Wordless Wednesday: Brushstrokes and Fire

December 18, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Brushstrokes and Fire, by rayoung


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Saegoah Celebrations: Nox (Winter Solstice)

December 16, 2013 by Categorized: Earthly Rites.

Nox Festivus! Festive Night!

Nox is a Saegoah celebration of the longest night of Year. So how do you celebrate Nox?

Truthfully it is really up to you in your search for Ehoah (complete harmony within Nature). But here are some things I’ve been doing that can give you some ideas for yourself.

#1 The Nox ‘Tree’
For Nox Eve you select a large prominent plant nearby to decorate with foodstuffs for our non-human neighbours. These can range from strings of cranberries and raisins to seed covered lard  plastered on cone ornaments.

When I found out deer eat for the birds too

This Nox Tree is an Oak

#2 Nocturnal Neighbours
This is a time we could spend getting to better know our winter nocturnal neighbours, with stories or simple games that express their lifestyle, and especially seeing them in person if you can. Ideally your community can arrange for a presentation by handlers to teach you more about them.

#3 Starry Night
This being a time when we are most aware of the night, and its night sky, makes it a time to contemplate how stars are the source of the atoms of the universe, that make up the chemicals on earth, that themselves make up the biology of life including our lives. That our origins come from those stars that came before the ones we see in the night sky gives much reason to celebrate this time of the night sky. So we decorate with stars and don costumes and make up that are themed on the universe, galaxy, night sky, and stars to remember and celebrate that we are star stuff.

Believe it or not they are from a cow caribou

Paper Star between Caribou Antlers

#4 Jingle All The Way
Put jingle bells on your winter coat, ankles, wrists, hat and doors so that we can hear where you when we can’t see you – its dark!

#5 Lights And Mirrors
As mentioned earlier – its dark! So lets bring in a little light by making and decorating with lanterns and mirrors. Mirrors often taking the shape of stars and even seasonal constellations. With the lanterns you can have a friendly competition for the best lantern made. This can also take the form of ice lanterns for the colder regions. There is also the potential of a Best Made Candle competition too. It is encouraged to prevent light pollution by having all outdoor lights be red to preserve the night sky view. You can have a shadow stage set up too where you do silhouette, hand shadow or shadow puppet theatre. Along with that you can play games that revolve around playing with light such as light tag.

Its a mirror with candles

#6 Nox Vigil
Once the horizon crosses the sun’s disc turning toward night, the nox lanterns, candles, and lamps are lit. Once everyone is lit up we walk toward where the gathering place for festivities would be and on our way we sing seasonal songs, mostly focusing on the solstice and this longest of nights.

#7 Fire
At the end of the vigil, if we can, we like to light the Noxfire with a flaming arrow and release sky lanterns to begin the more informal fun part of the night. For the Nox Fire colourants can be thrown on to have an aurora effect.

Crushed in Powder form the following can be used as flame colorants

RED: Celestine
ORANGE: Gypsum, snail shells and eggshells
YELLOW: Baking Soda & Salts (Salts make a bright yellow to orange colour)
BLUE: Copper makes an Aurora looking blue-green
(can produce a variety of colours, each at a different temperature. Copper oxides make an excellent blue)

There can be people who do fire dancing, juggling, and breathing. There can also be flaming arrow competitions and a fire labyrinth.

Like moths to the... well flame

#8 Metallic Music + Ice Tunes if you can
The only reason for the emphasis for metallic is that most other instruments are sensitive to the cold. These are most popularly in the form of bells, but are increasingly including pan/hang drums and xylophones. If you are where you can get some solid ice you can shape your own ice instruments – most commonly as xylophone type instruments.

#9 Fire Gift Giving
At the end of the night each participant brings an unwrapped gift and places it around the Noxfire. You can bring more than one gift. After all participants have done this, each individual can go around a few times to see what is there. After the look around everyone sits around the fire and from youngest to oldest or vice versa, or just in order of where everyone is sitting (counter-clockwise in northern hemisphere, clockwise in southern hemisphere in accordance to the rotation of the earth), each person goes around and picks up one of the items. If there are more items left after everyone has went around once, it can go around again. You can choose to pass your turn to the next person when your turn comes up again. This can go around a few times before all items are picked up or once everyone has had a couple of turns have an “all in” when turns are no longer done and everyone can pick up the item they want without waiting.

#10 Morning Greeting
When dawn is near everyone stands looking to the east horizon. Hand clapping, jingling, stomping and ringing begins at a slow pace, speeding up until cheers break out as the horizon crosses the sun’s disk and songs are sung of the end of the longest night and returning light.

For more detailed information on Nox go here

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A daily heron

December 13, 2013 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Natural Reflections, The Sacred in Suburbia.

I thought I’d celebrate my return to No Unsacred Place by musing upon the question of “why nature religion anyway?”  I will say first that I don’t consider humanity and all our works to be essentially separate from nature; quite the opposite. I do think we ignore the non-human world at our peril and to our impoverishment.  It’s a kind of narcissism to attend only to the doings of our own species, fascinating as they are. Looking outside of ourselves calls us to a deeper understanding of existence, on all levels, one that easily outstrips our capacity to comprehend in an ordinary sense. “Nature mysticism” might be a better phrase for what I mean. But to reach that kind of understanding, first you start with where you are.

 “I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular–shall I suck warm blood,  hold my tail high, walk with my footprints precisely over the prints of my hands?–but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical sense and the dignity of living without bias or motive.”                                  – “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard

It is no secret to anyone who has been paying attention that I love me some Annie Dillard, most particularly her essay “Living Like Weasels,” which I am prone to give as assigned reading to my university students and my witchcraft students alike. It is that kind of work. I love her lithe and ferocious prose, her oblique but unmistakeable allusions to Thoreau, her juxtapositions. I love Thoreau too, though he is a little pompous. His curmudgeon saves him in my eyes; he says cranky and outrageous things about newspapers and post offices and the stupidity of people and makes me laugh. How he would loathe the Internet, while finding a way to make use of it; Thoreau, who lived a short stroll from town in Concord and made it sound like the edge of the wild. This in the mid 1800s when people knew from wilderness and frontiers.

I bring all this up because I am now living next to a pond, or a lake if you believe what it says about itself. It is the eponymous body of water belonging to Pine Lake, Georgia. Pine Lake is a tiny hamlet, once a resort where people would go in order to escape the hustle and bustle of Atlanta by building funky little cottages and fishing. Atlanta was the city then and Pine Lake was the country. That was in the 1930s. Now we are just past I-285, Outside the Perimeter in Atlanta’s parlance. Inside the Perimeter is city-cool; beyond that, in the outer darkness, the suburbs.

“This is, mind you, suburbia. It is a five-minute walk in three directions to rows of houses, though none is visible here. There’s a 55-mph highway at one end of the pond, and a nesting pair of wood ducks at the other.  Under every bush is a muskrat hole or a beer can. “   – “Living Like Weasels”

Pine Lake isn’t quite like that; the houses gather near the lake like hunters warming their hands around a bonfire in winter, and while the Interstate is within shouting distance it is neither visible nor audible. Pine Lake wasn’t planned as suburban and is no development with cookie-cutter houses; rather it is resolutely individual, not to say quirky. There is also more than one pair of ducks. At either end of the lake is constructed wetlands, built with Federal grant money to help improve the water quality of Snapfinger Creek, and both the wetlands and the lake are full of life.

There are no weasels, that I am aware of. There are fish (mostly bream), turtles, and assorted frogs.  There is a sinister troupe of Canada geese, the presence of which is a source of some consternation, many jokes, and quite a bit of goose poop. There is a possible fox, and definite beavers. There is a great blue heron.

The heron! It sometimes sits out on a half-submerged log, looking for dinner. It favors the marsh at the west end of town, where the creek flows away from the lake and passes out of the city limits. Once it sat on a tree limb outside our dining room window, preening.

I haven’t lived here very long, but I know the heron’s habits. At any time of day, more or less, I could catch a glimpse of it if I wanted to; all it requires is the time and willingness to walk along the trails to its favorite haunts, patience, and an observant eye. Some days, I don’t have the time to go heron-stalking; other days, I can see it from my window, and go walking just for exercise. Still others, I decide I want to see what’s going on at the other end of the lake where the mallards like to hang out, and don’t think about the heron at all unless it shows up unexpectedly. Whenever I see it, though, it draws my attention: regal, nearly silent, graceful, predatory, and singular.

The heron must be used to people, and yet it never lets you get too close. Draw parallel to it with the width of one of the marsh’s holding ponds between you, and it will duck its head, eyeing you with suspicion, then fly. I cannot approach the heron, certainly could never touch it; I can only look for it, entranced.

This is how I understand the divine, and why I continue to seek it in the resolutely non-human world, with which we nonetheless recognize a numinous kinship. Sometimes, it will turn and lock eyes with you, lifting you out of yourself, changing everything. Other times, it will give you the side-eye and swoop away, leaving you longing for retreating beauty. You might not see it every single time you go looking, or where you expect to find it. No matter how common the experience, every time you stumble across mystery, or independent wild being, it is a surprise and a miracle. And every day, you can look.

 

Snapfinger Creek

Snapfinger Creek

Festivities of Natural Annual Events: Solstice, The Longest Day & Night of The Year

December 12, 2013 by Categorized: Earthly Rites.

F.N.A.E. articles are written with Ehoah phrases

Ehoah Phrases

What is Seasonally Occurring
The longest night and day on earth occurs at the same time twice a year (approximately every 183 days). Currently Australis is at its furthest tilt toward the sun making the sun’s rays hit the south pole directly and thus will be experiencing its longest day, leaving Borealis to experience its longest night. The reverse will occur half a year later.

The Sun is Shinning Down Under

In Australis the days are at their longest with the daily turning view of the sun at its highest along the north horizon, reaching its most southern point in the year. Noon on the longest day, along the Australis Sol Axis, no shadows are cast as the view of the sun is directly over head. It is summer. For most of Australis the wet season is in full swing with the tropical rain belt right over head. Australia itself will be getting most of its continental rain in the next couple months.

The equator will be seeing the daily turning view of the sun at its furthest southern point. This is when the Tropical Rain Belt is over the equator and reaching the Australis Sol Axis.

Western Europe Vetoes Winter

In Borealis the days are at their shortest, seeing the earth’s daily turning view of the sun at its lowest point over the southern horizon. At its most northern regions it is snow covered, cold and icy. In its warmer regions it is a dormant season and in its warmest regions spring is very near.

Seasonal Customs
Australis is celebrating summer and the rains it brings.

Australis activities around Lux include: Gathering ripening fruit and other foods in season.

Borealis is celebrating the ending of the long nights going into longer days.

Borealis activities around Nox include: Bonfires, visiting friends and family, gift giving, symbolic battle between winter and summer, fire dancing, sacrifice of symbolic individual from livestock, fireworks, decorating with lights, making custom seasonal lanterns, wearing seasonal costumes be it bright, bold, jingly, or starry,  light parades, snow & ice sculpting, ice skating, sledding, snowball fights, skiing, feasts, sweet treats, and kite flying.

 

BOREALIS

CELEBRATION

GENERAL DATE

SPECIFIC DATE

CALENDAR

REGION OF ORIGIN

CULTURE

Soyal

Late December

December 21st

unknown

Turtle Island (North America)

Zuni & Hopi

Nox

Late December

Pecora – Alces 1, December 21st

Ehoah Year Wheel – Gavia, Borealis Kalendar

Earth

Saegoah

Yule

Late December

December 21st

Gregorian calendar

Wheel of the Year

Western Europe

Germanic

Montol Festival

December

Between December 16th and 22nd

Gregorian calendar

North Western Europe

Cornish

Meán Geimhridh/Midwinter/Alban Arthan

Late December

December 21st

Gregorian calendar

North Western Europe

Celtic

Lohri , Makar Sankranti

Early January

January 14th

Bikrami calendar

Southern Asia

Punjabi, Hindu

Beiwe

Late December

December 21st

unknown

Northern Europe

Sami

Dongzhi Festival, 冬至, 동지, とうじ, Đông chí

Late December

December 21st

East Asian lunisolar calendars

East Asia

East Asian

Goru

Late December

unknown

unknown

North West Africa

Dogon

Junkanoo

Late December, Early January

December 26th. Or January 1st

Gregorian calendar

West Africa

West African

Yalda

Late December

December 21st

Zoroastrian calendar

Western Asia

Persian

Şeva Zistanê

Late December

December 22nd

Zoroastrian calendar

Western Asia

Kurdish

Ziemassvētki

Late December

December 22nd

unknown

North Eastern Europe

Latvia, Baltic states, Romuva

AUSTRALIS

CELEBRATION

GENERAL DATE

SPECIFIC DATE

CALENDAR

REGION OF ORIGIN

CULTURE

Midsummer (Litha)

Late December

December 21st

Gregorian calendar

Wheel of the Year

North Western Europe

Celtic

Te Maruaroa O Te Raumati

Late December

December 21st

unknown

Oceania

New Zealand / Maori

Lux

Late December

Pecora – Giraffa 1, December 21

Ehoah Year Wheel – Sphenisci, Australis Kalendar

Earth

Saegoah

Any information on seasonal activities for Australis would be greatly welcomed to balance the representation of the hemispheres.

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Wordless Wednesday: Let Them Talk

December 11, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Let Them Talk, by Laura Tuininga


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Wordless Wednesday: Wolf Pendant

December 4, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Wolf Pendant, by Christina Hutch


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Wordless Wednesday: Leaf

November 27, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Leaf, by Greg Harder


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United Watersheds of America?

November 25, 2013 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Nature in the News, Science & Spirit.

Last week, Reid Wilson published an article with the Washington Post outlining what the continental United States might look like if state lines had been drawn along watersheds instead of the various boundaries they have today. John Wesley Powell, a geologist and civil war veteran, proposed this very idea; unfortunately, he was outgunned by Cyrus Thomas and the railroad lobby, who stood to benefit greatly from the more artificial ways in which state boundaries are drawn today.

John Lavey and Cameron Davis of the Sonoran Institute. Click for larger version.

Click for larger version.

Enter John Lavey and Cameron Davis of the Sonoran Institute. Together they created a map that shows what the country might look like had Powell had his way, and posted it online this past September. Most current states would have very different boundaries; some major cities would be in different states. To be sure, it would be a change that would be incredibly costly and inconvenient for a while.

Even if this never comes to fruition, though, it’s worthwhile to think about the land not in the way of artificial lines and roads, but as delineated by its own contours and inhabitants of all sorts. It’s a reminder that we ourselves are far from the only force shaping and changing the earth, and that the winds, waters, and stones were here long before even our ancestors existed. Thinking of ourselves in bioregional terms–”bioregions” are often defined by watersheds–places us more firmly in the context of the rest of nature.

So, U.S. readers, what you do you think of your potential new state?

Wordless Wednesday: Calendula

November 20, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Calendula, by Lupa


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Wordless Wednesday: Earth Fox

November 13, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Earth Fox, by Emma-Jayne Saanen


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