Continuing with our theme of simplifying Halloween (see my last two blog posts about making your own costumes and introducing the Switch Witch), this week I wanted to focus on something I used to love to do with my kids not just for Halloween, but for every major seasonal shift or special occasion--creating a nature altar from scratch! This is a great activity to do with young children because the first task is going for a long walk and collecting beautiful treasures from Mother Nature that they’d like to include in their display. For a Halloween/Autumn themed nature table you might gather red and orange Fall leaves, acorns, a bird feather, cornhusks or some dried wheat. Perhaps a visit to the farmer’s market for some squash or miniature pumpkins, too!
And of course when you bring your bounty home and begin decorating, you may want to add in some material elements of your own--a storybook that brings to mind cozy Fall memories, or some warm-toned textiles to serve as a tablecloth or backdrop. When we set up our altar in the Ceres Garden nextdoor to our studio, we brought desert playsilks (a beautiful blend of salmon and sun-kissed yellow tones) and some black ones for a spookier alternative. I think the fire or brown playsilks would be another great option for an autumnal scene; when used as a backdrop the black playsilk creates the illusion of depth, a perfect tool for making a magical night sky for a witch to fly across! You could hang pieces of cut felt by string to make a harvest moon and twinkling stars.
When my children and I would make nature tables we always used a small end table to lay out their treasures, but it dawned on me when revisiting the idea that a play frame would make a terrific setting for a seasonal altar, as it gives little ones more opportunities to interact with the scene they’ve created once everything has been set up! Especially with very young children it can be hard to put together a very special, beautiful scene and then discourage them from taking it apart or making a mess, but by using a play frame they can experience actually sitting amongst their autumn treasures and enjoying the sacred space they’ve helped to cultivate. You could leave your play frame set up for weeks or months, until the season changes or a festive occasion occurs. Perhaps it will become a favorite reading corner or a quiet space for your child to practice fingerknitting or enjoy a quiet, grounding moment amidst a high-energy day.
Decorating a special altar or creating sacred space is common practice in many different cultures and traditions this time of year--such as the Jewish sukkah, pagan Lammas table, and Mexican Dia De Los Muertos altar. Which holidays are you celebrating this October, and how are you including your little ones in the festivities? As always, I would love to hear/see your ideas below, or you can share them with our community on Instagram with the hashtag #sarahssilks.