Thursday, 24 December 2015

Amaranth Celebrants | Seasonal Greetings to All

Well, we are nearly at the end of 2015, and almost into the Day where most of the Western World Stands Still!

But there are many, many celebrations, at this time of the year, coming from a whole range of Countries, Cultures, and Traditions. Many, but not all, are associated with light, and I love the idea that so many people can share a time of celebration, even though the names of that celebration might differ.

So here are a few seasonal greetings of various origins!!

Happy Diwvalli . Happy Niinamesi . Happy Bodhi Day . Happy Hanukkah . Happy Solstice . Happy Happy Milad un Nabi .  Happy Pancha Ganapati  .  Happy Christmas . Happy St. Stephen's Day . Happy Hogmanay . Happy Zarathosht Diso . Happy Kwanzaa  . Happy New Year . Happy Shogatsu .   Happy Maidyarem Gahmbar    .    Happy Epiphany    .     Happy Makar Sankranti    .     Happy Lohri     .    Happy Seijin Shiki    .     Happy Tu B'Shevat     .

And I hope that YOU have a Wonderful Festive Time, however, whenever, and with whomever you celebrate the turning year.

I’d also like to just take a minute to remind you about what Amaranth can do for you!

I am an Independent Civil Celebrant based in Derby, and working primarily in the surrounding area; Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire etc.

I offer a whole range of Celebratory services:
v      Celebrations of Life (funerals)
v      Ceremonies of Commitment (weddings, partnerships, renewal of vows & ceremonies of commitment)
v      Other Rites of Passage (naming, coming of age, etc)
v      Any other occasions that you might think of!!

I create uniquely personal ceremonies, based on your ideas, dreams and wishes, and look forward to the opportunity of meeting you and working with you in the coming year.

Enjoy, Take care, and I’ll see you in 2016!


 Steph

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Amaranth Celebrants | Amaranth for Remembrance

Hello There,
You may remember (pun intended) that the Amaranth Flower signifies remembrance, because of its unfading nature. And remembrance is so very important, whether we are remembering good times and significant events, or spending time thinking of those we have known, who have died. Remembrance puts events in context, and when that remembering is about “loss”, it can help us to remember that those individuals still hold an important place in OUR continuing lives.

And at this time of year, of course, we are in the midst of our traditional times of remembering. Not only will the coming weekend see Remembrance Sunday, held on the 2nd Sunday in November as usual, to, I quote “commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts".

But we have the opportunity to acknowledge Remembrance Day itself, and recall the end of the horror that was the First World War, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And no matter what our political stance is on this, and on more recent conflicts, we may be able to agree that remembering the dead is important, for so many reasons: often so many personal, & some cultural.   

And as we think on remembrance, let us not forget that this past weekend saw Halloween, (which is a corrupted version of “All Hallows Eve”). These days many people primarily associate it with children, and our adoption (love it or loath it) of  “Trick or Treat”. 

But Haloween has an interesting mix of origins: All Hallows is one of the names for All Saints Day; a Catholic day of remembrance for all known & unknown Saints. All Souls Day- that remembers all who have passed, follows it on 2nd November.

It is almost an absolute certainty that these festivals are so placed, because they were superimposed on the older European Celtic festival of Samhain. This was primarily a festival of remembrance of the dead, but also indicated the start of winter, and was a "New Year" celebration, by the old cyclic, agriculturally based calendar.

Let us also consider the power of that unique South American “take” on these festivals; The Day of the Dead. This is truly CELEBRATED!  A mix of the aforementioned Catholic festivals, with pre-existing traditions has led to an extraordinarily vibrant, yet I think realistic & healthy approach, to including our “dis-incarnate” in our parties & in our day-to-day lives.


So, let us give the significance of all these events a little more thought this time round. Keeping memories alive is good for us, and what better time of year, to sit close to the fire, and share those stories of remembrance?
Steph

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Funeral Celebrancy | How We Can Help With Grief



Well, hello again!
Did anyone see this? Megan Devine’s Howto Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You're Not Sure What to Do

I though it was very good; realistic, practical & useful. I guess that it has particularly taken my attention because I’m about to be involved in the 3rd Grief Journey (Derby) programme, and the feel, as well as the practice, link strongly.

For those of you who don’t know, Grief Journey is a programme developed by Dr Bill Webster, that helps & encourages participants to examine their own feelings and consider them in the light of what is known about the grieving process. It seems to be a very effective tool, that while it does not remove the grief (nothing can, of course) it provides a chart with which to navigate its grim and scary waters.

So why mention this here? Well, as a Funeral Celebrant one comes into contact with grieving people- by definition! And I believe that while our contact is short term, and focused on the creation & carrying out of the funeral, we can actually and easily have a more long term, and positive impact, on the grieving process of our client & their family.

How? Well, how we talk about death and remembering mostly.

So, 1st thoughts:

  • We are there to “Celebrate the Life” and by encouraging the family to continue to do that; to talk about their loved one, long after the funeral is done, we can encourage positive remembering.
  • We may know what it feels like to grieve. But even if we do not, we have met many who do. So we should not be afraid of showing our empathy, acknowledging the un-fixable pain that someone is experiencing.
  • And from that- we should not ever suggest that we, or anyone else, can fix it.
  • One phrase that I find both beautiful & useful is shown at the top of this page. These words, origionally of Dr Colin Murray Parkes, fit easily into our 1st conversations with a new family, and may provide a new & useful perspective for those struggling in their new unknown. 
So, these are just a first few of my ideas & thoughts, but I would live to hear other peoples! Do let me know!
Steph

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Leaving Messages For Those We Love | How To Stay In Contact Even After Death

When someone has died there are often people who knew the deceased who say, “I wish I’d told them...”, or “I wish I’d said...”. 

But how often do we consider that the person who has died might have wished to leave messages for their loved ones, but simply didn’t know how to go about it.

Recently, in The CivilCelebrant (UKSoc’s “magazine”) there was an exceptional example of this very thing. A young Father put together a series of letters for his son, when he realised that he would not live to see him grow up.


Another extraordinary example is in the book, The Wishing Trees by John Shors, which tells of a father & daughter taking a journey, at the behest of and in memory of their wife/ mother, and opening her messages at the times she had marked them for.

Of course we do not have to leave messages for particular times and / or people either. It could be a far more general approach- one’s life story for example- written up or recorded for any who wish to assemble the Family History. And we ALL have stories full or deep and rich meaning and learning. It is, after all, connecting with those same stories that enable me, as a celebrant, to create personal Celebrations of a Life.

Some people have far more notice that they are likely to leave life than others of course. And thinking about our own deaths is not really part of our culture. It is considered morbid, or inappropriate by many. Yet how many of us have been left wondering about the life of an elder relative after their death, or even wishing that they had simply told us what sort of funeral they wanted.

So, I think that it may be time for us all to accept that we will all die. And that by accepting this, we can take action! We can choose to leave our stories. We can write our special messages. We can consider how we want our lives celebrated, and we can do this with those whom we care about. And if we are those who are likely to be left, then we too can start these conversations.

I believe that such thinking is beneficial to us- those leaving and those who will remain for a while longer. That approaching the one inevitability with honesty, consideration and open eyed forward planning can at least change difficult and painful times into more easy leave taking, and real celebrations of the life of the individual gone.

So let’s be clear- it is highly unlikely that even social media will bridge the communications barrier of death. But with due thought and planning we can! 

As individuals working together, we can at least reduce the impacts. We can leave all sorts of messages, greeting cards, and stories for those still living, that will continue to build memories and relationships even when we are not physically there, and that may help to support those for whom we cared, through their mourning times.
  
 Steph

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Partnerships, Marriages & Joinings | Time To Ring The Changes?

Currently, in England & Wales, the law allows any two individuals, (with certain legal restrictions) to enter into marriage

Same sex couples can also choose to contract a “Civil Partnership” instead, which gives the same legal benefits as marriage. Civil partnership started as THE "same sex" equivalent of marriage, but since March 2014 marriage is also available, (as is the availability of converting a Civil partnership to a marriage). But Civil Partnership is only available to same sex couples.

For a UK Marriage to have legal standing, it must be registered. This takes place either as part of a civil ceremony at a Registrar Office, or in another designated location, or as part of a ceremony conducted at a registered place of religious worship. However not all places of worship are registered, and even if they are the officiant may not be able to register the marriage. In such cases a Registrar would also need to be present, or the marriage would have no legal standing. This is why it is not unusual for individuals of many faith groups to undertake a civil ceremony, prior to the faith based service of their choice. But some places of worship, & their officiants are automatically registered, for example Church of England churches! Confusing or what?

And there are some heterosexual couples who would prefer to be “Civil Partners” rather than married! This is usually because of their philosophical beliefs, and/ or because they hold strong feelings about the implicit nature of our marriage system- often around it’s historical assumptions in regard to procreation & it’s impact on women & their legal status.

So, my question is, should this all be simplified? I think so!

I would like to see the availability of a “Registration only” option for marriage- simply a legal declaration without ceremony, as there is with a Civil Partnership joining, and the availability of Civil Partnership for heterosexual couples. I would also like to see the faith based ceremonial side becoming stand alone for ALL faith groups, rather than the registration process being included automatically for some. This would create equality between persons of any or no faith group.

Such changes would result in a differentiation between the legal and personal and/ or spiritual aspects of a union, and would involve a full range of true personal choice, and encourage couples to really consider the meaning of any ceremonial celebration, to them, separate from the legal aspects. Of course this may well popularise the work of celebrants, but primarily it would enhance equality of options and differentiate between a legal (civil) idea of marriage, and the personal commitment aspect.

It would also begin to untangle some of the confusion around the dissolution of such connections, by identify it as a civil legal process as distinct from a process embedded in any spiritual tradition, some of which do not recognise the concept of divorce. Individuals might then choose a “spiritual or personal untying process if it were appropriate and/ or available within their philosophical approach.

So what do you think? I’d love to know!
Steph

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Amaranth Celebrants | A Very Hot Hand-fasting!


I’ve just finished putting together the “keepsake copy” of last week’s hand-fasting event. It features a handmade cover by “Love & Old Lace”, themed around imagery that has meaning for the couple.

And it was a wonderful hand-fasting event too! It’s always an honour to be involved in helping people celebrate what is important to them. And there was so much that was memorable from this one. It was, for starters, a fabulous day. Bright & hot! The couple had chosen to hold the event in their garden, which backed onto a canal, so there was a pleasant breeze to prevent overheating, and an occasional boat drifting by.

And setting up was hot work! Especially kneeling on the ground, with the sun on my back as I covered pinned down rope with straw, to delineate the processional pathway. But I had the company of a dragonfly for a while, as it flit about, possibly wondering what I was up too! And during the ceremony butterflies flew between, & around the participants, and were actually “captured” on the video!

There was an inner circle of, mainly, family who actually took part in the ceremony, and made up the core of the procession, while the many other guests looking on. We had a singer to serenade us as we walked the processional path, and later, again, towards the end of the hand-fasting.

 And there were knights! The couple have friends who are involved in medieval re-enactment; so four knights “guarded” the couple (two each to front and rear) as they processed to the place of joining; at which time they took up duty at the compass points. 

Later, of course, they provided an “honour guard” as we moved back onto the lawn from the “dais” where the ceremony had been performed. And later still they provided quite a spectacle by showing their knightly skills.

 It appeared however, that the contest had been to see who got to carry off the bride ... However, she was safely restored to her husband, and toasts were drunk to their health, by the marauders!

Catch you again soon,
Steph

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Pagan Hand-Fasting at Amaranth


Here at Amaranth I work with couples and individuals to create the ceremonies of their dreams. These are all designed, written and facilitated “with you and for you”, and involving you at every stage. They reflect your hopes, dreams and philosophies. They will be about you & those close to you! 

But I also have a little bit of a “specialist” option on offer for those who feel it appropriate for them: I am able to offer pagan hand-fasting.

At the moment I’m getting ready for our next pagan hand-fasting event, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it.  You won’t be surprised to know that I identify myself as a pagan. However, I also believe that everyone has the right to find his or her own path, whether that involves a spiritual belief system, or not!

So, a little about pagan hand-fasting: it is, quite simply, a joining ceremony. Where it differs from other personal ceremonies is that it uses pagan invocations & imagery to set the scene. There is no “set” or “official” format to such a ceremony, although I have developed one that works for me & for my clients. But of course it can be adapted in a whole host of ways to create that “perfect” ceremony for the joining couple.

My key thing is about giving people choices- so it may be important for to know that you don’t have to identify yourself as pagan to have this sort of ceremony. It’s about it feeling right to & for you. Many people who would not identify themselves as explicitly pagan nevertheless find that this nature based approach feels right for them- calling upon Earth, Air, Fire & Water, and on natural archetype figures.

The basic ceremony includes, as standard, variants on the unity candle ceremony, and the chalice ritual, as well as the central element of the hand-fasting itself.

And of course, as with all ceremonies, you can add a whole range of other elements, options and details! For example the Petal Pathway is a particularly good match, as is the option of the “hand roped silk binding cord”!

Catch you again soon,
Steph