Monday, May 6, 2013

The Rites of Spring

These past few weeks have been busy attending to what I can only describe as the 'rites of spring'. Spring is one of those times of the year that leaves me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I love the life returning to the world, the new shoots, the warmth... the green. But on the other hand, I know that all the green comes with a price for me; namely that the green stuff often makes it hard for me to breathe.

Last year was hard, I was a new person in a new land that seemed to hate me. I know that's an illogical thought, but there were times when my asthma and allergies were so bad that I thought this land would be the death of me. I really didn't want to be here.

But this year has been different, I still have the allergies and asthma, but I don't feel quite so strange in this land, and I think a chunk of it is the garden. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I can run again, or to the point where I was training for a 5k, but the simple acts of pottering in a garden, trying to grow food, and putting hands to dirt have been game changers for me. Our home at the moment isn't a forever home, but it's definitely a home as opposed to somewhere to lay our heads, and although it's still pretty strange and foreign to me at times, it's more of an adventure now to try and figure out what it all is.

This past couple of weeks have been one of working on a new god post, a birch post in honour of Frija. We found the wood for it in New Hampshire when we were visiting friends and in spite of having to largely improvise tools or work that bit harder to do certain tasks (like for example, using an axe and hammer instead of a chainsaw to trim it down), it's been very good experience. The biggest concern when doing any kind of carving for a holy object (at least for me), is that your work will not dishonour the deity you're attempting to honour. And it may seem kind of strange to be so detail-oriented for a post that is going to be veiled (I'm also embroidering her a veil because in our cultus, Frija is veiled and we are not to see her face), but again, it's about doing right by the deities you love, regardless of how many times you get 'bit' by your knives, gouges, and chisels. Once she's finished and ceremonially offered to/veiled, her face will not been seen again - except potentially at certain times of the year by members of the cultus. Along the line, I would also like to create a wain for her, but this is an ambitious project.

This time of the year seems perfect for this too, and there is something about this birthing a new statue at the same time as the world is coming back to life that seems particularly apt to me.

Last week/weekend, we celebrated Beltane, both at home and at a marvellous local Pagan festival which was as raucous and as fun as Beltane should be. For me though, the highlight of the weekend was our planting ritual that we had yesterday, and which I'm going to talk a little about because I don't think we do that enough - talk about the 'small' rituals of our lives. We all talk about the big rituals and the big blots we go to and participate in, but it's far rarer that we talk about the day to day honouring of our gods, ancestors and the local landwihts. And for me, that is the 'meat' of Heathenry. It's in the everyday, it's in how you see what you do when you're doing the most mundane of tasks, it's in how you try to make your lives/families/communities hael/more hael through your actions and it's the millions of small actions repeated over time that count far more than the occasional large acts. At least in my opinion, for the first is indicative of a lifestyle and worldview as opposed to a weekend activity choice.

For weeks, we've been preparing for our garden, getting the seeds, learning, and planning how we were going to do it. We'd had our tomatoes and herbs started indoors, and our potatoes planted before the last frost of the year. To say we were excited about the actual planting would be an understatement. But we really wanted to do something to honour the land, the Eorthan Modor, before we touched tool to earth to dig the plot, and so we decided on an adapted version of the Old English Aecerbot charm.

The actual charm is really quite complex, and has Christian overtones, but the idea of burying offerings in each corner of our growing land was one that felt very right to us and so our simplified version involved the blessing of eggs, apples and tobacco (eggs for new life/new starts, apples as an offering to our ancestors - common in our families, and tobacco for the spirits of this land), a blessing of our tools, and burying the offerings before digging the plot.

We began just before sunset, saying prayers of blessing over our offering items and the tools we would use to work the land with, and then processed to each corner where I had pre-dug a hole with a completely different spade than the ones we would continue to use. Adding the items to the hole, I then chanted a section of the 'Erce, Erce, Erce' refrain before we buried each carefully. Once this was complete, we grabbed our tools and began to dig and today we planted seeds.

A little blurry, but you get the idea!

We're hoping for potatoes, beans, carrots, squash, pumpkin, scallions, tomatoes and herbs. We're hoping to put good, hael food on our table instead of the crap that is sold at the store, what's more, we're hoping for yet another fulfilling tradition we can pass on to any children we have.


Happy Spring!