Samhain blessings 2011
October 31, 2011A small ghoulie just came to our door with a very cheery "trick or treat," enacting an old tradition originally intended to keep away frightening spirits by inoculating homes with prior visitations. I love how this ancient tradition survives, even if the visitors are now pirates and princesses. The spirit lives on.
I have spent the day gathering materials for my Celtic Spirituality class meeting tomorrow night, which will be devoted (naturally) to the festival of Samhain. Students will be telling ghost stories, and I'll be presenting a lecture on the roots of the festival and particularly its connection to Ireland's "fairy faith." We will read William Butler Yeats' fairy poems, including "The Stolen Child" and "Song of Wandering Aengus." Preparing materials for class led me to an hours-long exploration of the many musical settings of those poems and others by Yeats. I think tomorrow's class will be as magical as this holiday.
We celebrated the holiday this weekend by establishing a new tradition. Over the years, Michael and I have tried to develop seasonal rituals that root us in the American heartland and its season, while acknowledging the Irish traditions from which we spring. I've shared descriptions of our Lughnasa potato ritual. For Imbolc we host a storytelling night. But we hadn't yet developed satisfactory rituals for Bealtaine or Samhain.
This weekend, though, we took a great step in the right direction. At the top of the hill, we have a great grove of oaks, with a few butternuts and elms mixed in. Next to the grove, we had planted maples for Michael's mother and father when they passed. So this month we decided to create an Ancestors' Grove, by dedicating and labeling trees for our Beloved Dead. We bought a wood-burning kit--when did I last play with a wood-burning kit!--and got planks of basswood, which is good for carving and burning. Then we made tree plaques: Michael for his mom and dad, me for my dear departed husband Bob and for my brother Mike. I selected trees, an oak for Bob and an elm for Mike, and we hung the plaques yesterday. I really felt the connection to our roots through this ritual. And we are inspired to finish clearing underbrush from the grove, to make the ancestors happy and to clear space for more dedications in years to come.
Big Season for Publications!
In the next two months, I have two books coming out--one revised, one entirely new. The revised edition of "Meditation: The Complete Guide," which Teri Viereck and I co-wrote in the late 1990's, will be out in mid-November from New World Library. The new edition includes some new meditation techniques, including an entirely new chapter on Jewish meditations as well as sections on prayer beads, taize singing and other ways to meditate. From this project's inception, Teri and I were eager to offer choices rather than a one-size fits all approach to meditating. With a pretty new cover and more references, this new edition offers something for beginning and advanced meditators both! See http://www.newworldlibrary.com/BooksProducts/ProductDetails/tabid/64/SKU/80474/Default.aspx
The other book is entirely unlike anything I've ever written before: it's fiction. Or is it? It's the campaign autobiography--and cookbook--purportedly written by the Alaskan politician Sarah Pagen, who is also a television personality with an "Extremovore" cooking show called "Cooking North," on which she shows us how to kill animals and create tasty meals from their carcasses. Not only do you get her inspiring personal story, but you get the lyrics to the most popular songs by her children, whose Northern Gospel group (The Trapper Family Singers) have recorded such hits as "He's Got the Whole World in His Sights" and "Locked and Loaded for the Lord." (I told you this was unlike anything I've ever written before!) There is some serious material in here, because our Sarah is a member of the Dominionist cult fringe (like some other politicians with similar, and dissimilar, names). But the serious material goes down with laughter. Oh, and did I mention there is a gay romance in the footnotes? And did I say that this is unlike anything else I've ever written? See Sarah's own website at http://pagenforpresident.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/sarah-stands-for-independence/, and order the book through McRoy and Blackburn (http://www.alaskafiction.com/) after December 1.
Both are great options for holiday giving! After reading about Sarah Pagen, you will probably need to meditate!
Come spring, the new edition of "Magical Gardens" will also be out. This has been a busy year!
I'll be very busy in the next few months with appearances, both live and on the radio. Check out the calendar on my website (www.patricia-monaghan.com) for details.
If everything works out, I'll be in Ireland in February for Brigit's Day at Kildare! Then I plan to travel west to the area around Gort, where I used to live. Near Gort is a low range of mountains called Slieve Echtgte or the Aughty Hills, named for an obscure goddess. No one has ever gathered all the lore about this "cannibal woman," and so I plan to do that. The organization with which I am working has a great website of information about the area, www.aughty.org. I look forward to spending time in that little-known region of East Co. Clare.
Then, in May, I'll be attending the biennial conference of the Association for Study of Women and Mythology (ASWM; www.womenandmyth.org) in the Bay Area. I hope to present my Echtgte research there!
I hope that this feast of the ancestors brings you close to your own roots and your own antecedents. Samhain blessings to all, Patricia