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Fatherhood is a sacred journey

Last night, my husband and I drove through heavy winds and torrential rain from Glasgow back home to our cosy cottage in rural Cumbria. We’d just left our younger daughter, Eliza, behind to begin her new life as a university student. Messages came through on my phone from friends asking me if I was ok. I guess they figured I’d be a blubbering mess: after all, I now live in a home with no children, and after 21 years of parenting, it’s a new land. Sure, the terrain is going to be different, but the traveller is well equipped for the journey.

 

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My overriding feeling, though, as we drove, was one of immense gratitude. That amazing man beside me, driving us safely through wind and rain, has been by my side every step of the parenting way. Not once did he ever say he was too tired to change a nappy, or rock a teething baby (even when he was up at 4am to work as a breakfast announcer on radio). On days when I flailed around hopelessly (and there were many), he was there, steady as a rock, providing practical support and humour by the bucket load.

 

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It might seem odd, given that I founded, edited and published a magazine solely dedicated to the holistic path of mothering for more than a decade, that I would today—the first day of living in a poorly named empty nest—be writing about the sacred journey of fatherhood. The truth is, though, that my path through mothering was made possible, and enhanced, by his constant high-level of awareness to my needs and those of our children.

 

 

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

My husband Paul catching our baby and passing her to me straight after birth.

 

Whatever decisions were made regarding our children, and there were many that flew in the face of popular culture, he was intimately part of and proactive in those choices. Not once, not in more than two decades of our parenting partnership, did I ever feel I was in the job alone.

 

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Parenting with another person is the ultimate business partnership. I used to joke with my daughters: don’t have sex with anyone you’re not prepared to have children with! But it’s not a joke, not really. The older (and hopefully, wiser) I get, the more conscious I become of the enormous responsibility and privilege it is to be a parent, and bring a new being Earthside. Surely the person we choose to share this parenting journey with should be up to the job? But, like mothering, there is no manual for being a fabulous father.

 

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To father consciously and from the heart means knowing one’s self, and constantly choosing ways of being and living that allow you to become the highest version of who you are. Sometimes this happens in the presence of children, and sometimes it doesn’t.

 

 

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I saw a post on Facebook this morning, which although was clearly meant in good humour, upset me quite a lot. Why? Because it was pretty much about how awful being married is, but you know, we stick at it anyway because that’s love. It went on and on about the fighting and screaming and inconsideration and suchlike that happens in parenting. I read it twice, and thought: that doesn’t happen in my home or marriage.

Did I just get lucky? Yeah, maybe. But actually, each of us is responsible for how we show up in relationship. It’s far too easy to blame our partner because they did or didn’t do something. If we truly love our partner, then we live in a way that respects them as well as ourselves. We only want the BEST for them. If that is the foundation of our marriage/partnership, then this absolutely flows into the relationship we have with our children.

 

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Many times over the years I’ve heard comments like: “If the dad bottle-feeds the baby he can bond with it.” NOT TRUE. This isn’t how bonding works. A bottle is an inanimate object. It does not connect father and child.

 

If a father truly wants to be connected to his child (and the child’s mother), he needs to spend time with them.

 

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It’s not just women who have hormones in relation to parenting, men do too.
Vasopressin (also in women, but to a much lesser degree) is a ‘monogamy’ hormone which promotes strong, paternal behaviour. This occurs when a man is living with his pregnant partner.

 

Testosterone drives a man, encourages aggression, and tempts him elsewhere. Vasopressin has the opposite effect. It encourages a father to be dedicated to his partner, protective, stable, and want to touch and be touched. It helps him bond with his baby. The hormone is triggered through being near to the mother in pregnancy, and with mother and child during and after birth. The ability of his body to interpret his partner’s hormones is due to him detecting the change in her pheromones (steroid hormones on her skin).

 

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Paul, Eliza and Beth

 

When my husband and I met, I invited him for dinner. He moved in the next day. Six weeks later, I was pregnant. Our relationship has been a creative partnership of raising two wonderful daughters. Now, as we explore life as a couple (thinking ‘honeymoon time’) without children to raise, I allow my heart to be filled with an immense ocean of gratitude for a man who not only loved me fully, as a wife, a woman, and a mother, but who always had time for our children. It has been a sacred journey, this path of loving our babies into adulthood. I know with absolute certainty that I couldn’t have been the mother I was without his excellent fathering skills.

 

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The Spider Grandmother: living the life of the red thread

In Native American myth, The Spider Grandmother (Spider Woman), created all life by spinning her web, and connected all living life together using her magical thread.

 

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The web that is woven in myth also symbolises how we weave a life for ourselves, and have the ability to always choose what and when to thread next; which way to weave, and, of course, how to weave. Spider woman teaches us that we are all connected.

As a celebrant, I have many red threads that I have been blessed to acquire over the years. The Blessingway ceremonies I officiate almost always feature the red-thread ritual. I have my old ones woven into old journals, and used as bookmarks. The miles may separate us, and the years may roll forward with increasing speed, but these women, with whom I once sat in sacred circle, remain connected with me through time and space.

The reason I choose red for the thread is because it is the colour of blood, and is what links all humans. During a Blessingway ceremony, the ball of hemp or wool is passed to the pregnant guest of honour who then wraps it around her wrist several times. She throws the ball across the circle to one of her guests. That woman also wraps it around her wrist several times before throwing it to someone else in the circle. This continues until everyone is linked into the web. This circle is a wonderful symbol of connection.

The guest of honour cuts the string each side of her wrist, and then cuts the string around the circle. Each guest wears the string until she hears the joyous news that the baby has been born.

Even after the string is cut, we recognise our connection: that we all still come from the same ball of yarn. Women of the medicine wheel sense this energetically, and really feel connected to the circle in the weeks to come, and for some of us, for years to come.

As I prepare to cross the threshold to becoming a grandmother (a beautiful expression of Saturn conjunct my ascendant, by transit), I am mindful of Spider Grandmother and the red thread. Around my wrist is a red thread with three beads. One to represent me: grandmother. One for my daughter: mother. And one for baby: child.

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Motherhood is written within each of us whether or not we are mothers, daughters, sisters or friends. Even if we have never given birth, the code of motherhood is within.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

I call in my ancient mothers, now, those who’ve walked before me and birthed babies, to gather together in spirit and guide and protect my daughter as she transitions from maiden to mother. Birth is an experience that in our culture almost fully focuses on the physical, but is equally emotional, sexual, mental and spiritual. We are never more open in life than when we give birth. When we say ‘yes’ to this, the whole Universe rushes forward and claps!

I wait now for baby. Poised. Grateful. A heart filled with SO much love for this human being that once lived in my womb as an unfertilised egg. An egg of promise. An egg of beauty. An egg of wisdom.

An egg… that is waiting to tell a story.

 

Veronika Robinson is the author of many books, fiction and non-fiction, which honour the story of motherhood, including The Blessingway, Cycle to the Moon, and Sisters of the Silver Moon. She is also a celebrant and an astrologer.

www.veronikarobinson.com

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The Blessingway: creating a beautiful blessingway ceremony

The Blessingway: creating a beautiful blessingway ceremony

 

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Dandelions and the Wild Woman

My mother was the first person to teach my daughters, Beth and Eliza, about eating dandelion leaves.

To my eyes, dandelions are beautiful: first, with their bright yellow flowers, and then with their fluffy ball-like seed tops which beg me to blow them off with a wish.

 

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that beautiful happy face!

In the early years of mothering, I would take my daughters out for our daily walk around the block (about three miles around the farmers’ fields), and we’d sing a song called Dandelion, Yellow As Gold.

I would sing:
O dandelion, yellow as gold
What do you do all day?

And then Beth & Eliza would sing:
I just wait here in the tall green grass till the children come to play.

Me:
O dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?

Beth & Eliza:
I wait and wait till the cool dews fall and my hair grows long and white.

Me:
And what do you do when your hair is white, and the children come to play?

Beth and Eliza:
They take me up in their dimpled hands, and blow my hair away.

 

They never tired of our vocal trio, and indeed, the dandelion song was the soundtrack to their early childhood. (It is from a book called Sing Through the Day. The song was written by Noreen Bath).

Dandelions are cursed by those who cultivate manicured lawns, and by farmers. They’re sprayed, pulled and trodden on. Millions of people, worldwide, use Monsanto’s toxic Roundup to kill something they consider a weed.
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

Why do I love dandelions? Apart from their obvious beauty, there is something about their tenacity that makes me smile. That persistence in growing through asphalt, and finding the light, is deeply inspiring. What a life force! And here’s what really makes me laugh: no matter how often people rip those plants up, or knock ‘em down with toxic products, they come back year after year. Do you think they’re trying to tell us something?

Maligned and unappreciated by many, dandelions have so much to offer us.

Imagine if Wordsworth had written about dandelions rather than daffodils? Perhaps we wouldn’t be poisoning our gardens!

 

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My garden is a reflection of me. A bit wild.

 

 

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Clearing the vegetable beds after Winter.

 

 

 

I see similarities between myself and a dandelion: I have been a source of food, medicine, nourishment, wisdom and strength. My hands-on mothering days are coming to an end, as my younger daughter leaves for university in three months and 26 days.

 

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Eliza Serena Robinson

 

 

Reflecting on this, I am reminded that dandelions have been my teacher: they’ve shown me that I have put down roots, and even when the culture around me had completely different values, I continued to grow. I mothered from an intuitive place, and learnt from watching my children play and live free from formal education. Dandelions have also taught me the importance of being adaptable to changing circumstances.

Like my garden, my wild mothering heart is a place that’s overgrown, and the paths have to be navigated through thick, so-called weeds. It was always in my blood to mother from this fertile ground. Dandelions have shown me that I can be a woman and live with beauty in this world, even when the culture tries to trample me down. I stand tall, and continue to do my work both as a mother and in my career.

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Enjoying sunrise in my garden

 

Dandelions always have a home here in my garden, and are amongst the first flowers in Spring that bees can rely on as a source of food.

I rejoice at this time of the year to see fields, verges and, indeed, my lawn, bustling with these happy yellow faces. I don’t see dandelions as evil and pesky weeds. Quite the opposite. They’re welcome in my garden for their beauty alone. But did you know that their leaves are highly nutritious, their flowers are also edible, and their roots make a wonderful caffeine-free coffee?

Dandelion greens have found their way into my fresh juices, salads, and even steamed with other vegetables. Medicinally, they’re brilliant for treating gall-bladder and liver complaints. The bitter leaves are an excellent tonic. Ideal for treating skin issues, such as acne or eczema, dandelion is excellent for purifying the blood. The dandelion is rich in nutrients including protein, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.

Daffodils, gorgeous as they are Mr Wordsworth, have inedible bulbs and let’s face it, no one ever told the time using them. But dandelions, oh beautiful dandelions, can be used from root to flower.

NOTE: Do not pick dandelion greens from a roadside, near railway lines or telegraph poles (due to toxic car fumes and weedkiller).

 

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oh how I love to rest amongst the daisies and dandelions

 

In my book, The Mystic Cookfire, you can find a recipe for dandelion fritters.  You can buy a signed copy here: https://www.veronikarobinson.com/author/non-fiction.shtml

 

My upcoming book, Love From My Kitchen, has more dandelion recipes: gluten-free bread; pesto, jam, coffee and a tart.

Now, sing along with me:
O dandelion, yellow as gold
What do you do all day?

 

Love, Veronika xx  #creatingabeautifullife

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Find Your Parent Tribe

If you’re looking to connect with other like-minded holistic parents, why not read Parent Tribe. It’s edited by Hatti Burt, here in Cumbria, and is available free online.

There is also the option to purchase a paper version.

In this issue you can read my article called The Creative Family. Enjoy. ~ Veronika

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http://www.parenttribe.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ParentTribe

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Calling down the Ancestress

The veil is thin, and the ancestresses are just a whisper away. Imagine, if you like, a foggy day. You can’t see ahead of you, but you can sense what is there. This is how it is with our deceased loved ones, and the ancestresses of our family line. We may not see them, but they’re there on our landscape.

 

Our culture may teach us that Halloween (known also as Samhain) is about spider webs and horrid witches, but the origins of this festival are far from scary. This festival of the wise grandmother is a time to reflect and review our year.

 

The grandmother asks: what have you learnt from the past? What can you take into the future? She is kind, and perhaps she’s firm. If you haven’t learned your lessons, she’ll want to know why. But scary? Never!

 

Halloween, for me, is a quiet practice. A time when I draw near to my ancestors and ancestresses by taking out my divination cards and asking for guidance. It is a time when I truly allow myself to be held by Mother Earth.

 

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As a mother, I haven’t perpetuated the fear of the culture. Just because ‘everyone’ does something and it has become the norm, it needn’t mean we have to follow the trend. If you feel in your heart that there is something more to this ancient festival, you’re right. (Read my article on this in issue five of Starflower Living magazine www.starflowerpress.com)

Why not create an altar dedicated to your ancestresses? You can place their photos or heirlooms here, and decorate with Autumnal gifts such as apples, conkers, rosehips and pumpkins.

 

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My mother Angelikah, a grandmother to many children, lives in Tasmania, Australia. We haven’t seen her since 2005 when she came to England to visit us.

Today, on Samhain, I am putting a prayer out to my ancestress and my deceased father, to find a way to bring us together in 2015 for a joyous and delightful reunion. It is my sincerest wish for us to be together again in this lifetime.

 

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My mother, at about the age I am now, enjoying a swing in our garden in rural Australia.

Samhain is a time for remembering the power of attraction. What we think, we create.