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A perfect berry makes for a perfect offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Ok, everyone, it’s officially summer in my point of view! Solstice be damned; the actual start of summer is when I taste my first, local strawberry. That happened a few days ago. First, I collected a few wild strawberries at my childhood home. Of course, the plants are few and far between, making ripe and intact berries rare and edible jewels. I felt like a child again connecting with the first plant I ever learned how to forage.

Yesterday, we picked strawberries at a local farm. The sky was gray, and there were scattered showers, but it was perfect berry picking weather! We were comfortable, didn’t get sun burns, and we were the only people picking most of the time we were there! We felt comfortable letting Bee run back and forth between us, stuffing her face with delicious harvest. I spent much of the afternoon and early evening preserving what we picked. Today I made offerings of berries and incense. I thanked the Nature Spirits for their wonderful blessings, and I thanked the Ancestors for the wisdom they passed down that allowed me to preserve the harvest.

People who are new to Druidism may wonder how to engage with it.  Seriously, it can be as simple as saying “thank you” and giving back some of what you have.  It could be the most beautiful berry you picked, or a simple prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for what those before you allowed to occur in the present because of what they shared.

Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

I realize that I’ve not been the most avid blogger lately. Motherhood and organizing a protogrove (on top of having a career and hobbies) is a lot of work! I don’t often get a lot of opportunities to sit and write meaningful updates. The last thing I wrote, inspired by the pea blossoms in my garden, was really impromptu. I just wanted to share…

In that spirit, I thought I’d relate some of what I’ve been up to.

As far as ADF study programs go, I recently finished and submitted Liturgy Practicum 1.  It’s since been returned with some suggestions, and I’m nearly done with my revisions.  I’m slowly working my way through Indo-European Mythology 1.  I just have to find a few more details before I submit that.  Finally, I purchased Sacred Sounds: Transformation through Music and Word by Ted Andrews.  It’s one of the suggested texts for General Bardic Studies 1.  I’m nervous about that course, but it may be just the thing to take my creativity and rituals to the next level!  I do fancy the idea of becoming more of a storyteller…

Members of Northern Rivers met this past weekend for an informal study session and business meeting.  It was nice to meet up, catch up, and enjoy lunch.  We barely studied, but we spent some time discussing what we’re all working on, expectations, etc.  We agreed to try and meet quarterly to at least keep each other accountable.  I’m really proud of all the work my grovies are doing!

I continually strive to appreciate and learn more about nature each day.  The wind gifted me with an old wasp nest.  It was attached to an upstairs window for over a year until a recent storm blew it into my garden.  The durability of their creations really amazes me.  A protogrove mate gifted me with a couple of large pinecones from his travels.  One for my altar, and one for Bee’s nature table!

Speaking of Bee, she follows her mama’s footsteps in regards to loving nature.  She’s especially drawn to rocks lately.  She gets very excited whenever she sees stones.  She has an eye for beauty, that’s for sure.  In the photo, you can see a neat, dark stone she brought home, as well as a tiny bit of quartz we discovered next to an anthill we were investigating. She keeps me curious and gives me such joy.

I hope those of you who still read my blog are having a fantastic month full of lots of learning and time with nature!

Pea Blossom

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Pea Blossom. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

It’s amazing – and downright magical – how life emerges from a tiny seed and produces such beauty. After several weeks of waiting and tending, my peas have produced these beautiful blossoms. Indeed, many of the plants in my garden are showing signs of growth. Can you believe that we had snow on the ground just a couple months ago? Soon, we’ll celebrate the Summer Solstice…

I love how I get to experience a variety of seasons where I live. I appreciate each of them for different reasons. After week after grueling week of frigid temperatures, it all seems worth it now that I get to see the rebirth and growth all around. Soon, things will heat up. Sweat will roll down my back, and I’ll welcome the changing leaves and icy breeze that Autumn brings.

Turn, wheel, turn… I rejoice and join you in the dance!

I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

Yay Ireland!

In case you haven’t been following the news, Ireland has all but officially just became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!  And wow – by 70%!  I am very proud to have Irish heritage today.

It’s especially fascinating for me to see this after having recently finished reading Angela’s Ashes, a memoir by Frank McCourt.  While I’m normally more interested in ancient and medieval Ériu, I’ve been trying to learn more about modern Ireland.  There’s so much to wade through, but I feel that it’s important for me to better understand all of my ancestors, not just the pre-Christian ones.  McCourt’s story takes place in the early 1900’s, right up until after World War II.  It highlights an Irish family’s struggles with poverty and addiction, as well as Frank’s own coming-of-age.  Also evident are the deep wounds of English occupation, animosity between Catholics and Protestants, and religious-oriented sexual repression and guilt.  Included is a small peek into a generation’s perception on homosexuals within Ireland.  The whole story is very depressing, but an incredible page-turner.  Part of this is due to McCourt’s wry humor which translates well through his childhood point-of-view.  As I read, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors.  The book opened with Frank’s parents moving to New York to escape Ireland’s poverty.  They came around the same time as some of my ancestors before returning to Ireland to seek help from their families.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

When I visited Ireland a few years ago, I saw many reminders of where the country had been.  Not just the magnificent megalithic monuments that I was mostly interested in – but monuments to honor victims of the Great Famine and scars from events like the Easter Rising.  To see a nation, once the site of so much animosity, come together to honor love makes my heart swell.  Today, I can see and appreciate just how much Ireland has grown.  I can only understand it so much as an American removed from Ireland by a couple generations… but I am still so proud.  It’s not a perfect country, of course, but it is quite different from the one my ancestors left decades ago.

Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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