colors we wanted to use when making our Grassmen.  What you see in the photo below was enough to make about seven dolls. 

Once home, we jumped into our swimming suits and laughed and splashed and played in the bright near-solstice sunlight.  It did indeed drizzle once, but the kids refused to leave the pool.  The rain was short and warm, so we continued right on with our Litha.

When everyone had swam to their heart's content, we climbed out of the pool and began to create our mock Wickermen.  They are identical to making corn dollies.  We got the idea from the Healthy Mama resource page.  

We pulled the pizza out to cool and started our small balefire.  When everyone was satisfied with their grass men, we laid them in the sun and blessed them before putting them in the fire.  Doodle Bug took charge with Baby E, telling her about fire safety and helping her to toss her man into the flames.

Afterwards, we swam some more and ate Pagan Pizza and Litha cake until the air grew chilly.  We finished off the night with a few mini fire crackers and then gathering in the family room to weave our Solstice Suns together.   

The kid's eye lids were drooping by bedtime and I actually felt good about how we'd spent the afternoon.  It was nothing that you'd find in any Pagan Parenting book, but it was our day and we loved it.  We made the most of our time in the sun and I'd do it again.

So, even if the rain is pouring or the bread doesn't rise, or you realize that something else has come along to dismantle your carefully planned Sabbat... remember that as long as you spend the day with your children and do something to make it special, you can consider the holiday honored and honored well.

Saturday, June 13

Planning for Midsummer

Memorial Day weekend, Mama Stacey gathered her little witches into the car and headed out of town.  We swam and gardened and grilled and visited with family.  We had a wonderful time unplugged and wrapped up in our little family cocoon.  By the time I bothered to check any of my electronics Monday night, I received a rush of text messages, voice mails, and social media noise.  Apparently, a misunderstanding between fair-weather friends had spun out of control and as the dominoes fell our area's brand new Litha celebration died.  The site was no longer rent-able and two key players had backed out.


It's always painful to be at the center of a dispute amongst friends.  I refused to take sides or repeat gossip, so completely bowed out of the event and the secondary events that spawned in its place.

Instead, I spent some time perusing the local state parks and compiled what I hope will be a beautiful private Midsummer weekend for our little family.  I found a campground with wooded sites and a sandy beach to splash in.

I also found a white tail deer rescue that allows the children to bottle feed fawns, pet the deer, and watch the bucks at play.  I hope that the infusion of stag energy will boost our Litha celebration.

We freshened up our camping supplies and cleaned off our campfire pie makers.  I have pulled the wagon out of storage so that we can haul firewood to build a sacred balefire saturday evening.

Healthy Mama has these simple instructions for making grass dolls that I hope to add twigs to in order to mimic the grand wicker men that will be burned at festivals across the globe (Wicker Man, Burning Man, etc.)

I own a camp stove, but I still think it's best to cook over the fire.  Between campfire pizza pies and jumbo marshmallows to toast, I think the kids will be well fed.  There's just something primal and sacred about cooking a meal over the fire (even for vegetarians).  It's easy to get fancy-schmancy with campfire pies, but I don't want to stress out by overdoing something basic.  Kids Fun Review keeps it simple. 

Tossing in some sparklers, some sand castle buckets, and a blanket to lay back and stare at the stars and I feel that we will enjoy a very nice Litha weekend.  I hope you enjoy the holiday, no matter what you end up doing.  Blessed Be!

Monday, March 9

The March Hare

In our home, the idea of an "Ostara Bunny" never stuck.  I kind of felt like I was cheating.  All I was doing was swapping the word 'Easter' for 'Ostara'.  In our ever growing attempt to create solid Pagan faith and traditions in our home, Papa J and I have decided to introduce our children to a new figure,  "The March Hare".

And no, not the Lewis Carroll character.  Ours is more like the lesser know, slightly cuter cousin to the Easter Bunny. 

There are so many parallels between Christian Easter and Pagan Ostara, that just about every Pagan family I know does very little to differentiate between the two.  They dye eggs.  They eat ham.  They decorate with bunnies and flowers.  A mythical critter stops by overnight to leave their children a basket of toys and chocolate.  The family will probably dress up and attend a religious ceremony. 

The celebrations are virtually identical, all you do is replace the crosses and the church service with pentacles and a ritual.  Your neighbors might not even know the difference, especially during those years where Easter and Ostara fall during the same weekend. 

The two holidays blend well.

As you can guess, this is not how Mama Stacey rolls.  I don't want to mimic Christian holidays no matter how much of them are drawn from ancient traditions.  I want to reclaim the sabbats as something special and unique for my family.  I want to smile when my great-grandchildren talk about The March Hare.  I want to giggle when my daughter gripes about having to nibble carrots and sneak an Ostara basket past her children.  

Creating Something New

Others have stepped up and created mythical beings for their children, like we have.  In some circles, spring baskets are brought by the Goddess Eostre, or the Equinox Faerie, or even the Ostara Witch.

In Sweden, the Easter Witch or Easter Wizard certainly exist, so why not an Ostara version?

Once upon a time I had considered doing the Ostara Bunny, but that didn't mesh up with anything that my children would actually encounter in the world.  There are no tales, no stories, no inklings of an Ostara Bunny lingering in film or literature.  He/She is a completely new invention and while that is brilliant for some (we are creating new traditions, afterall) I decided to stall.

Doodle Bug has received baskets from his parents for three years.  He knows the items are from us.  He's 12.  He probably should think that.  However, along comes Baby E, our headstrong 2 year old daughter, and I find that I want to infuse a bit more magic and myth into Ostara morning.

Birth of The March Hare

One day, while watching the original Wicker Man (we pretend the 2006 version doesn't exist), this clip stood out to me:

The idea of turning "The March Hare" into a holiday figure for my children began to take shape.

I took to my laptop and researched "The March Hare".  As a figure, that title is reserved solely for the rabbit at the Mad Hatter's eternal tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

The character is named for the British concept of being "mad as a march hare".  Rabbits and hares come out to play in the spring.  While European hares court one another and attempt to find mates, especially goofy behavior is said to be displayed during the month of March.

Neo-Paganism comes to us mainly from Europe.  The March hare idiom originates in Europe as well.  That provided me with one more link or connection to help support the creation of my myth.  If you've ever studied the creation of tradition and myth, these things are consciously created practices and stories that are loosely related to something in antiquity, and purposefully repeated so that they catch on.

European saying, European critter.  I think I'm on to something.

And they are called "march" hares.  While Easter is a floater holiday that shifts months, Ostara is always in March.

Hares are larger and stronger than rabbits, something I did not realize until recently.  This is useful to the March Hare myth.  If the March Hare is stronger and bigger, he can lift more baskets that a bunny any day.

Hares do not burrow, instead using grasses to form nests.  This perfectly explains why there is grass in the bottom of my children's Ostara baskets.

This new myth keeps getting better and better.  

Sacred Critters

Rabbits and hares as holy creatures and symbols of rebirth, femininity, and fertility span the globe.   The Aztecs told tales of the Centzon Totochtin, or Four Hundred Rabbits, who were divine revelers.  So indecent were their actions, that they were gathered up and thrown into the moon.  This is why there are so many rabbit shapes on the face of the moon.

In Egyptian mythology, Wenet was a hare goddess who greeted the dawn each day and carried messages for the god Thoth.  This is particularly meaningful for Pagans as Spring coincidences with the 'dawn' of the year.  Also, dawn happens in the East, the place of words, thoughts, and messages within many Pagan elemental traditions.  It only makes sense that the March Hare would arrive to celebrate and greet spring for Pagans.

The Maya had tricky tales of the Rabbit Scribe, another messenger. 

The Rabbit Scribe painted on Mayan pottery: (L) Vessel K5166, (R) The Princeton Vase

Images of the triple hares (three hares with interconnected ears) migrated from China all the way to Britain by way of the Silk Road (ancient trade routes).

The March Hare Comes Alive

So, this year, Papa J and I are going full force with introducing our children to the sacredness of The March Hare.

Hares are magical and powerful.  We feel confident in our decision to spin the story of the March Hare, allowing it to evolve as the years go by.  We will make hare cookies and wear big floppy hare ears on our heads.  We will paint watercolors of the March Hare in tall grasses and hiding eggs.  We will seek out films and children's books with hares in them.   We will build the myth and create the legend for future generations.

Curious to join us?

Ian MacCulloch

Monday, February 23

Win your copy of the Earth Child books here!

We recently reviewed An Earth Child's Book of the Year by Marian Louise Camden.  It was colorful, entertaining, informative, and downright fun to look at.  We loved it all over the place!

The author has graciously sent us autographed copies of both books in the Earth Child series, 'An Earth Child's Book of the Year' and 'An Earth Child's Book of Verse', to be give away in ITHOMS's very first giveaway!!!!

We are tickled pink and have been pouring over the contents of these children's books.  The intricate illustrations, the powerful writing... they have been a delight.

Doodle Bug has selected his favorite poem from 'An Earth Child's Book of Verse' to read aloud during our family's Ostara Rite this spring.

If you are stumbling over what to put in your children's Ostara baskets, you can't go wrong with a good Pagan children's book like these.  That and candy, of course.  The March Hare is well known for his sweet tooth.  

Straight-forward Pagan books for children are rare gems and often quickly sell out or go out of print within a few seasons.  If you are serious about raising your children as Pagans, or with the open and nature friendly mindset that Paganism affords, I urge you to snatch up whatever books you can find and cherish them. 

If you would like a set of M.L. Camden's books to share with your children, you have until midnight on March 9th of this year to enter.  The winner will be contacted on Tuesday, March 10th so that we can get these terrific books mailed out to you in time for the Spring Equinox.

To be clear, the prize consists of: one (1) autographed copy of 'An Earth Child's Book of Verse' and one (1) autographed copy of 'An Earth Child's Book of the Year'.

You have several chances to enter.  Try as many as you like!

UPDATE:  A few folks have mentioned that they can't seem to enter.  To clarify, the first requirement is to write a comment at the bottom of this post, telling us why you'd like to have these books in your home.  After you do that, four more options for entry will open: [1] Leave a comment on our Facebook page telling us how you celebrate Ostara in your home (there is a pinned question near the top of the page); [2] Follow us on Twitter (this account was personalized in 2016); [3] Share our contest on your Twitter feed; [4] Visit us on Instagram

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