Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Tale of Two Halloweens

We've had a fabulous few days with two very different Halloween celebrations. On Monday evening we had our "modern" spooky party which seemed to go very well, whilst today we've had a really interesting pagan celebration.

On Sunday, Emily and I decorated the big dining room with all kinds of spooky stuff and we carved a few pumpkins.
We were up at the crack of dawn on Monday getting things ready for the party. Emily made the tombstones, prepared the party "bags" (pumpkin buckets) and baked some scrummy vegan blood spattered fairy cakes with black and red icing, and she helped me prepare the bingo cards etc. Emily also had an absolute ball getting dressed up and we died her hair black and orange(it looks grey in the picture but it was jet black) and piled on the black lipstick and eyeliner. I have to say, black hair really suits her!
Everyone seemed to enjoy the party, which Emily said was "perfect", much to my relief! It was hard work both before and during but I had lots of help from Jon and from our friend Trish who capably supervised the little devils....um...guests...during tea preparation and loo visits and wholeheartedly joined in all the games ;-)

We played musical tombstones, Halloween Bingo, pin the nose on the pumpkin, guess the yukky stuff in the bag (eg cold spaghetti, cooked rice, jelly, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, breadsticks etc - was it monster's guts, maggots, swamp slime, witch's fingers....?), making Halloween pictures and Halloween charades. Of course, we had to play everything in near darkness for effect with just candelight or sometimes sitting around a lantern on the floor. The "winner" of each game got to pick an orange balloon from the bubbling cauldron and burst it to find a clue inside, each clue being just one word that would make up the first sentence of the treasure hunt to come. For "tea" we had zombie blood soup with witch's fingers, followed by the bloody cakes and "witch's blood dip" which was vegan dark chocolate melted in our fondue set with various fruit bits to dip into it.
After party tea we turned out every light in the house and sent the kids off on a treasure hunt. Armed with a lantern and a torch and the first clue, they had to find each item in turn (a spider, a witch, a black cat and a pumpkin) each of which gave them another clue to go on with, and so on. The final clue told them where to look for the pumpkin treat buckets. Got a bit chaotic in the end....seven excited children in a pitch black house possibly not the best of ideas....but hey, it was an experience! Oooh, yes, and during which Jon took this rather spooky orb filled photo...

Today has been very different - having done the whole modern, spooky, scary (but admittedly very fun) Halloween, today we got back to its roots and spent a lot of time looking at the pagan spiritual traditions behind Samhain. We read the Baba Yaga story and talked a lot about what Samhain represents in terms of New Year, how pagans view death, endings vs new beginnings and so on. Also a *lot* of discussion about how and why the Christian western world has demonised paganism, wicca and Halloween and how the welcoming lights for spirits became threatening jack-o-lanterns, how the offerings of food for ancestors became an excuse for kids to be naughty and unkind when trick or treating etc. Emily left food offerings for her and our ancestors and lit pumpkins and candles to welcome the spirits of the beloved dead. She also sewed a beautiful dream pillow by hand and filled it with a heady mixture of chamomile flowers, hops, hyssop, valerian root and lavender, having looked up the properties of each herb.
During the making of the dream pillow, both Juliet and Romeo made their feelings known about the herbs, especially the valerian, lol.
When the pillows were finished I gave mine to Merlin who went into absolute raptures, purring and rolling and drooling all over it, bless him. I've just realised, looking at this photo, he looks really ill, but he is actually doing a bit better recently.


After lunch today, we investigated the concept of totem animals. Emily immediately selected the cat as the animal she most identified with. Knew she would ;-) We did investigate lots of others though, and Emily also did a guided meditation to meet her totem animal....which was indeed a cat. On close inspection, though, she does share an awful lot of cat qualities such as independence, curiosity, playfulness, grace, dignity and a fascination with magic and mystery. She also shared some qualities with rabbit, such as shyness and some nervousness and fearfulness, and quite a lot with spider!! (creativity, imagination, resourcefulness) but we all felt that cat suited her most overall. We talked a lot about how a guardian animal can guide you through life being not only the qualities you already have but also helping you to identify qualities you need to work on. For instance, Emily needs to work on "fighting when cornered" in the way that a cat would, eg being more assertive and not letting herself be walked all over. Incidentally, we considered what guardian animals Jon and I might have too, and came up with moose or squirrel for me and owl or rabbit for Jon.

Emily also spent time this afternoon making her own runestones from some of her gems. She already has an amethtyst runes set we gave her some time ago, but the explanations and interpretations given are very "out there". Found some lovely child friendly explanations in the Celebrating Mother Earth book so Emily chose her favourite gemstones and wrote a symbol on each with a silver pen and then we practised some readings with them.
Identified that Emily is concerned about her friendships, but that new friends and new found confidence are on the way :-)

Interestingly, Emily also asked the question of the runes "Will I ever have to go back to school?" and got for an answer the "you" rune which indicated needing to get to know yourself better. We collectively thought this might mean a change in Emily's understanding as she grows up and that perhaps she might *choose* to return to school at some stage (she won't ever be *made* to). She found this fairly unbelievable just now, but I think she's becoming aware that most of her friends actually enjoy school. She knows she hated it when she was 5, but she's also become mature enough to acknowledge, in her more sensible moments, that she has no idea what school aged 8 or older would be like, so she's not in any position to say whether she'd enjoy it or not. We didn't choose to home educate with a "school is inherently crap" attitude; we chose to do it because it suited Emily, and us, at that time, more than school did. And it still does, and I personally don't see that changing. But we don't live in a school-is-crap culture here in this family and we're not interested in indoctrinating Emily down that route either. There are some things (like ready access to friends) that school can provide and we can't....just as there are some things that we can provide that school can't. We certainly have no immiment plans for Emily to return to school, but the choice will be entirely hers in a few year's time as she approaches secondary age......and who knows?

Anyway; it's been a very thought-provoking and enjoyable Halloween, both modern and traditional. And now it's only nine weeks until Emily's 8th birthday. I love this half of year - beautifullly wild autumn/winter weather, Halloween and Bonfire night, the run up to Yule and Christmas, then birthday, usually with at least a few magical days of snow thrown in and then Jon's and my anniversary as February begins. Summer? Bah! Give me autumn and winter any time!

1 comment:

Elle at Ellesfuntimes said...

What a great time you all seem to have. You worked hard providing a lovely party for Emily and her friends, glad it went so well.

I remember once planting catnip in the garden for the cats to enjoy. It lasted about a couple of hours - they loved it so much they ate it all! Lovely photos. Merlin doesn't look too bad to me. Our Jasper looks pretty thin but we've been giving him Johnson's Conditioning Tablets which seem to have improved his coat. Elle