For a year now, we've been holding Seasonal Session workshops at Anō Anō. These workshops have something special about them, they're more than just a craft session or a chance to learn something new. It's at these sessions that we take a pause and connect to the life all around us, remember our ancestral practices, and notice the seasons as they change. And of course do some seasonal crafts too!
We've loosely based the dates of each Seasonal Session on Juliet Batten's book Sun, Moon, and Stars: Seasonal Celebrations for Children and Families, Tamariki and Whānau. She reverses the Celtic wheel of the year for the Southern Hemisphere, and includes gardening and harvest times of importance in the Maramataka Māori. The sessions begin at Matariki or the Winter Solstice, and are held every six weeks or so.
The sessions and themes are as follows:
Matariki - Winter Solstice - Renewal
Hereturikōkā - Imbolc - First Light
Te Kōanga - Spring Equinox - New Life & Equal Day and Night
Whiringa-a-Nuku - Beltane - Regeneration
Te Ihu o Hineraumati - Summer Soltice - Gratitude & Longest Day
Te Waru - Lughnassadh - First Fruits, Harvest
Ngahuru - Autumn Equinox - Preparation, Reflection, Equal Day and Night
Haratua - Samhain (Halloween) - Releasing & Remembering
At the beginning of each session, we gather together to meet each other and talk about what's happening outside. What's changed? What are the birds and other animals doing? What about the trees, plants and flowers? What about us - how do we feel and what kinds of things do we want to do? We listen to each other, and learn different ways of appreciating the season.
Then we share our different ancestors ways of celebrating this season, if we know them. We hear wonderful stories from here in Aotearoa, and from all over the world depending on where the ancestors of the people attending come from. There are so many ways of celebrating! Games or traditions, gardening practices, special foods or crafts, and songs, stories, dances, or even parades. This is my favourite part - listening to how our diverse ancestors showed their appreciation for a moment, making it a celebration and a tradition to be looked forward to, year after year.
I've realised that not many people who attend know what their ancestors did to celebrate or honour the seasons, and not many people have a way that they celebrate them now. There's a discomfort that goes around the circle when I ask those questions sometimes. I wonder if it's the feeling of not wanting to be reminded of all that we've forgotten. I wonder if we miss being so close to nature.
But everyone always has something that they love about each of the particular times of the year, and there's hope in that. I think celebrating a season can be as simple as pausing for a moment to really deeply feel what you love about it. Food, stories, crafts and company just make it even better!
Sometimes after that, there will be a story or a poem about the season, or sometimes we'll get straight into the craft. We've done all sorts of things, from traditional manu (kites) at Matariki to Candlemaking for Imbolc. From Seed Eggs for Spring Equinox/Te Kōanga to Foraged Forest Crowns for Beltane/Whiringa-a-Nuku. We made sand candles for Summer Solstice and decorated Suncatchers for Lughnassadh.
We just held the Ngahuru/Autumn Equinox session, where we learned about Ojos de Dios - the eyes of the gods, which are a simple weaving craft that was done at this time of the year to be hung in the garden. It symbolised the harvest god watching carefully over the crops at this important time of the year, where everything is ripening and nearly ready to pick and store for the winter. It was so important to all of our ancestors that the harvest time went smoothly. It was survival for them. It struck me after this session that with the slim pickings on the supermarket shelves after the recent floods and storms, a few extra Ojos de Dios in the garden to symbolise our hope and protection couldn't hurt!
The next seasonal session at Anō Anō will be for Haratua/Samhain - southern hemisphere Halloween. The leaves are falling, it's getting colder, and I'm starting to think about quiet indoor crafts. This is a time of reflection, letting go, and remembering those who have passed. So we'll be honouring the season by making scrapbook & drawing style Family Trees! Here's a link to the event if you'd like to come along: https://fb.me/e/3rM8aVJI6?mibextid=RQdjqZ
This year of seasonal sessions has felt like testing the waters. Seeing what people might like, and how we might best come together to make something a bit special, together with each other and the changing world. I've learned how important it is to have a proper beginning, middle, and end. Just like a story, it feels properly complete afterwards - no awkward trailing off or cliffhangers. There is often a tentative vulnerability in the beginning, and always a deep joy, connection and satisfaction at the end. I learned that even though it seemed cheesy to me at first, sharing what we enjoyed most was a chance for everyone to put words and meaning to what they were feeling afterwards. There are always the shy ones, and nobody ever HAS to speak. But being given the opportunity is important. I think it's because it instils a sense of belonging. Not just within the group - I think celebrating the seasons, and having the chance to add our voice to the celebration is one of the ways we remind ourselves that we're a welcome and important part of the web of life.
“Ritual affirms the common patterns, the values, the shared joys, risks, sorrows, and changes that bind a community together. Ritual links together our ancestors and descendants, those who went before with those will come after us.” -Starhawk
While we'll continue to offer seasonal sessions at Anō Anō, this Matariki, we've secured funding to begin sharing this out and about in our community. We'd love to support you and your community to establish a tradition of coming together, celebrating, and sharing stories, fun, and kai together as the seasons move through their cycles. If you have a group of neighbours, young and old and everyone in between, or you're a classroom or community group who are willing to meet for something special eight times throughout the year, please reach out.
With the warmth of a long Autumn afternoon, Merryn.