I browsed some garage sales yesterday and just couldn’t pass up this adorable and very Druidic shirt. She won’t be able to wear it for several months, but for 50¢ you can’t go wrong! It’s already washed and ready for storage. Go me!
Recently on Facebook, someone posted a story and the headline read that the black rhino was now extinct. The story must have been hyperbolized, because my reading revealed that the black rhino is extinct in certain regions but not entirely (thank the Gods!). They are critically endangered and some still exist in captivity or in sanctuaries. So there’s still time, but something needs to change fast. The frequency of news stories and environmental blog updates about illegal ivory poaching is absolutely alarming. It all goes back to greed, a desire for status, and traditional Asian medicine. The last is what is most troublesome to me in a spiritual sense.
To me, this is such a difficult topic to wade into because, despite my desire to do what is best for the environment and preserve our biodiversity, this is wrapped up in culture. Normally, I can maintain a sense of cultural relativism, but some things raise hackles because they no longer seem correct in the given context. And yet how do you stop a culture from wanting something that has been part of their traditional medicinal practices for centuries?
Vu Quoc Trung, a traditional medicine doctor who works out of a Buddhist pagoda in Hanoi, thinks [ivory] has some limited value.
“According to ancient medicine books, there are only three uses for rhino horn,” says Vu. “The first is to decrease temperature, the second is to detoxify and the third is to improve blood quality.”
Think of the many correspondences that exist within Western practices – whether for magic or traditional healing (and yes, I know there is a crossover). Once upon a time, it was customary to wall cats into buildings to protect the homes against evil spirits, for example. I doubt most modern Pagans would do that (perhaps some would if the cat were already dead…). Now that’s not the best analogy because cats aren’t endangered, but it suggests that people are able to change their practices despite what tradition tells us.
And yet we aren’t perfect here in the West. For example, we know how damaging mining for gems and metals can be, and yet we constantly buy them for our magical workings. Many vendors I speak to don’t actually know where their gems came from or, if they do, how they were mined. Who knows what ecosystem the mining is devastating? Who knows how the workers were treated as it was extracted from the Earth Mama? When you live in the US and import, you don’t really know the conditions unless you go there yourself. Perhaps access is the biggest problem – East and West. We feel that everyone who wants to practice magic (or traditional Chinese medicine) should have access to the materials. Therefore, they should be affordable. To keep things affordable, greedy people are willing to engage in unscrupulous practices to obtain and sell what we consumers demand. Often, the consumers ignorantly or willfully look the other way just so they can have their shiny crystals or ivory.
Unless our ancestors were wealthy, those who used natural resources in their magic and healing used what was readily available. Local herbs, local wood, local bones, river rocks, and the odd crystal or rough gem revealed beneath an upturned tree or boulder. Really rare and precious materials would be expensive. If an ancestor felt the need to utilize one in some sort of working, and if he or she could afford it, I bet it would have been purchased only for the most important workings or sacrifices. (I don’t have anything to cite for this, but if it was true for cloth and spice, I assume it was true for gems, ivory, and rare resins.)
So I don’t have any answer to the ivory problem. I’m hopeful the efforts to educate people in Asian countries about the plight of the elephants and rhinos will change their practices. Yet we also need to be more aware of where we get our own magical ingredients. We need to be conscious consumers and weigh our priorities. Personally, I find the best magical ingredients to be those grown and/or harvested by your own hands. It’s not always possible, but at least you know how they were obtained. When you work with the spirits of Nature and the Earth Mother, when you find them to be sacred, you simply must make these considerations.
First off, if you haven’t read the latest offering from The Wild Hunt on Mothers’ Day, you really ought to. It includes a concise history (which I was not aware of before) as well as possibly spiritual implications this secular holiday may have for Pagans.
This is the first time I’m officially celebrating Mothers’ Day now that I’m expecting. Despite her not having been born, the little one growing in me makes me a mother; an inexperienced mother, but a mother all the same! Weretoad has arranged for me to get a maternity massage in the near future and brought me to see “The Great Gatsby” last night (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Today we went to Foxy’s restaurant in Fisher’s Landing on the St. Lawrence River to celebrate with my parents. The view there is spectacular and they gave mothers a free dessert. Nom!
I wanted to include a special ritual on my first personal observation of Mothers’ Day. In particular, I wanted to give offerings to my spiritual mothers. I’d never thought of doing that before, but becoming a mother really makes one reflect on the sacrifice it takes to be one, and thus I reflected on how I should have been doing that all along! Originally, my intent was to share a cup of pregnancy tea with my Ancestral Mothers. The more I thought, I realized that I should also honor the Earth Mother, the Mother Nature Spirits, and the Mother Goddesses, especially my lady Brighid. They all play an important role in my concept of what it is to be a mother – whether biological or not. And so, I organized a bit of a tea party devotional!
I made a pot of pregnancy tea and brought two teacups and saucers to my altar – one to act as an offering bowl and the other for my portion of the tea during the return flow. I spoke words of praise and thanks to the Earth Mother and Mothers within the Three Kindreds. I poured tea and meditated. I drew omens to see what blessings or lessons they had for me on my new journey and they were very good and encouraging. The Nature Spirits gave me the raven for initiation and protection. The Ancestors sent me the dog for companionship and protection. The Goddesses sent me the boar which signifies the strength of a warrior. I directed those blessings into my cup of tea and drank them up. I also directed them into an amulet I intend to have with me at the birth.
My tea party devotional was a wonderful way to connect with the maternal energies on this day. I feel the rite was successful and I intend to do another next year.
Posted in Druidism | Tagged amulets, ancestors, divination, Earth Mother, Gods and Goddesses, herbalism, motherhood, Nature Spirits, pregnancy, rituals, spellwork, tea, Three Kindreds, tribe | 2 Comments »
After watching “The Business of Being Born” and reading Birthing From Within, I was very interested in hiring a doula to assist with my birth – particularly one trained in massage, meditation, and aromatherapy. They are supposed to be very helpful to women who desire natural births. I mean, come on. The idea of some “wise healer woman” attending my birth seemed totally appropriate for a person like me! The only thing that was preventing us from seriously searching at the beginning of my pregnancy was the cost. I was aware of at least one Doula on the river, but their website did not list cost. When a price is unlisted I usually assume the worst… We found a doula in Watertown but her fee and payment plan would not have worked with our summer budget either. And let’s face it… the baby is going to be born in the summer so we’ll need every penny we can pinch!
For awhile I gave up on the idea of a doula, but we talked to a few at a recent baby expo in Syracuse. One said she could be more flexible with a payment plan, which was reassuring, but having to count on someone two hours away would stress me out. The point of having a doula is that she is there to help you relax. I feel that I’d constantly look at the clock and wonder where she was. Yet the possibility, and my husband’s encouragement to ask about flexibility, was nice.
My friend Miss Corinne is also pregnant and was able to find a doula! Corinne likes her character and willingness to provide flexible payment plans so she recommended her to me. Not only that, but she’s local! My husband encouraged me to look into it. Why not? Unfortunately, this doula can’t commit to my due date which I completely understand. Life happens and I can’t expect the world to stop turning just for my labor!
And so, I’m letting it go.
Honestly, I’m not terribly beat up about it. I was a bit disappointed at first because it seemed nearly possible, but in the end it feels that the universe was trying to tell me not to worry so much. And my saying that is not to denigrate anyone hiring a doula! I believe in doulas, support all women who want one present, and would love to try that route again if I have another child. The biggest reason I wanted to hire a doula has been because of the reality that my midwife might not be there. She was very honest about that; things happen, people get ill, etc. She has made it equally clear that she doesn’t like missing her patient’s labors but that, sometimes, it happens. Naturally, that worries me – that there won’t be another midwife on call that night and I’ll be stuck with a doctor who just wants to go home and push the drugs on me to get it over with. It’s just that, I guess, I need to find the strength within. I need to have faith in my own resolve and, yes, stubbornness. I need to have faith in my body and in my Kindreds.
And the doula situation is just another reminder that, in addition, I need to be flexible and accept that things don’t always go the way I want or plan. So it’s not that I am now over having a doula; it’s simply that the universe needs me to learn a different lesson this time and I need to be open to that.
I also need to have faith in my husband. Weretoad might not always be the most lovey-dovey person in the world, but he is very supportive and sensitive when it counts. When I had my wisdom teeth out, for example, he cared for me the way I thought only a parent would. He set up timers and brought me my medicine exactly when I needed. He spoke soft reassuring words. He tucked me in. He brought me water and food. He helped me walk when I felt dizzy and nauseous. He replaced bloody gauze for me. He cleaned my drug-induced vomit from our patio. Helped me to the bathroom. You know you’ve found love when your partner helps you through the most embarrassing situations and yet loves you all the same. Weretoad occasionally irritates me when he plays one too many video games or looks at forums for ten minutes after I ask him to rub my feet, but he always delivers, and I know that, in serious situations like childbirth, he will be by my side with those soft reassuring words and strong hands that I love so much. My husband will be my doula, or close enough, this time around*.
And if a situation keeps my midwife away? I’ll have Brighid, the midwife.
* And he totally took a reiki class with me (despite his skepticism) specifically to learn another technique to calm and comfort.
My baby shower was on Saturday, and what a lovely celebration it was! As I’m easier to fatigue lately, I decided I only wanted one big shower rather than having to travel elsewhere for other smaller ones. I’m glad I listened to my instincts about this well in advance. After my grandfather’s funeral the weekend before, I’ve been feeling really exhausted. I don’t see myself traveling very far from home until after the baby is born and I’ve recuperated. The amount of people who came in from out of town was very moving, as was the effort and generosity of everyone involved. I received some truly wonderful gifts for the baby – clothing, bottles, cloth diapers, toys, books, play pens, toiletries, etc… Weretoad and I (the shower was coed) also received a few things for ourselves to make the transition more comfortable such as a handmade lavender candle, handmade nipple cream, herbal supplements, a baby food cookbook, and some beer (the later as more of a gag given that hubby hardly drinks). Some gifts were especially suited to our Irish hearth culture and love of our Irish heritage. A friend from Northern Rivers made the baby a tummy time quilt with lovely green fabric featuring swirls, knots, and shamrocks. Friends from Muin Mound sent us a copy of Guess How Much I Love You in Irish! My sister and brother-in-law decorated a onesie with a lovely blue and green triquetra.
I called on some friends of mine, including my protogrove sisters, to help organize a mother blessing as part of the shower. It was really important to me to acknowledge my passage into a new role as well as the coming birth of our little one. The importance of honoring life’s transitions became crystal clear to me last year when the ladies of Muin Mound welcomed one of our younger members into the fold of womanhood after her first menstruation. It was a simple rite, but powerful. My own first menstruation was marked with embarrassment due to the timing and the way some family members treated me for it. My mother did her best to help me feel comfortable and reassured, which was wonderful of her, but it was difficult to feel the transformation was a good thing at the time due to how others were treating me. I hope my own daughter doesn’t have to feel that way. A mother blessing for me was very reassuring. Just as menstruation, birth is to be a messy and painful process – only more so! This time, I wanted the support and encouragement from fellow women in an environment that celebrated the change rather than tease and act uncomfortable.
My friends delivered wonderfully! The rite, as requested, was simple and non-denominational so as to not make any non Pagan friends and family uncomfortable. Guests were invited to bring a bead for a necklace to be made and to share their wishes and wisdom. Everyone had lovely things to say, even those who are not yet mothers. I originally thought the men would go off and do something else, but they stayed for the blessing as well. Some even participated, sharing words of advice for Weretoad. When it was my mother’s turn, I couldn’t help but tear up. She had brought a tiny bracelet I made when I was little. The fact that she saved this all these years brought up so much emotion. As my baby grows, I’ve come to realize just how much my own parents love me. It’s an irrational love that is unconditional and very deep. My mother’s having saved that tiny bracelet reminded me of that love, and I hope she knows how much I love her back. I hope my own daughter can understand that love one day. It was never so clear until I became pregnant.
Later, after the new necklace had been assembled, my friends leading the blessing read a prayer/guided meditation to remind me that I come from a long line of mothers and that my labor will be my own. They placed a crown of flowers upon my head, a candle blessed with everyone’s energy at my feet, bright orange flowers in my lap, and the necklace of love and wisdom around my neck. It was very moving and I felt so touched and reassured by it all. Motherhood is an important milestone in my life. I’m so grateful that so many came to help me celebrate it and my little baby.
Slowly but surely, things are coming together in the garden. We’re not being overly ambitious this year given the circumstances, so we’re making what we have work for us. We’ll probably need one or two more bags of compost and soil, but they’re not very expensive. I was very happy to get seed samples at the gardening event in Alexandria Bay this past weekend! That will help a lot.
One of my gardening goals this year is to learn to work with the cycles of the moon. According to local herbalist Sue-Ryn Burns, the last quarter of the lunar cycle is a perfect time for tilling soil, applying fertilizer, and pruning. Although I’m a couple days early, I wanted to take advantage of both that energy and the fertility of Bealtaine. I finally emptied my little compost bin onto a tarp to separate the good stuff from everything that’s still decomposing. This is probably my most successful year of composting yet! It’s a small operation given my inability to have a large compost heap, but definitely worth the effort!
Composting is a wonderful activity, and I definitely recommend it to gardeners, even if you rent like I do! There are many ways to go about it and it’s a great way to reduce food waste. It’s very magical and earthy, too. Truly a great way to teach children about decomposers and soil.
I mixed my compost with last year’s potting soil and half a large bag of compost and soil from the local garden center that wasn’t touched last year. My husband helped me to shovel it all back into various pots. We added some more soil to the moon garden and I reconfigured the stones. All the while, the sun set and an owl sang its song. It was a bit of work for this pregnant lady, but Weretoad did all the heavy lifting and I enjoy this sort of exercise. Like my late grandfather, I always have some project and am not entirely happy if I don’t! I can’t and won’t let my pregnancy keep me from one of my greatest joys – my garden! After all, it’s a huge part of my spirituality and I intend to introduce my child to this hobby ASAP!
Soon, the moon will start to wax and I will plant greens and flowers. Meanwhile, I have dandelion roots in the dehydrator and tender young dandelion leaves in the fridge for a Bealtaine dinner tomorrow. May your Bealtaine be filled with fertility – be it in the garden, your family, your artistic pursuits, your relationships, or finances!