With the turning of the seasons toward Winter, we naturally start to turn inward a bit. Spending more time indoors as the daylight hours grow shorter & the air grows cooler. This space gently pushes us to reflect on everything the year has given us, all of the challenges we faced, the ways we have grown, and all we have created for ourselves. Just like how the plants begin to winter over, our energy drops down into our roots during this time of year and we are called to remember our ancestors and the cultural traditions woven within us. Whether you feel closely connected with your family lineage or far removed from it, this time of year can be potent for reconnecting with and honoring those pieces of yourself that our daily life may not allow the time for.
In the spirit of connecting with our ancestors and ancestral traditions, some of the team members at Alpine Botanicals felt inspired to share a few simple ways we have been bringing our own spirited traditions back home. We hope this article inspires you to explore your own cultural traditions and the many ways you can honor them in your daily life.
Creating A Seasonal Altar Space
Our home altar spaces, whether they be one single altar or multiple altars placed throughout your home, need seasonal refreshers just like other aspects of the home. One of the ways I am inspired to create and refresh these spaces is through following the yearly rhythms and specifically the "Festivals". In our family, that usually looks like a combination of Celtic & Norse Paganism and Christian festivals.
Right now in the fall, we have just celebrated the Autumnal equinox (around September 21st) and are gearing up for Samhain (October 31st). Samhain is the Gaelic festival that marks the official end of the harvest season and pays homage to our ancestors through a recognition of the cycle of death that enables new life to arise in future seasons.
For many of us during this time of year, it can feel difficult to let go of the green abundance of summer as we transition into fall. I like to celebrate this time by creating space on my altar for seeds I have collected throughout the summer, dried flowers & herbs, as well as photos of my beloved ancestors. I will usually make a special candle or incense I can burn when I am at home, and aim to burn the candle all the way down by the end of that festival time. Creating a seasonal altar space like this has been a beautiful practice that inspires contemplation around the cycles of the year, and sparks deep gratitude for my ancestors who enthusiastically celebrated each season and time of transition as a sacred part of life.
Mead has a rich tradition in nearly every area of the world, the most notable being its presence in Northern Europe. Early Nordic peoples deeply revered mead and it was most certainly their most sacred and prized drink. Being both a beekeeper and woman of Northern European descent I was naturally drawn to the process of making mead. The first batch I ever made, I utilized an age-old method of crushing the whole honeycomb into water, straining out the wax and other remnants, then putting the concentrated honey water through the fermentation process.
Ages ago, when my ancestors were first making mead, they didn't have the scientific understanding or literacy to know what was going on analytically, to them fermentation was simply magic. As a result, mead became a potent part of many myths, rituals, celebrations & more. I find mead to be a drink of celebration, community, magic, & joy. I have always thought of honeybees as nature's first alchemists and, to me, it's absolutely fascinating how much can be created and concocted using honey. It truly is such a magical substance.
Feasting Like Our Ancestors
There is something so nourishing about eating the food that your ancestors ate. I can remember one day, several years ago, that my body started to crave Lebanese food. As someone who grew up far removed from their ancestral traditions, especially in the kitchen since I was fed the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) throughout childhood, these cravings felt very poignant and something my body genuinely desired on a core level. My only memories of eating my ancestral foods were very faint from early childhood at my great grandmother’s house where she would spend hours in the kitchen rolling fresh dolmas and foods that felt exotic to me at the time.
When I decided to try my hand at making a couple of these dishes on my own, I felt a strong sense of nourishment not only in my belly, but also on a soul level. Even though my dolmas were falling apart and far from perfect, I felt a deeper sense of connection with this piece of my ancestry than I have ever felt in my entire life. And it was as simple as preparing a dish of food. Whenever I set out to make a recipe or meal connected with my ancestry, I imagine my elders with me, including those I never had the chance to meet or barely remember. I imagine them rolling dolmas with me, kneading bread, and roasting eggplants...and I let their spirit live on in the food as I prepare it with love and reverence for all those who prepared it before me.