Elderberry syrup in progress. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I write this, the year’s first real snowfall is blanketing the land. It’s a time of rest and introspection. Spiritually, it’s a new year. As with our secular New Year, it’s custom to reflect on various aspects of our lives, how we’ve changed, and where we’re going. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my path and why I blog about it. Some of this came about through discussions with Lady Althea via Twitter, specifically about how motherhood has changed our paths, and how our spirituality should be more about doing than keeping up with appearances. Some of my thoughts came through an interview I did with my friend Corinne for her upcoming podcast – Who’s Your Mama? The focus of the podcast is on mothers and how they find a balance between their mamahood and various life passions. Corinne is interviewing friends from around the country first to get into the groove, as it were, and thought my story about finding time to further my Druidic pursuits and found a protogrove, all while raising a little one, was inspiring. I felt that I rambled a bit, but she said it was great! I’ll be sure that share that when it comes out in January.


My little one joins me at my altar for a daily devotional. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My religious practices haven’t changed much in the last year, but the way I engage with them has.  The same time restricting forces that limit my blogging also limit the amount of time I have for involved ritual, magic, meditation, and trance. I’ve had to get creative in how I engage with my spirituality, and that’s only deepened my understanding of something I already knew to be true – magic and ritual is in everything. When we approach our daily tasks mindfully, aware of the interconnections, we are engaged with our spirit allies.  I’ve also worked on my self-discipline.  While accepting my limitations in time and energy at this point in time, I’ve managed to strike a balance.  My trance studies are on hold for the time being, but I’ve worked hard to maintain the devotional practices I revitalized through ADF’s liturgical study program.  I’m also working on my divination journal, focusing more on the practical work until I have a little extra time for the academic side of my Druidism.  As a result, my understanding of the Druid Animal Oracle and ogham is improving.

One area that I’ve improved on in the past year is my hearth or kitchen magic.  I’m working on incorporating more holistic approaches to cleaning and health; and I’ve continued to make mostly home-cooked meals, often utilizing local ingredients.  This has helped me grow in my herbal knowledge and connection to the land.  Sharing these processes with my youngster, and showing her how to put love and intention into all we do, only strengthens my own focus.

Including a toddler in seasonal and daily religious observances can be tricky, especially when they involve fire, but, in retrospect, I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to share with her. Bee is learning how to calm and focus her breathing.  With my assistance, she uses a candle snuffer to assist in our symbolic smooring rite each evening.  I explain to her what is a good task for her, and what is definitely a grownup job. She can snuff, but she cannot light the candle.  These realities may be upsetting to her at first, but with repetition, she accepts them. This is teaching her respect for fire, that she has skills to grow into, and that there are times for quiet and action in ritual.  Best of all, she’s learned to say “thank you” for abundance, inspiration, and beauty.  It warms my heart when she reminds me that it’s time to do our “Brighid prayer” or when she randomly thanks the Earth Mother on our short walks outside.

So while I sometimes feel that I’m not doing enough, or sharing enough – in reality, I have a lot to celebrate about the last year!  I hope you take some time to reflect on your own practice and growth over the year.




An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. She enjoys exploring them with her magnifying glass. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015


I’ve already written a bit about treasure baskets in the past.  Now that Bee is older, they’re becoming even more fun!  Currently, she has a basket of different pinecones and acorns on her “play altar” / “nature table.”  It’s been a great way for her to explore some of Mother Nature’s diversity.  It’s an open-ended way to explore and play.  She sometimes sorts them by type or size.  Once she used them to make imprints in play dough.

One thing that I like about this particular treasure basket is that it’s very seasonal, and Bee has been able to add to it whenever we’re out on our walks.  She gets really excited when she finds new acorns, acorn caps, and cones. I ask her if she’d like to take one to her nature table.  This activity shows her that she has choice and that her opinions matter to me.  We also say “thank you” to the Earth Mother and trees whenever we bring a new friend inside.  Of course, it’s also added to her vocabulary!

Knowing your child is definitely important when it comes to making new treasure baskets.  Bee is past the age of putting random things in her mouth.  We’ve had many discussions about what is and isn’t food.  (We’ll save the fact that many of our ancestors used ground acorns and pine nuts in meals for another day…)  For the last few months, she’s demonstrated an understanding that only food should go in her mouth.  Her last treasure basket was filled with different shells, and we introduced some smaller specimens towards the end.  Last year, I wasn’t able to let her play with anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.  It’s amazing how quickly little ones learn!

I’m planning to retire the pinecone and acorn treasure basket for a bit (I’ll bring them out again in the future), so I’m excitedly thinking about what the next basket will be!

An "Ancestor Gnome" I sewed for Bee - Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An “Ancestor Gnome” I sewed for Bee – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Another Samhain has come and gone in my household and protogrove. Some, like myself, observed it from October 31st-November 1st (sundown to sundown). Many celebrated this weekend, for reasons of convenience or celestial precision. I know of some people who honor it all month long, which is totally fine, as the veil between this world and the other seems to gradually “thicken” and “thin.”  As for myself and my tribe, 2015 Samhain has ended (though we may sense our ancestors from time to time).

I’m always a little sad when Samhain ends, being an adult who has regular conversations with her inner child.  I love the magic, the mystery, and the socially acceptable guising.  I also need, as most do, the emotional release that comes with meditating on and facing mortality.  I had a bit of a health scare at the beginning of October.  Everything turned out well, but it was enough to make me pause and prioritize!  The fact that a high school acquaintance died in his battle with cancer a few months before really added to my sense of how delicate and precious our time is.

Regardless of what we may or may not believe about an afterlife, the truth remains a mystery to the living.  The here and now, and our time in these particular bodies, is such a gift that should not be taken for granted.  Even when so many of us in the polytheist and Pagan communities believe in some sort of continuation after life, we miss our beloved dead.  Personally, I accept the ambiguity of what happens to our energy.  The fact that our physical remains will go back into the cycle of creation and destruction, and that our bodies will mingle and always be together in some way, is profoundly beautiful to me.  I take comfort in that, and I’m sure many in my protogrove do as well, yet we still mourn our dead.

Northern Rivers’ Samhain Bonfire – photo by Annette P.

Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF, gathered on October 31st at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center to celebrate Samhain.  Despite the biting cold, we had our ritual at their stone circle.  That in itself was an exciting homecoming, and with the added psychic and emotional intensity of Samhain, it meant for a moving ritual.  Many of us were already tearing up as we gave praise offerings to the Ancestors.  When we got to our traditional apple rite, something passed on to us from Muin Mound Grove, some of us actually had to leave the circle for a bit to calm our nerves.  As we passed the apple, a potent symbol for the Otherworld, we named those who had passed since last Samhain.  As we named them, we pushed a clove into the apple.  The group then intoned, “come to the light” to the accompaniment of a chime.  We called the “Young Ancestors” to our firelight to gather with the “Elder Ancestors” who know the ways back to the Otherworld.  Samhain always makes for a long yet intense ritual.

Today I decided to take my household Samhain decorations down.  As you can imagine, there’s always a little sadness as you remove the relics of festivity.  As I packed the skeletons and ghosts away, it felt like the veil closing on the dead. Yet, I reflected, the Ancestors are always there.  I can always call to them beyond the veil, and there’s a chance that they may hear me with the assistance of messenger spirits, strong bonds, or intense emotions.  The spirit world can be a strange thing in that way.  And just as the paper, metal, and wooden skeletons will reappear in my home again, Samhain will also be reborn next year.


Our 2015 turnip Jack-o-lanterns. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

In previous years, I’ve posted photos, tutorials, and even lore-based reasons for carving turnips.  It’s become a part of my family Samhain celebration. They are tough veggies to carve, even with strong, well-made spoons as I’ve suggested.

I’m proud to have resurrected the tradition in my own family. I excitedly turn them into protective talismans, warding the home against nasty spirits who may be out and about while the veil is thin.

As I exercised my muscles gouging turnip flesh out, I reflected on how tough the job is. The difficulty is not so great that it discourages me from keeping it. While thinking this, I meditated on the challenges my Irish ancestors faced: poverty, famine, immigrating across the Atlantic, leaving loved ones, and starting over in America. Carving the turnip can be a devotional act, reminding us of the difficulties our Irish ancestors faced.

My Ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My sister recently lost one of her kitties to old age and disease.  The elderly cat, named “Carmel”, had reached the crazy age of 17 or 18, which is ancient for a cat.  Her hearing was mostly gone, and her eyes were riddled with cataracts.  Her hips and legs were starting to give out on her, and she would randomly fall.  The vet determined she had a lot of issues and was suffering, so my sister made the difficult choice that so many of us who love our furry allies have to face from time to time.

If you look closely at the recent photo of my ancestral shrine, you’ll see a few photos or reminders of furry friends past.  I didn’t have a photo of Carmel, so I just offered some cat food.  I will honor her again at my Samhain ritual.

Some people do not view deceased pets as ancestors, and indeed they do not share our blood… but we can honor ancestors of blood, place, and heart – the later referring to those outside of our families who inspired or guided us.  Yes, our pets are literally nature spirits, but I’ve found that the Three Kindreds are not black and white categories.  For example there are many Gods who take on the appearance of animals or plants.  There are also ancestors who have been deified.  Finally, there are stories in IE myth suggesting that different groups of people can claim plants or animals as ancestors.  While I will never tell someone that they are wrong for not including their dead furry companions in their ancestral workings, it certainly feels appropriate to me.  When Samhain comes, I always invite members of my protogrove to bring mementos of those who have died since the previous Samhain – and I make sure to remind them that representations of fallen pets are welcomed.

Everyone goes crazy for pumpkin spice everything in the autumn.  Don’t misunderstand – I enjoy pumpkins too.  I love using their innards to make an orzo dish, cookies, or pie.  Of course, I love to roast the seeds.  But if pressed to choose, my favorite autumn flavor comes from apples.

Photo Oct 18, 12 54 24 PM

These apple fritters might not look fancy, but they tasted good! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I took some time this weekend to turn several apples my family picked into jelly.  I decided it was a perfect opportunity to try the apple fritter recipes from the book Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  The batter is a simple mixture of flour, salt, egg, and milk.  Allen suggests using a deep fryer, but a frying pan with a layer of oil works as well – and it’s what our ancestors would have used*.  My family tries to eat healthy as much as possible, so we don’t do enough frying to validate us purchasing a deep fryer.  I used a wide frying pan.  It was definitely difficult, as the batter stuck to the bottom.  The results weren’t as pretty as they would have been in a deep fryer, but they were tasty!  I added a dusting of confectionary sugar.  The apple fritters tasted like a cross between baked apple and fried dough.  Definitely a nice treat!  As a bonus, all the cooking I did warmed the house up.  Perfect on a snowy, October day…

* The cookbook didn’t specify, but I suspect apple fritters weren’t an ancient treat…  Any thoughts?

Since giving birth, I’ve looked for ways to introduce and include my daughter in our holidays.  It was all about basic inclusion when she was an infant and one-year-old.  Now that she’s two, she’s better able to interact with her environment, discuss things she enjoys, and make bigger connections.

Bee’s Scribble Pumpkin Face – Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2015

We don’t carve Jack-o-lanterns until a week or so before Samhain, but I love to start decorating for the holiday as soon as October begins. Finally, Bee is old enough to notice that something special is happening and realize that she can help. Bee is working on her coloring skills, which will eventually help her with her writing skills. I want to encourage this as much as possible, and toddlers enjoy novelty. She’s aware of Samhain and Halloween thanks to special episodes of some of her favorite shows, and she knows what pumpkins are. I cut out some pumpkin shapes from orange construction paper and told her to draw faces on them. It was pretty amazing to see her spatially reason where eyes, noses, and mouths should appear.  My husband and I took turns coloring with her. If you do this craft with your toddler, it’s a perfect time to start talking about the lore behind Jack-o-lanterns in preparation for later carving.   In addition to making decoration, we also gave some to loved ones as cards.  I think we may make some skulls to put around the Ancestor shrine next!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,421 other followers