Category Archives: events

Fire and Fertility

Burns Season is upon us, and I am certainly celebrating the Scottish poet (come to Backstory this Saturday!), but something else happens this time of year, or did:

It was called Candlemas by early Christians, and Imbolc by the pagans. Both groups celebrate this day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox by honoring fire and fertility.

candles brigid cross sheep sun symbols of imbolc

Like last year, I am making a concerted effort to open myself up to beliefs and “faith” things that used to make me nervous or derisive.

Crystal healing, tarot cards, astrology, mediatation–yes.

Last year it worked for a few months then sort of collapsed from the weight of family concerns. This year, I hope to keep probing and testing my barnacled skepticism in hopes of more peace with less control. Dig me?

So I dove into the above rando arts, and may well write about those experiences, but one of the practices I’m incorporating this year that feel closer to my bailiwick are traditional Celtic feast days from The Wheel of the Year. Coming up is Imbolc:

Feb 1 is when ewes started giving birth, and therefore had milk that humans could steal. This was important for early agrarians’ survival, as late winter/ early spring yielded few other sources of nourishment. Recipes abound for Imbolc foods involving milk and cheese, which the Celts loved in many forms.

celtic folklore cooking cookbook

Brighid (for pronunciation help!) is a pagan goddess who was taken over by a Christian saint (#moted). The goddess had an eternal fire tended by vestal virgins, according to the legend in Kildare. The fire at Imbolc can represent the sun that is coming back to us, as the days get longer in the Northern hemisphere, and winter starts to lose its grasp.

So we’ve got a day when people used to start preparing the earth to be sown with seeds, when little lambs would be frolicking in the Celtic rain, when people would sweep clean the old dark energy and purify themselves for the new [agricultural] year. It’s like another New Year!

candlemas imbolc light ritual pagan

I like the idea of being more in tune with the universe’s changes. I’m trying to pay more attention to the Celtic Wheel, the moon’s phases, the weather. Why? I’m searching for a feeling of connectedness that does not depend on exclusion. Something that links us humans back before polls and gentrification and online personas.

It is also useful as research fodder to get into the mindset of someone who lives closer to the land and depends on its cooperation from year to year. The almanac used to contain all humans needed to be self-sufficient, provided they had land, seed, and labor. Nowadays, we don’t use them. We don’t ask elders for their experience, either. Our modern arrogance is astounding.

Which is why I love historical fiction! I’m not a Luddite, and I can be just as dependent on technology as the next guy, but I am striving for a better balance, rooted in real change, not just a flash in the pan. Why NOT adopt a goddess to keep yourself in line with your intentions for the season?

Don’t tell them I told you, but I’m going to be sneaking Imbolc practices into my Burns Supper reading on Saturday–cheese on oatcakes, candles, and poetical declamations–of the bawdy variety! 😉

 

Images via The New Pagan and my own

Celebrate the Light of Poetry

January 25 is Burns Day.

(I’m having an event on January 27th! See below)

Robert Burns

What’s that, you ask?

It is the birthday of Robert Burns, widely considered to be Scotland’s national poet. He lived from 1759 to 1796, leading a short life full of struggle, defiance, humility, lust, and heartbrokenness.

He wrote poems and songs, collected folk songs from across Scotland, satirized great figures of the day, wooed many a woman to his bed, and called for radical parliamentary reform when that movement was pushing forward in 1792-4.

robert burns highland mary painting

Burns developed this radical zeal starting with his poor childhood as a tenant farming family in Ayrshire. His poor health–a heart ailment and then a rheumatic condition–no doubt came from poor living conditions as his family struggled to survive.

His best-known poem around the world is Auld Lyne Syne, which everyone sings in a drunken haze on New Year’s Eve.

bagpiper auld lang syne

Another famous folk song traces its lineage back to Burns: A Man’s A Man.  It was composed at a moment when the fight for reform had to go underground. Its words are stubbornly hopeful for a brotherhood of equality:

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that, / That Man to Man the warld o’er / Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Furthermore, when the Scottish Parliament was recently reconvened for the first time since 1707, this was the song that was sung. So moving. I sang it at my December event in SLO, and was so happy people decided to join in!

When Burns died in 1796, the Romantic movement took up his poems as anthems in Scotland and beyond. In the early 1800s, a curious tradition started: the Burns Supper, where people got together to remember the poet, and generally have a good time.

This year, I am getting involved in All The Happenings, but YOU can come join the fun at Backstory Books on Saturday, Jan. 27th. I will be hosting a book chat there, singing songs, and would love to have you come bear witness to Burns’ legacy as lover, fighter, champion of the poor, and speaker of Truth.

Backstory Books
6010 SE Foster Rd.
Sat. 1/27 130-3PM
Please RSVP on Facebook! :)

We can also celebrate the returning of the Light…and prepare for Imbolc! #celticyear

Images via AnnemarielatourJackiKellum, & Singingthesonginmyheart

Preparing for the Darkest Night

Revisiting

Event: Book Reading & Signing (RSVP on facebook link!)

995 Palm St. San Luis Obispo, CA

Wed. Dec. 20, 330-5 PM

let go of the surface, dive into the dark

relinquish hecticity for the calm, chewy center

drop down into the earth' rhythms, your rhythms

find what you are searching for

newgrange winter solstice sunrise ireland

I am revisiting the town where I grew up this week.

And this Thursday, we are all revisiting the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice (Danu Forest’s lovely symbolism really feels magical in its ability to connect you through time and space to other cultures).

And so, as part of this revisiting process, I am reconnecting to the intentions I set for myself at the beginning of the year, which had gone suspiciously silent after various stresses and fears throughout the year.

The moon circle I attended to reflect on the December supermoon helped reconnect me to those intentions, and so I am diving into books about ancient Celtic rites and how to meditate on one’s chakras and yea, self-acceptance, yet again.

Why do I hesitate to believe in powers I can’t see? Because it requires faith. And there is no faith without trust. And trust. Is hard.

What are you reconnecting with?

What are you struggling with, as we approach the longest night of the year?

What are you looking forward to, after the light starts to be reborn?

If you’re on the Central Coast, I hope to see you on Wednesday, where there will be singing and costumes and history talk for all.

 

Image via Newgrange

Bookish Events in Portland this Weekend!

Greetings, somnambulent turkey devourers!

cats turkey coma

Time to wake up! We’ve got two events this weekend for when you turn the calendar to December (YIKES!):

Sat, Dec. 2 Book Swap

Another Read Through 12-2 PM

(you know the drill)

Sun, Dec. 3 Holiday Cheer

Oregon Historical Society 12-4 PM

This is OHS’ annual hosting of 90+ Oregon authors at their awesome HQ. Free to all. Meet people and discover new books from their source! <3 RSVP here.

And next weekend, don’t forget:

Sat, Dec. 9 North Atlantic Neighbors event w/ Margaret Pinard & Lars Hedbor

Vintage Books 1-2 PM

Lars and I will talk about themes and events of historical significance just before and after 1800. We are both local historical fiction writers. And I will give away a prize pack! Anyone buying a book that day is entered to win:

leanna renne hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber. Photo by C. Johnstone.

  • a custom-made medal from Leanna Renee Hieber,  an author of exciting gaslamp fiction novels! In addition to writing, she is a lifelong artist who rehabilitates and re-imagines vintage accessories, ready to wear with whatever fashion you fancy. 😉
  • $25 See’s candy gift certificate–because it’s the holidays and See’s is the best host gift ever!
  • …?…

RSVP here

More to come! Stay tuned, and stay tuned to yourself, in this crazy holiday season. <3

 

Images via uwilllovebiochem & leannareneehieber

Why Writers Write…and All the Rest

(We have two events coming up, at OHS in Portland, and Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA! See details below)

The book is released!

And my spirit feels like it has been released as well.

margaret pinard grasping root launch pdx another read through

As I drove home after the launch party for The Grasping Root, I felt valued. All sorts of warm fuzzies from friends made me feel seen and my work validated.

‘Two years of soul sweat,’ as I said, and most of the toil invisible to others.

But this brief flare of glamour and clamor and attention is not why I write.

No, I write because it fills me up. This community gathering and learning and celebrating is what makes all the rest of the work worthwhile:

  • the months of self-doubt while making drastic editing changes
  • the frustratingly repetitious work of formatting the manuscript
  • the constant reevaluation of one’s own abilities when forecasting promotional campaigns months into the future
  • the tedium of reworking one’s biographical blurb to fit everyone else’s needs

While you’re in that rabbit hole of creation, you have a goal. (This goes out to the NaNoWriMos out there!) It is the light at the end of the tunnel, where others pick up your book, their eyes light up, and they tell you they loved when the MacLeans sing together, or when Alisdair gives a poignant reminder of their old home, or when Muirne decides to go out on her own to resolve her own flawed understanding…

Yes! Characters have flaws! Just like we do! And that is why historical fiction is my favorite way to show people themselves. It’s a little removed, the conflicts are different but the same, the inner struggles are tweaked but recognizable, age-old dilemmas. And the triumphs give us hope.

I hope.

Here’s to you, reader, who helped me see the light at the end of this tunnel and helped birth another book.

There will be a Goodreads giveaway for this new book as a thank you! Starts November 27th.

I will be one of 90 authors at Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer event! Turning 50 this year, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with Oregon authors of all genres. Talk is free, books are not!

  • Sunday, Dec. 3rd, 12-4 PM
  • 1200 SW Park Ave

The next public event for The Grasping Root will be held at Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA:

  • Saturday, Dec. 9th, 1-2 PM
  • 6613 E Mill Plain BLVD
  • Co-hosting with Lars Hedbor, author of the Tales from a Revolution series!

The Grasping Root is available in paperback at Another Read Through Bookstore,  and can be ordered through other bookstores or Amazon. Ebook copies are available through Smashwords and Kindle. It will soon be available from Multnomah County libraries, too!

 

Photo credit April Lampert