As another month begins, it’s time for a new Pixel Scrapper blog train. We’ve been doing something a little different for a few months now, only giving a palette and a couple of theme suggestions instead of a palette and theme, which means each designer needs to decide on their own theme, but all of the kits should coordinate with one another. Personally, I’ve been struggling with themes since we made the switch, but I’m starting to get better with them, I think.
It came up in one of the forum threads over at Pixel Scrapper that we don’t have many pagan elements there, though there are plenty of Christian ones, and even some Jewish and Muslim-themed items. I generally don’t talk too much about my beliefs, because I know that being a Druid in today’s society has generally gotten two reactions when I open up about it: either the person is truly curious and I spend the next two weeks answering questions whenever one pops into their head, or they get all offended that I don’t follow their god and stop talking to me instead of about me. Neither one is a pleasant experience; being shunned and gossiped about hurts, but with my chronic illness, answering the questions takes more energy than I have most days. But…this month’s color palette works pretty well for a traditional Celtic Samhain (pronounced sah-veen; the mh letter pair produces a v sound in Gaelic) palette, so this month’s blog train portion is fairly pagan in nature. I have tried to include a few more modern Halloween things without the religious overtones for those of you who don’t celebrate the turning of the Wheel like I do (and have for nearly 30 years). I’ve had a lot of fun creating this kit for you all, and I hope that, whatever your spiritual path, much of it will be useful to you as a fall kit.
Pagan? I’ve heard of it, but what IS that?
For those of you unfamiliar with pagan religious beliefs, the first thing to know is that there are hundreds of pagan religions, much like there are variants of Christianity, so no one thing is true about all of them. Most of them, however, believe that Deity can manifest as male and as female, a God and a Goddess. Pagan gods usually are neither purely good nor purely evil, but a mix of both, a reflection of humanity’s mixed qualities; consequently, we have no need for a “devil” to oppose a purely good god. The “devil”, if a particular pagan religion has one, is more akin to the potential for harmful and self-serving acts inside all of us. Often, pagan gods are seen as the Lord of the Forest, the mighty Hunter (sometimes with a headband of antlers as recognition of his skill), or have mastery over the sea, thunder, the wind, or, most commonly, the Sun. Goddesses are often associated with the Moon, emotions, water, new life, creativity, motherhood, healing, hope, and the mysterious. Love, war, death, and knowledge are represented by gods in some pantheons (groups of gods/goddesses worshipped by a specific culture, like the Norse or the Greeks or the Celts), while in others, they are considered the purview of female deities.
My personal beliefs are an odd mix to most people; I have a theory that there’s only one Deity, and all the names and aspects ascribed to gods and goddesses, around the world, throughout history, are simply a shorthand to describe an experience connecting with that Deity. It’s like saying “my mom” or “Sandi” instead of “that short lady over there with the short white hair and the glasses and the bubbling laughter”. So, someone has an experience with Deity, and they made up a name for it so that they weren’t having to use the long description over and over. Over time, the habit of using that name to refer to that experience of the Divine ends up spreading through their culture. I like this theory because it reconciles all of the holy books that say the god in that book is the one God, while still having all of the gods from all of the pantheons make sense.
It’s All About the Cycles
Most pagan religious practices tend to follow the cycles of nature, the seasons, and life. The old year, in Celtic paganism, ends at Samhain, which has contributed a large amount of its symbolism to Halloween (prior to the commercialization of trick-or-treating, anyway). On this night, the veil between the normal world and the spiritual is at its thinnest; the spirits of the dead can cross back over, and often do, to visit their loved ones. It’s a night for showing that we still remember them, so there’s a feast, and an empty plate (or sometimes an entire extra table) is dedicated for their place at our table and in our hearts and memories. This tradition seems to be most visible in modern times in the Latinx “Dia de los Muertos”, celebrated at this time of year. However, not all spirits which cross the veil are friendly in nature; this led to the practice of carving scary faces into vegetables (originally turnips, but now popularly winter squash like pumpkins) to keep them away from our homes, a form of protection charm for the loved ones inside. The thinner veil also makes this a time for divination; perhaps you find a charm in your piece of cake that says you’ll marry this year, or you see a vision of your future staring into the fire, or the wise woman sees your future in the dregs of your tea. Sometimes it comes true this year, but sometimes it doesn’t happen for years and you’ve forgotten all about the prediction. If nothing else, it’s a fun way to while away the hours speculating on what might be. This is also the night that the Sun God dies in Celtic belief, marking the turn into the winter season and the dark half of the year; however, all is not lost, as the Goddess is heavily pregnant with his child, who will be born at the winter solstice, bringing back light and hope to the world. There’s SO much symbolism in the myths and legends that it normally takes a year of study before most traditions of Wicca will consider a student to have gained enough knowledge to be initiated and join in the rituals.
The theme of cycles is central in most pagan beliefs. There’s the cycle of birth, growth, maturity, old age, death, and possibly a rest period before the rebirth of one’s spirit in a new body–the circle of life. There’s the cycle of the seasons, the new light at the winter solstice leading through the reawakening of the earth during the spring with all its attendant fertility references, the God finding a wife at Beltane (the final spring fertility festival, with its Maypole and flower crown), the golden days of summer as their love ripens and blesses the growth of the crops, which give way to the three harvest festivals (starting with the early wheat and corn in August, moving through the bounty of Mabon at the equinox, and on to the last of the late squash and grains before the killing frost of late October/early November) and the end of the year. The cycles of the moon are marked, as well, with the period just after the new moon being an auspicious time to start a new project that you’d like to see grow, or trying to stop smoking just after the full moon when the Goddess’ strength and movement are aligned with your desire to rid yourself of that habit and can aid your endeavor.
I needed to remember those cycles in the last couple of weeks, too–I ended up fighting a flareup of my chronic illness, and though it was a relatively moderate one, I was cussing it for a while because it really SUCKS to be so exhausted you can’t stay awake. In a series of sequential calendar days, I ended up sleeping 16 hours, 15 hours, 14 hours, 18 hours, 19 hours, 10.75 hours, and 15 hours before the prednisone finally brought me back to only needing 8.5 hours of sleep. (Yes, that’s a week straight of averaging over 15 hours of sleep a day.) Add the body aches, dizziness, nausea, temp regulation issues and brain fog of a bad flu to that, plus a migraine-like headache that makes me hypersensitive to light and noise but won’t respond to migraine medicine, and you’ve got some idea of what my flareups are like. Not fun at all! But I have to remember that flareups like that are inevitable, even when I do everything “right”–taking my medications on time, avoiding known triggers, avoiding stress, eating healthy, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, getting exercise. And then the cycle of breaking the flare, tapering off the prednisone, and rebuilding what strength and endurance I lost from inactivity during the flareup starts anew, hopefully getting back to where I was or stronger than before that flareup, before something triggers another one. It’s all cycles, everywhere in life, and remembering that is one of the things which helps me endure the repeated flareups and stresses of life; all things will pass, eventually, so I need to treasure the good times and cope with the not-so-pleasant ones.
More About This Month’s Kit
Due to the flareup, I had to use a lot more templates from my stash than I usually do, so this kit is being released under a PERSONAL USE license. I did manage to paint a few originals, though, and recolored some items I’d created for previous kits, so it’s not all based on my CU template stash. I’ve included a few generic pagan elements that aren’t specifically Samhain-related; a pentacle, wand, broom, chalice, cauldron, athame, and candles are used in rituals throughout the year, though the altar may be decorated differently according to the season and the ritual. The sickle and Grandfather Oak are more Druid-specific, which makes this kit more useful for my personal path. The frame with the various tick marks along the side is written in Ogham, the ancient Celtic tree alphabet, and has the Gaelic word for “love” written there. For more Samhain-seasonal elements, I’ve included a scrying ball, raven, dried apple slice, rosemary sprig, jelly (“Indian”) corn, pumpkins, and a sheaf of grain. I think, though, the only things that non-pagan scrappers probably won’t find a use for out of this kit are the chalice, Book of Shadows, and pentacle.
The papers are mostly non-specific; autumn leaves and a harvest moon and some solids work well for the fall season, while the Celtic symbol for Samhain is done up in the traditional red and black Samhain colors, and I’ve included triskele and pentacle papers in basic black and white for versatility.
For the journal cards, there’s one specific one I really want to talk about–the one labeled Henge Vow is an important tradition to me. There are two great henges of the year, at Beltane and at Samhain, marking the starts of the light and dark halves of the year, respectively. It’s been my habit for the last 20 years to make a vow at each henge to work on something over the course of the next 6 months; I write it down and post it in a conspicuous place near my desk to keep reminding myself that it’s a priority. It’s kind of the pagan version of a New Year’s resolution, but I’ve succeeded at keeping a lot more of my henge vows over the years than my New Year’s resolutions! Sometimes it’s a spiritual goal, sometimes it’s health-related, sometimes it’s a behavior I want to encourage in myself, and sometimes it’s a career goal, but it’s a priority for the next 6 months. I generally stick to one, rather than splitting my focus; if I do make a second henge vow, it’s in a different area of my life entirely (i.e., one spiritual and one career goal, rather than two spiritual).
There’s a fun new trend in display fonts that uses themed shapes cut out of big thick letters which I’ve used on a few journal cards. I’m pretty happy with how well they’ve turned out, and think they’re going to become some of my favorites for my personal scrapbooking. (Hopefully I’ll manage to create an alpha like that in time for Yuletide.) Some of the journal cards I’ve included are designed to be added to a Book of Shadows (a book most pagans keep to record the lore and wisdoms they’ve learned over the years); one of them has a poem about the elements through the seasons that I wrote back in 2007 as part of an initiation into a new circle. I’d be honored if you choose to add it to your lore. There are a couple of recipe cards with a potion/remedy theme that should be perfect for seasonal drinks and snacks (while working well for recipes for tinctures, tonics, salves, and herbal/oil blends for the pagans out there, too!). Cards with traditional familiars are designed so they can be filler cards as-is, or hold a title or some journaling; they’re made to work well with both playful modern Halloween layouts and still fit in a more serious Book of Shadows. A few of the title cards have some of my favorite chants on them, in addition to the one with the longer poem.
Whew! I’ve kind of talked your ear off today, but I hope it’s given you a little more insight into my life and gotten you excited to play around with this kit.
More of this Blog Train
Be sure to visit the main thread for this month’s blog train over at Pixel Scrapper to find all the other designers’ contributions! With the new format, they won’t all match in theme, but they should all be color-coordinated since we use the same palette; Di Hiller’s pumpkins and Phyllis Storm’s air-guitaring witch are elements that stick in my memory from their working previews, and Anne McClellan’s “Retirement” and Sonia Roman’s you’re-beautiful-at-any-size take on the suggested “Blue Jeans and Sneakers” theme step outside the traditional scrapbooking kit themes to fill other notable coverage gaps.