Wednesday, September 14, 2011

the talking stick

As we approach Mabon, or autumn equinox, we always consult our favorite book for earth-centered celebrations called Celebrating the Great Mother. It is just a lovely book with guided meditations for children and crafts around the seasonal changes and pagan holidays. It has recipes for your feasts, and ideas for decorating your altar.

Mabon is next week, and we have begun preparing by creating our autumn table, which will be added to on the equinox. But for now, we have the staples.

We have recently moved our altar to an old Shaker table next to our fireplace. I'm not sure how long it will be there, but at least until we light our first fire on Mabon. We always have Lucy's candle, local wildflowers in a ceramic vase, salt, sage, a bowl of water, a meditation gong, the Buddha, a mizko jizo, a crystal and a piece of amethyst, incense and for autumn, we like to cut apples width-wise which creates a beautiful star right in the center of the apple. If anyone is interested, I can share the meaning of these items, but otherwise, I will assume you know what each piece is on there for. The other rather large thing in the middle is not a wand, but a talking stick.

 The talking stick is something we started last Mabon. It is an activity in the Celebrating the Great Mother book, and we loved it. We were using this beautiful carved driftwood that Ines sent us (see left) as our talking stick, but we kept an eye open for a new talking stick that we could create together as a family for our family. The idea of the talking stick is that it is a piece for the entire family to create. The talking stick is a way to hold a meeting, I believe, in some native cultures, but in a family, we use it as a way to introduce the idea of patience, good people skills, sharing and listening. We found our talking stick this summer. We think it was part of an old chair we were throwing out, but it ended up being perfectly cut in our walkway, and it looked like a talking stick. We wrapped the stick in leather strap. Beatrice sanded it and waxed it with beeswax. We are keeping our eyes open for a feather for the talking stick and maybe something with which to decorate it. In general, though, the talking stick can change, morph and grow according to your family. I know ours will be more decorated when Beezus gets more interested in it, as has happened with everything in our family.

As a family, we sit in circle most evenings after dinner. We light the candle and talk about our day, or read stories, or just wrestle. We drink tea. Thor bounces up and down demanding tea after dinner. (peppermint or chamomile tea harvested from our tea garden with a little sugar and lots of milk.) So does Beatrice for that matter. The talking stick is introduced on certain days, like Mabon, or a birthday. But some nights, like tonight, just when we are feeling gratitude. I thought I should write about it, because it has become a wonderful part of our family time.

Usually we smudge our space with some sage, and bless each person with the smoke. To bless each person, a parent takes the lit and blown our sage stick with a bowl under it to each person. Each person, big or little, takes the smoke from the sage and washes it over themselves. Sometimes I say to each person as they bring the smoke over themselves, "Sacred smoke, cleanse my spirit and make me ready to accept love." We say a prayer of love and gratitude that we are together, and then each person takes a turn holding the stick. When it is your turn holding the talking stick, you get to speak. Only you. No one is allowed to interrupt you, or comment. We all must listen and sit in circle. Thor usually sits on my lap. Because Beezus is so young, she usually talks about what she is thankful for, or what she is upset about (her brother stealing her polar bear Umi). Thomas kisses the talking stick, usually. But it is a great way to start the tradition of talking as a family and having time where everyone is listened to and heard.

If there is a problem, we use the ceremony to hear the issues, then afterward, we sit and talk about solutions. Hope this gave someone an idea for an evening ritual and way of connecting. This evening, I felt so much peace and love after our circle that I realized I had never really wrote about the talking stick and the way it has become part of our daily lives.

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