Yule, 2016

Dec. 26th, 2016 03:36 pm
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We had a very nice Yuletide this year.  The house was nicely decorated, and we had a delicious dinner of beef and potatoes.  We set the candles all about, and welcomed the light and the God back.  Mother Berchte arrived.  Maksim got a professional microphone for his on-line blogging.  Aran got a GPS for his car.

The days are getting longer. Yay!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I were supposed to go to Ypsilanti for more research on Sunday, but a big weather system moved in.  HUGE STORM! the weather service shouted.  MANY INCHES OF SNOW! ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD GO OUTSIDE IN THIS!

So we nixed the trip and decided to decorate the house instead.

We got started just as the storm began in earnest, so we had the perfect Michigan combination of snow, pine boughs, lights, and decorations. Darwin got all dressed up:



Maksim figured out where the lights plugged in.



Aran took more photos.  He was also our designated top-of-the-tree decorator.



I had bought a pine garland and intended to use it as a runner for the dining room table, but it was way too long.  Darwin had another suggestion, and it came out beautifully:



In the end, it all turned out just lovely.  With the snow coming down outside and the lights on inside on the tree, everything felt soft and cozy.  I even made a batch of cookies (and started two other batches of treats that have to refrigerate overnight).



Dinah gave her stamp of approval.



Not long after that, my phone rang.  Snow day tomorrow!



We're ready!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
After Halloween, we had Samhain.  We brought in all the stuff from the outdoor altar, including the big Goddess statues, and installed them beneath the indoor altar.  We lit candles all throughout the house, removed the God statues and put them away until Yule, then extinguished all the candles.

We also had a Samhain fall feast of fried potatoes with sausage, cooked apples, garlic pickles, goat cheese, and ciabatta bread.  Delicious!

The day after Samhain we always sleep in--we're up late--and then we winterize the house.  This means we bring in all the deck furniture, take down the hummingbird feeders, store the hose away, and so on.  We decided to leave the new porch furniture out, since we don't have any space in the garage for it and it's made for outdoors, but we did take up the porch rug and hose the dust off everything.

Now we're ready for winter.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last weekend was Beltaine, but we didn't do anything.  This was partly because Maksim was at his mother's and partly because the weather was just awful and partly because Aran is coming home this coming weekend for his birthday, so we decided to move Beltaine to this weekend.  We--and by "we" I mean "I"--are planning to see the CIVIL WAR movie and set up the outdoor altar and do the birthday cake thing.  It should be a nice weekend!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The schools should be closed all week this week, but Michigan's legislature added five days to the calendar, so schools were open on Monday and Tuesday.  Normally this wouldn't bug me overmuch except that I'm still sick.  I have no voice, I tire easily, and my function is sharply limited.  This means I arrive home from work exhausted.

Tuesday, today, was Yuletide.  Technically it started yesterday, but the solstice came at about 10:00 PM, so we celebrated it the day after.

Although I'm on the mend, I was still wiped after a day at work and my voice is virtually non-existent.  Normally I cook up a big dinner with a fancy dessert, and then we have the Yule ritual to welcome back the light, and Mother Berchte pounds on the door with her sack of presents, which we then open.  But the thought of doing all that this year was just too overwhelming.

Here's where I really wish I belonged to a nice big coven, where I could just say, "I'm sick.  Someone else will have to handle Yule this year," and it would happen.  But we're family tradition, and Aran is autistic and Maksim is still young, so if I don't make it happen, it doesn't happen.

Sorry for the complaining.  It's been a long week.

Anyway, I declared it would be Yuletide Light this year.  I made a simple dinner of fried potatoes and sausage (Ukrainian stir fry, we call it), with fruit bread for dessert.  Then we did a shortened version of the ritual, and we discovered that Berchte had left her sack of presents on the front porch.  We opened and enjoyed them.  Aran got a stylish new shirt and a DVD.  Maksim got--uh oh--an espresso machine.  Darwin got two personalized coffee mugs to replace ones that had broken weeks ago.  And I got a soft white sweater.

And then we were done.  Yuletide Light!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Samhain was low-key this year, mostly because we were still wiped out from the wedding.  Maksim declared this was his last year for trick-or-treat, and he put together a death costume, but then the rain started.  It began softly, then turned more insistent, and developed into a downpour.  Maksim returned, drenched as a pitiful kitten, with a tiny haul of candy.

Aran, meanwhile, dressed as a pirate to hand out candy and had great fun greeting kids with a hearty "Arrr!"  But once the rain got underway, the trick-or-treaters vanished.

The Samhain ritual followed. Darwin doesn't take part, and he retreated to another part of the house while we brought in the figures from the outdoor altar, then wrapped up the God statues and put them away until Yule and extinguised all the lights in the house.

The day after is always about cleaning up the outside for winter.  We bring in the deck furniture and put all the other outdoor stuff away.

Naturally, once the house was ready for winter, the temperature rose into the 70s for several days.  Last year, it was snowing, though, so we'll take it.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Five years ago, my house in Ypsilanti had a huge back yard, and I built an altar in it.  The altar was constructed from a pile of shale, bricks, and other flat rocks to create a rough half-moon shape.  A big chunk of shale made a roof.  Because the back and sides were made of stacked stone, there were lots of nooks and crannies for candles, incense, offering bowls, small statues, and other thingies.  My big Goddess statue sat in the center of it all.  It was a lovely altar.  But when we lost the house, the half-ton of stone was too much for us to move, so it had to stay behind.

The house I moved into was a townhouse with a postage-stamp courtyard back yard that I shared with the neighbors.  I couldn't do much of an outdoor altar.  In fact, when I created a tiny one, the lawn service hired by the landlord tended to knock my altar materials over and even break them.  The outdoor altar was mostly the Goddess statue, a few offering bowls, and my Green Man sundial tucked in among some bushes.  It did the job, but I missed my other altar.

Now I live in a house with a nice back yard.  We moved into it during the fall, however, and there was so much to do that there was no time for creating an altar until winter arrived, and it was too late.

This year I decided building an altar would be a perfect Beltaine activity.  The boys, for once, seemed interested, and we set to work.

Since I have a truck, hauling stone would be easy enough.  We went to a hardware store with a gardening center and did considerable searching.  I almost bought a couple boxes of stone you're meant to glue to the exterior of your house, but then I found some better stuff--bricks and flat stones that were better shaped for our purposes and much cheaper.

The boys and I loaded them up, along with three irregularly shaped terra-cotta flagstones to use as the base.  I also got two bags of red mulch.

While we were there, we also picked out a new grill.  The old one was simply dead.  Rusted through at the bottom, no real flame control.  Dead and dead.  The new one is way better and should last at least 15 years.  And we got a cover for it.

At home, we unloaded.  In the back yard we'd already found an rough oval created by the previous owner.  It was set off by a a boundary of buried bricks and was in the perfect location under the trees out back.  We cleared out the stray plants and built the altar.  The boys liked this.  It was like big puzzle.  Maksim accidentally dropped one of the big flagstones and it broke in two, but this turned out to work better--we used the two pieces to flank the remaining piece to form a much better base.  The third flagstone became the roof.

We also put flat square bricks down at each of the four directions and put an offering stone at the front of the altar.  Then we set out the sundial and brought out the Goddess statue.  We spread mulch around the two sides to make it look nice and to keep the weed growth down, then brought out votive candles to tuck into the corners and shelves.

It looked wonderful!

We were tired and grubby, so the dedication ritual was short and sweet.  We cleansed the area and blessed it and welcomed summer.

But it didn't quite end there.

Today Darwin and I were doing other yard things.  I realized that the altar was facing into the wind, and that the roof was too short--the Goddess statue would still get rained on when wind blew into the altar.  The statue is concrete and does get worn by water.  We needed a bigger roof to jut farther outward.

We went to a different hardware store and found a bigger flagstone.  Cool!  I also came across bags of pea gravel.  I liked the way it looked, and decided to get a bag to cover the bare earth between the two mulched areas.

Back home, I swapped out the roof piece.  The Goddess is better sheltered now.  Then I spread the stones around and in front of her. It really sharpened it up.  Awesome!  I spent considerable time just looking at it and admiring how it came out.

Here's a photo, though this is before the new roof and the stone were added.  A good Beltaine!

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
After Halloween ended, the Samhain prep began.  I made apple crisp and chocolate brownies, both with ice cream, and set up the altar for the first time in the new house.  We set candles everywhere and let them, then set wards and blessings all around the new house.  We brought the Goddess in from outside and set her under the altar, and performed readings to see what the upcoming year would be like.  We rang the four wind chimes that hang outside the house.  ("Never take down the wind chimes," I admonished, "or THEY can get in.")  Afterward, we extinguised all the candles, leaving the house dark but for a few glow sticks.  Because the finished basement is pitch black, we ended up playing scary hide and seek with costumes.  The new house is enormous, and lends itself to such scary moments, which was a lot of fun.

And now it's the new year!

Yule, 2013

Dec. 26th, 2013 06:55 pm
stevenpiziks: (Cup)
We held Yule at my house.  Darwin came and observed rather gingerly.  The entire Mother Berchta thing made him a little nervous.  (He's too tasty for his own good.)

The boys and I set candles all about the house, then turned out the lights.  We welcomed back the God and the sun, and relit all the candles.  In the middle of it exploded Mother Berchta, as she always does.  She zeroed in on Darwin right away for examination, but declared him too stringy to be edible.  Maksim turned a little mouthy, so Berchta sat on him on the couch while she handed out treats and presents until he begged for mercy.

And then it was opening presents.  I gave Darwin a custom-etched freestanding glass plate with his family crest on it.  He adored it.  It was a fine evening.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Samhain this year, we went over to Darwin's house. Darwin lives in a neighborhood that actually does Halloween, whereas my neighborhood works very hard to pretend it doesn't exist.  However, when you invite a group of Witches to your house for Samhain, you have committed to a serious event.  We packed up two laundry tubs of stuff, all the jack o' lanterns, the candy, and more, more, more.  The back of the van was crammed!

Darwin's son Shane was there, and he helped us unload.  We spent considerable time setting up and putting on costumes.  Originally Maksim was the only one who was going to trick-or-treat, and Shane was going to shepherd him around, since he knew the neighborhood, and Aran was going to go so he could dress up.  But all three of them ended up collecting candy. (!)  It was partly out of a desire for candy and partly because it was raining and there weren't a lot of kids out, so people were trying to empty their stashes.  The boys were all too willing to help.

Meanwhile, I set up the altar and the materials in Darwin's living room.  When the boys returned, candy-laden and dripping, we changed clothes and the ritual began.  Darwin observed.  The ritual went very well.  It included Tarot cards.  :)

And so another year draws to a close.  Any year that ends in Tarot and candy is a good one.

Yule 2012

Dec. 22nd, 2012 10:35 pm
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Yuletide 2012 passed pleasantly.  We had a big dinner of home-made chicken Kiev, a favorite of the boys.  And then it was time for the ritual in which we welcomed back the God and the light.  Mother Berchta arrived and announced that the presents were hidden in the magic chest in the living room (the cedar chest we use as a coffee table).  Maksim and Aran opened it up to see it filled with brightly wrapped packages and a rose on top to remind us that spring is always on its way.

Aran got a new dress shirt and a video game and the Three Stooges movie.  Maksim got a plastic, western-style shooting range toy (bought before the CT shooting, and I still don't know if I would get it for him again or not), a very soft blanket, and an Angry Birds shirt.  I got the way cool leather wristband (picture on Twitter) and a set of ear buds.

Then it was family time and much snacking and playing with toys, which is what Yuletide is for!

Yule, 2011

Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:27 am
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Maksim has been talking about Mother Berchte visiting at Yule for days and days, mostly about how he was going to attack her before she could eat him.  He liked to brandish a baseball bat when he said this.  Dearie, dearie me.

Yule began with dinner.  Kala is up from Arizona, and the boys asked if she could come over for Yule, and I said she could.  We started with dinner--home-made Chicken Kiev, a favorite among the boys.  And then we put candles all around the house to welcome back the light.  Mother Berchte usually pounds on the front door while this is going on, but this year she quietly appeared in the living room and tapped Mackie on the shoulder, which freaked him out.

"I decided to come down the chimney this year like that other guy," she growled.

"We don't have a chimney," Mackie said.

"You do now!"

There was already a store of gifts on the table.  They had appeared in the morning, much to the boys mystification and delight.

"Oh good--they arrived," Berchte grumped.  "I'm getting too old to carry all that stuff.  Don't know why I didn't think of FedEx before."

She distributed gifts and the winter rose ("Spring is coming! It's always on the way!"), then left.

The big hits among the gifts were the Navajo arrow for Maksim, the real scorpion sealed in plastic for Aran, the SONIC GENERATIONS game for Aran, and the new Wii to replacement the dying one.  And UNO cards.  We spent some time configuring the Wii system for our wifi, and then I took the old one up to my room to attach to the old TV.  (The disk reader is broken, but the rest of it works, so it'll stream movies from Netflix just fine.)  And then we played UNO and Aran got to play SONIC GENERATIONS after weeks and weeks and weeks of talking about it.  And there was apple crisp for dessert.

It was a good Yule.
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Joyous Yule! Mother Berchte arrived. Much food, many presents, the light returned, and the days are growing longer at last!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Over the weekend I baked a pumpkin spice cake.  From scratch.  With caramel cream cheese frosting.  Also from scratch.

Last night, Sasha took his brothers trick-or-treating, which gave me a couple hours by myself (!).  When they got back, we performed the annual Samhain ritual.  We lit candles about the house, then brought the Goddess statue inside, cleansed everything, and set up the indoor altar.  We also spent considerable time with the Tarot deck.  Then we extinguished the lights--the dark time of the year is upon us.

And then it was time for cake.  Wonderful, delicious cake!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
It's Beltaine!  The beginning of summer!  Though in Michigan it's more like the beginning of spring, but we'll take it.

I did the grocery shopping and bought some little toys--bubble soap, a paddle ball, a throwing ring (easier to use than a Frisbee), some rocket balloons--and one big one: a Monopoly set.  Sasha, you see, isn't very adept at counting money, and I figured this would be a good way to teach him.  Plus, every household needs a Monopoly set.

When I got home, I made quiche for lunch.  Aran had been agitating for it, so he was thrilled.  And there was watermelon and fresh-baked bread.  Afterward, we all put the Goddess and God statues outside, along with the offering bowls and some flowers.  Then  we trooped down to the meadow behind the housing complex to play.  The big hit was really the rocket balloons, which are long with an extended nozzle.  They came with a little air pump to blow them up, and when you let them go, they go really high and far.  The boys also seized on a number of phallic jokes with them, which fit right in with the nature of Beltaine.

Back home, I introduced the boys to Monopoly. We decided to play until one person went bankrupt and the winner would be the one with the most assets at that point.  It was Aran.  He ended up with all four railroads, and by sheer luck, everyone kept landing on them while he avoided landing on my and Sasha's properties. 

It was a good celebration.

Yule 2010

Dec. 26th, 2010 10:20 pm
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
We celebrated Yule a few days early this year.  Kala came over, and we lit candles all about the house.  Mother Berchte pounded on the door right on schedule and delivered presents.  Aran and Sasha are now finding the tradition charming.  Mackie thinks it still a little scary, but has begun to seriously think there's something suspicious in the way Dad always vanishes just before Berchte shows up.

Anyway, she distributed gifts and the single red rose to remind us that spring will eventually arrive, guaranteed, then left.  The gifts for the boys included small bags of candy and . . . and Xbox 360 with a Kinect.

Yeah, Berchte brings the good stuff.

Oddly, the boys didn't get too excited about it.  At first I was puzzled--and rather annoyed.  Then I realized that they didn't know what it was.  Even when I told them it was the same game they'd played at Uncle Paul's house at Thanksgiving, they didn't make the connection (Kinection?).   I finally hooked it up and =then= they got it.

An evening of play followed.

The Kinect is a great deal of fun.  However, one disadvantage is that it isn't very relaxing.  It forces you to jump and move and rush around, so you're not kicking back and chilling out.  If you're a little tired and just want to zone out with some video games, the Kinect isn't very useful.  But it's enormous fun otherwise.

I like that it gets the boys moving.  Mackie jumps and leaps and kicks all over the place with it, and he has plenty of energy to work off.

It was a nice Yule, but bittersweet because it's probably the last one Kala will ever celebrate with us.
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Happy birthday to Sam the Dog!
 
Sasha and Maksim decorated the front porch two weeks ago, but we didn't get pumpkins for carving, for whatever reason, until Halloween day itself.  Sasha didn't want to participate, and Kala doesn't like pumpkin carving--it's a goop thing--so Aran and Mackie and I did it ourselves.  We finished and set them on the porch.  It was chilly day, with a stiff breeze that finished knocking the leaves off the trees.
 
Then I baked an apple pie for the Samhain ritual later.  It came out perfectly.
 
After a supper of hamburgers, Mackie asked about 10,000 times when he could go trick or treat.  At last I told him he could.  He wanted Daddy to take him around.  He was dressed as a soldier, and Aran wore a leprechaun costume, complete with pointy ears and green hat.
 
There was much running about, as usual, and the two houses that do the haunted front yard every year continued their tradition.  Mackie freaked out at one of them--zombies in the yard!--and huddled against me whimpering until the monster pulled up his mask to reveal a perfectly ordinary human who said, "We have good candy."  This was the kid who begged to do the haunted house thing with me and Sasha!
 
One of the neighbors dropped a packet into Aran and Mackie's bags and said, "God bless you!"  Once we left her yard, I fished the packets out.  Cards to a local church, bible verses, and a ceramic coaster with a cross imprinted on it.  And a piece of candy.  I gave back the piece of candy and pocketed the rest for disposal later.
 
Eventually, the boys announced they'd had enough and we headed home.  There was still an enormous lot of candy left.  Kala said only a few visitors had come while we were gone.  The rest of the evening, we only got about eight or ten more, total.  More for us!
 
Sasha, who'd gone out on his own, came back with about twice the amount Aran and Mackie did.
 
A bit later, we had the Samhain ritual.  We lit the candles and ate pie and pomegranate seeds and headed outside to bring all the altar materials indoors.  We put the God statues away and extinguished the flames.  Darkness until Yule.  Then I went outside to say a final good-bye to my grandmother.

stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
On Sunday (Solstice), the power inexplicably went out.  The weather was clear and calm, no storms anywhere near us.  But everything flickered and died.  The power company's phone line said there was a 51 minute wait for a representative, which told me that the problem was wide-spread.  A bit of web surfing on my iPhone told me that power was out for most of Ypsilanti.

The sun started to set.  I gave Aran and Maksim a stick of incense each and took them out to the back altar for the sunset portion of the Litha ritual.  It was more explanation than ritual, but you have to start somewhere.

You get a wish on Litha, which the boys liked.

By ritual's end it was getting fully dark and Mackie was getting nervous.  The gathering darkness in the house was scary for him.  We had lit candles all around the house, of course (no breath of air stirred inside, and it was getting very warm), but it wasn't bright enough for his tastes.  Finally, Kala decided to go to bed and said Mackie could stay with her until he fell asleep.

Sasha, meanwhile, was going into serious withdrawal from the lack of electronics.

I realized that the next day was trash day, and the trash container was in the garage.  The electric door opener garage.  Dangit.  I went out and popped the door so I could open it manually, heaved it up, and at that moment the lights came on.

Well, at least they were on.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Kala is away for part of this weekend, so it's me and the boys.

This morning I woke up at dawn on my own, without an alarm clock.  It's Litha, the Summer Solstice.

I went out to the back yard and the altar.  The birds had just woken up and were singing at the tops of their tiny lungs.  I entered the altar area and lit candles on the stones at each of the four directions and lit a fifth brand new one for the Solstice itself as the sun came over the horizon.  I did a small ritual, blew out the candles, and walked back across the dewy grass to bed.
stevenpiziks: (Light)
A Wiccan student in Ohio succeeded in getting his school to follow a ruling  passed 17 years ago about prayer at graduation.
http://www.nbc4i.com/cmh/news/local/article/school_district_cancels_graduation_prayer/15707/

A really good follow-up here:

http://blog.au.org/2009/05/14/justice-in-chillicothe-school-officials-cancel-clergy-prayers-at-graduation/

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