Oct 30, 2011

Last Minute October Fun

My niece and I took one last drive out the farm stands yesterday before they closed for the season.  The pumpkins and squash were pretty picked over, but we found some lovely specimens that will do nicely for tomorrow night's light-up.

Because I live in a suite with an entrance that faces the backyard, I'm not able to entertain trick-or-treaters, so I make my annual Halloween pilgrimage one town over to my parents home, where little ghouls run rampant through the streets.  There, I mass jack-o-lanterns on the porch and sit on the stairs with a good book waiting on the kids...and possibly snacking on a few treats myself.

After hitting the farm stands, I went with friends last night to a haunted corn maze.  It was fairly child-friendly, so no big scares for me.  Except tripping over corn in the dark.  Still, it was fun and will be on our list of things to do next year.  My friend wants to visit larger mazes next year, so I've been tracking down a few must-see mazes.

Check out this list of mazes in North America.

Whatever you do for Halloween/Samhain, I hope your holiday is sweet and scary (if that's your thing!) 

PS - don't forget to get your name in the hat for the book "Spirit of the Witch" by Raven Grimassi.  I'll be drawing the winner's name tomorrow night.

Oct 28, 2011

Spirits of October - Giveaway #3

The graveyard I visited last week had a substantial amount of statuary and other objects arranged at the gravestones.  The stones themselves were not particularly ornamental, but most of them had many decorations placed around them.  I found these little vignettes sweet, and sometimes sad - in the manner that children's toys were placed around a child's grave.

I was particulary taken with this statue of the Mother at one of the cemetary gates.  I realize that she is stepping on the snake as a nod to the old testament, but I couldn't help but feel a bit of Hekate in her, with the snake and her place at the crossroad/gates.  I'm sure Catholics would NOT agree!

Our last book giveaway this month is another book of Spirit.  Raven Grimassi's "Spirit of the Witch."

From his website:

"Spirit of the Witch was written to convey the religion of Witchcraft as a spiritual path.

In this book the reader will discover the spirituality of being a Witch (the Witch in Moon light) and how to apply that to daily life (the Witch in Sun light).

Spirit of the Witch is a personalized examination of the core essence of practicing Witchcraft and honoring its beliefs.

It is the first book written solely on the topic of spirituality in Witchcraft."

You know the routine by now...leave a comment and a way I can get ahold of you if you don't have a Blogger profile.  I will draw the final name on Monday, October 31st!

Best Witches!

Spirits of October Giveaway #2 - Winner!

The winner of "Awakening to the Spirit World" in the second Spirits of October Giveaway is....

Willow Silverhorse!

Please email me your mailing address to:  rueandhyssop (AT) gmail (DOT) com and I'll get this right out to you.

Stay tuned...the final October giveaway will be posted in a flash!

Thanks so much to all who commented/entered the draw!

Oct 25, 2011

The Spirits of October - Giveaway #2

The graveyard I toured last week was set on a rolling hill.  The grouping of graves to the back of this photo above are all much older graves, as are the ones in the photo below.  Many date to the 1940's and earlier.  A small portion at the very back of the graveyard, up on the highest point, was reserved for the oldest graves.  One stone had a date from the late 1880's inscribed on it.

As I walked toward the oldest section of the graveyard, there was a definite feeling of the air becoming thicker.  I'm not sure how else to describe it.  It was like sharing space in a crowded room.  This was one of the few graveyards I've visited where I really felt a palpable energy.

The second book in The Spirits of October Giveaway is "Awakening to the Spirit World - The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation" by Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselman.

From the website:

"Thanks to a modern renaissance of shamanic spirituality, practitioners from all walks of life now use powerful indigenous techniques for healing, insight, and spiritual growth.

With Awakening to the Spirit World, teachers Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman bring together a circle of renowned Western shamanic elders—Tom Cowan, Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, José Stevens, and Alberto Villoldo—to present a comprehensive manual for making these practices accessible and available in our daily lives, including:

-How the original practice of shamanism shaped the world’s spiritual traditions and why it is still relevant today.
-The art of the shamanic journey—a time-tested meditative method for experiencing important spiritual lessons and truths.
-Guidance for avoiding common pitfalls of shamanic practice.
-Instruction for working with your dreams, connecting to your spirit guides, healing yourself and your environment.
-A CD of drumming to facilitate your shamanic journeys."

As always, all you need to do to put your name in the hat for this book is be a follower of the blog or blogger in some capacity (follow the blog, follow on Twitter, find me on FB or subscribe to the RSS feed) and leave a comment.  That's it!
The draw for this book will take place in three short days - on Friday, October 28th!

Giveaway #1 Winner!

The winner of the first Spirits of October Giveaway is....

New World Witchery! 

Please email your mailing address to me at:  rueandhyssop (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll pop this book in the mail to you.

Thanks to everyone that threw their name in the hat, and keep your eyes here...the next giveaway will be posted within the hour!

PS - if you haven't heard of New World Witchery, you seriously need to check out their podcast.  It's a fun and interesting look at everthing from folk magic to root work to old wive's tales and everything in between.  Right now there is a great storytelling series going on - perfect for Halloween/Samhain!  Head over to the website or download the show at iTunes.


Oct 23, 2011

On Girls and Cupcakes

My niece and I made some cupcakes yesterday, in honour of the season.  I'm not much for cake making, so we cheated by buying an easy cake mix, but I did insist on homemade icing.  She was shocked that icing could taste so creamy - she'd only ever had the store-bought kind. 

It reminded me that the things I take for granted, like baking with my mom on weekends and holidays when I was little, are things that many kids don't have any concept of.  They think all food comes from the store - from boxes and from behind glass cases. 

My nieces have been out in the garden with me since they could walk, and have stood on a chair in the kitchen and 'helped' bake whenever I felt the urge to whip something up.  I want them to know that food you take the time to grow or create from scratch tastes better than something you buy from the store.

Having said that - I don't do it all.  I can't.  I don't have the time my grandmother had to spend in the kitchen.  So I ocassionally make exceptions by grabbing a box of cake mix, or a frozen pie shell.  But I always add something of my own to it.  Some part of it has to be created from home and kitchen, and a place of care. 

It just tastes better!

Super Easy Buttercream Icing

3cups of icing sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick/8tbsp) room temperature
1tsp vanilla
3-5tbsp cream

I'm sure there is some 'expert' way of mixing icing - but I just toss the ingredients into a bowl and go to town with a fork.  It's easier to use a hand-mixer of course.  But not as fun!

Oct 22, 2011

The Spirits of October Giveaway #1

Over the next week I'm going to be posting three giveaways.  Three wonderful books on different aspects of Spirit will be up for grabs, and I'm going to post them along with a few pictures I took while on my graveyard tour last week.

The graveyard I visited was a few towns South, situated on a rolling hill.  This stunning climber has been standing guard in a vineyard just below the graveyard for years now.  I call him The Ghost, and he looks rather handsome in the Autumn.

This is the view of the valley from the graveyard.  A nice place for eternal rest, no?

The first book you can get your hands on is "Spirit Speak" by Ivo Dominguez Jr.


~from the website:

"If you do magic, pray, or venerate your ancestors, you are working with spirits. If you seek information or guidance through channeling, through mediumship, or through the words and visions of mystics, you are also working with the beings of the subtle realms.

Spirit Speak presents a unified system for understanding a broad range of nonphysical beings that we call spirits. Dominguez is able to make complex ideas accessible, through analogy and example, without oversimplifying. This comprehensive book can be understood and appreciated by readers from all different faiths, backgrounds, and levels of experience. It explores concepts such as:

* spiritual lineage
* the assumption of god forms
* divine embodiment
* the limits and potential for many spiritual practices"

This book came highly recommended by my sister-friend T, and I have a copy on my bookshelf just waiting for a few Winter eves to dig into it. You can have your own copy too, simply by being a friend of the blog (or blogger!) Follow the blog, follow on Twitter, friend me at Facebook, or subscribe to the RSS feed and let me know in the comments on this post.

You've got three short days to enter. I'll draw the name of the winner on Tuesday, October 25th!  Best of luck!

Oct 21, 2011

Ancestor Reverance or Veneration

Based on the idea that life continues after death in one form or another, most cultures have certain rituals or traditions involved in caring for or communicating with their ancestors.

** The word "ancestor" can be defined as:
1. a person from whom one is descended.
2. a person who serves as an influence or model for another; be it mental, artistic, spiritual, etc.

Therefore, an ancestor need not be a family member of a direct bloodline, but also beloved friends or someone who excelled in your field of practice who has passed on. For example, people who engage in charity work, may feel that Mother Theresa is an ancestor. A musician may look to John Lennon or Johnny Cash as ancestor.

In some groups, such as the Catholic church, saints or "ascended masters" are venerated as messengers or intercessors to God. These saints had their holiday in "All Saint's Day" and some had their own individual holiday, such as Saint Michael's Day. The mass that was said on All Saint's Day was called "Allhallowmas" (the mass of all who are hallowed) and the eve before All Saint's Day became known as "All Hallows Eve."

In most cultures, no intercessor is believed to be required to have a relationship with one's deceased family, friends 0r societal ancestors.

Please note that ancestor reverence (honouring) is not the same as worship. Most cultures do not worship their dead as gods. There are some cultures that believe their ancestors may ascend to attain god-like status, but this is not what "reverence" is referring to here.

The idea behind ancestor reverence is that your ancestors maintain some kind of existence after death and may influence, in some way, the lives of the living. This influence may come in ways as simple as communication to as complex as being able to procure good fortune in many forms.

In some cultures, ancestors are seen as needing to be cared for, but usually an offering is a way of showing respect or acknowledgment to the ancestor. In this way, caring for them is a way of honouring them. To "care for" an ancestor can mean merely leaving an offering of water or wine out for them, going to their grave and cleaning it or leaving flowers, or building an entire altar with photographs, flowers and favourite treats of the deceased as offerings.

Here are some various ancestor practices by different cultures:

-Mexicans celebrate Day of the Dead, where offerings of candles, food, sugar skulls and photographs are set out in cemetaries to honour the dead.

-Egyptians believed that to be forgotten, was the end of the soul. So, building remembrances to the dead was not just a way of honouring them, but essential so that they would not be forgotten as long as their statue/tomb stood. Priests could be hired by the family to continue to speak prayers for the dead and make offerings at the tombs.

-In India, a yearly observation called "Tarpan" is made to the ancestors where the deceased's favourite food is made and offerred to them, as well as to animals considered holy, such as crows and cows.

-The Romans venerated their dead in the month of February during a 9-day festival called Parentalia, when they visited cemetaries and shared cakes and wine with each other and as offerings to deceased family members.

-Some of the oldest Catholic churches house tombs for their dead as well as having altars that often are said to contain the bones of a saint. And, of course, the "blood" and "body" of Christ sits on the altar in the form of wine and wafers.

-In China, many believe that honouring their ancestors is part of the duties of life, in that your parents gave you life and took care of you while they were alive, and could also care for you after they are gone and offer assistance. In Spring and Autumn festivals bring families to the graves of their ancestors to make offerings, and during another festival, called Ghost Festival, it is believed that the ancestors come to visit the living.

-A "dumb supper" is a dinner where a full place setting, with a serving of dinner is set out for an ancestor, and the entire dinner party eats in silence. Often this is to not only honour the dead, but to encourge contact. The living do not speak, that the dead may do so if they choose, and be heard.

An invitation can be given at the supper such as:

"This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us.
Tonight we honor our ancestors.
Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you,
and we welcome you to join us for this night.
We know you watch over us always,
protecting us and guiding us,
and tonight we thank you.
We invite you to join us and share our meal."

~from Patti Wigington at About.com

-In old (Celtic) Europe the last harvest festival is celebrated, and offerings of food and lit candles are left out for the dead that wander this time of year. This is the festival of Samhain (pronounced "Sow-en" or "Sow'een") when spirits were believed to freely roam. The practice of leaving out food and lit candles is part of the beginnings of what is commonly celebrated as Halloween now.

Athough the last harvest time is thought to be the time when the space between the two world's was thinnest and most conducive to spirit contact, you can honour or seek to contact your ancestors at any time of the year.

Oct 16, 2011

Easing into Autumn

Until a few days ago, you'd never have known Autumn had come.  Aside from a good four days of rain in late September/early October, the temperatures have been warm and balmy.  The sun, hanging on in all his glory, has left us with more than a few days when you could comfortably wear your capris and tees.

We generally have a lovely Fall here in Southern British Columbia, but this year seems to have been even more generous with the extended Summer weather and the leaves turning slowly on the trees.  It's as if they genuinely are taking their time in hopes that everyone will notice their beauty.

My only regret this time of year, is that I have to work for a living.  My spirit cries to be outside during this season, revelling in all that Autumn has to offer.  I've been fortunate enough to get out often for walks by the river, and spent some time in our local Provincial park the other day, taking some photos of my friend's family.  I've also made plans to visit a corn maze with my nieces and our friends next weekend, where I'm sure we'll find ourself in a pumpkin patch.

I would so rather soak in October, than see it rush by as it has been doing the last two weeks.  It truly is my favourite month, not just because of our Canadian turkey holiday and that lovely, magical night at month's end, but because it offers the most wonderful weather and sights here in the Valley. 

Still...there is time.  And plenty of activities to be enjoyed.

Although the farmers markets are over for the season, I still have another farm stand visit in the works to stock up on more squash for the Winter.

I have a cemetary visit planned, a harvest soup potluck to attend and then there's that little holiday around the 31st...Hallows something...

And, although it's late coming this month, there is the monthly giveaway to be posted soon.

I hope you are easing enjoyably into your Autumn too!

Oct 11, 2011

So Much Turkey - So Many Thanks

This past weekend, we Canadians got thankful.  We do like to get our Thanks out of the way early.  It's polite, and practical, in that we have two and a half months before the next huge meal.  Plenty of time to lose the 5lbs we just gained before it's time to take holiday pictures with the family in front of the Yule tree.

I only managed to snap two pictures during Thanksgiving dinner.  Mostly because I was too busy filling my face. 

Vegetarians - look away!

Don't say I didn't warn you.

This is only a portion of the carnage that two turkeys, one ham, numerous side dishes and 22 guests wrought this past weekend at my parents' home.

After the feast was suitably dished up, many of us migrated outside to get a bit of fresh air to aid our digestion.  We rarely have small holiday meals at my parents' house, and this Thanksgiving was no exception.  My friends' kids ran around in the yard and lounged by the fire.  People were telling old stories, laughing and pointing out the constellations.

Before the meal, my 98 year old grandfather said grace.  Although I don't pray to the same gods, the sentiment was exactly what I would have said.

"Thank you for food and family, blessings and protection.  We remember those who have gone before, and are grateful for those who have gathered with us."


Blessed Be.

Oct 2, 2011

Farmers Market Saturday - October Harvest

The first day of October came on grey and wet, but that didn't dampen our spirits.  My mom, my niece, a friend and her kids and I all piled into a couple vehicles and headed to the farm stands for canning tomatoes, squash and perhaps a few pumpkins...

We had far too much fun and piled the cars far too full with goodies.  I found a few squash I haven't tried before, and picked up some veggies to make some soup.  A white Lumina pumpkin and a few other Cinderella-type pumpkins ended up in my car too.  I don't know how that happened...

Hope your October has arrived with magic and abundance!