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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…

Butterfly Bun or Fairy Cake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

Butterfly Bun or Fairy Cake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

It’s been awhile since I posted about my attempts to explore Irish cooking.  Since it’s Bealtaine, I figured I should take a peek at some possibilities.  I came across Queen Cakes which sounded appropriate, but the author, Dariana Allen, explained that they were usually made for Nollaig Bheag.  However, the variation with wee wings felt particularly appropriate for Bealtaine!  A look around the internet revealed that there are variations in Ireland as well as Scotland and England.  Some call them butterfly buns, and others call them fairy cakes.  I followed Allen’s recipe, which was shared online here, but made a lemon frosting.  The first few I made look kind of like sick butterflies.  I cut the tops too thin,  Really, truly cut the top off, slice it in half, and position as wings on the frosting.  Dust with confectionary sugar.  So cute and easy! I can’t wait to share some with my grovies tomorrow!

Mini Bealtaine Fire

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Blessed Bealtaine!

We don’t have a fire pit at our apartment, so I decided to bring three candles out and light them on this special night. One is my flame keeping candle, one is my altar candle, and the third is one I’m making into my mini bonfire candle! My family lit our sacred fires, we made offerings to the Three Kindreds, and we walked around the candles three times clockwise for good luck. It was fun and took the perfect amount of time for my toddler.

May you have a blessed Bealtaine, and may the weeks ahead be bountiful and full of passion and joy!

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Sugar pod peas poking out to say hello to the world! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

My daughter and I took a walk around our home to celebrate Earth Day. Granted, we do this regularly, but why not do something outside today? It was chilly, so, regardless of what season the calendar says it is, we took our winter coats out.

First, we visited the container garden in back to inspect the newly planted onion set and the bed of dwarf sugar pod peas.  As you can see from the photo, the peas are germinating!  I’m hoping that their reputation for cold hardiness gets them through the low temperatures this week.  I may need to tuck them in for a few days each night!

Sticking close to the hedge, Bee and I wandered a little further  from home to look for signs of spring despite the chill.  Right off the bat, we heard a chorus of frogs in the marsh behind our home.  Each day we go out, I tell Bee that the sound comes from frogs, and she knows what they are due to lots of reading and animal-oriented shows.  She got down on all fours and proceeded to bounce, chanting “hop, hop, hop!”  That had to stop when we reached muddier terrain.  “Squish, squish, squish!” I said, picking her up.  Her boots aren’t as waterproof as mine.  Mud boots are on Bee’s birthday wish list!

I pointed to the white oak, but the buds weren’t as obvious on him. The maples had glorious, red buds that were bursting open.  Bee liked looking at them more.  I was able to hold her up so she could carefully touch them.  “Gentle, gentle,” I cooed.  She knows that word from interacting with our cats and my lemon tree.  “Twee.  Twee,” she said.

We reached a green hill, lovely and green after the rain we received, and Bee gleefully ran up with me.  She loves open spaces to race and explore.  We didn’t linger there long because the cold wind whipped our faces.  Bee held her hat as we gingerly climbed down.  We decided to go home.  Chilly wind equals snotty noses, and Bee needed a handkerchief.  Silly mama!  Why didn’t I pack one?  They’re necessary when out and about.

Between work and toddler care, I wasn’t able to do anything traditionally associated with Earth Day.  I didn’t attend a rally, pick up litter, or plant trees.  If my husband had been home, it would have been easier to manage a bag of litter (one parent handles the bag and the other watches the tot), but it’s hard when you’re on your own.  Earth Day was simple for me this year: a walk around our little patch of home, observing the natural changes.  We made offerings of birdseed to the local spirits and Earth Mother.  I said a prayer of thanks and Bee babbled, obviously trying to join in.  She solemnly blew a kiss to the trees when we were done.  Engaging in such activities today and every day will help raise a child who places value in the Earth, a child who is more likely to be intrinsically motivated to attend rallies, plant trees, and pick up litter when she’s older.  I’m laying the foundation.  Even if she decides that Druidism (or Paganism in general) is not the path for her, I will consider myself successful if she grows up to love and honor the Earth, and every being she shares her home with.

Weaving Charm

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I completed my second ever weaving project on my rigid heddle loom. When I was about halfway through, I decided to revisit Carmina Gadelica to see if there were any weaving prayers or charms. Of course there were! The more I study, the more it seems like my Irish and Scottish ancestors had a prayer or charm for everything. Every act was a ritual, and many of the weaving spells in Carmina Gadelica invoked holy powers to ward off evil eyes or mean spirits. Many prayers were long, often repeating colors, seeming to be devices to remember the order of strings when setting the loom up.

Inspired, I came up with a short charm to say as I weave. I decided to focus on receiving blessings rather than warding off evil eyes, but it can easily be reworked. In fact, I may add more to my prayer as I grow in experience. PWhen given some alone time with my loom, I can get a bit meditative repeating this to myself as I pass the shuttle between the yarn.

Weaving Charm by Grey Catside

May the Kindreds bless this cloth I make
And the person who shall come to possess it.

Photo Apr 12, 12 25 58 PM

Little Bee loves to give offerings of birdseed to the Nature Spirits every time we go outside. We sprinkle them below the ash tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Working to clean up the shrine to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Working to clean up the shrine to Airmed. Bee helped me add some stones.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The Good Folk are staring to appear.  ;) Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Nature Spirits are popping up everywhere!  I’m so glad the potted hyacinths survived the winter!
Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The gnomes are coming out, helping me care for the plants.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The gnomes are coming out, helping me care for the plants. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Every one or two months, I treat myself to a massage from my trusted massage therapist in Watertown, NY.  She’s an amazing lady – very open-minded and holistic.  I’m comfortable talking about my religious practice with her, and she’s equally at ease sharing her explorations of meditation, Buddhism, and alternative healing with me.  We approach spirituality a little differently, but we find common ground and have some really great conversations.

Today, I had an hour session that was part Swedish massage and part what she calls “sound energy healing.”  She’s been training on how to use such things as Tibetan singing bowls, tingshas, and tuning forks for therapeutic and spiritual purposes.  What she did felt a lot like reiki but with sound.  She surrounded me with various-sized singing bowls which she played according to her intuition.  She began by using the tingsha like a pendulum to check my chakras.  The sensation of the sound waves flowing through the air was amazing.  I relaxed and just relished in the experience.  Often, the singing bowls made me visualize great spirals moving over and through me.  A few times, it felt as if golden spears were cast right through me.  None of it felt painful; rather, the sound waves felt like they were pushing anything stressful and “negative” right out of me.

I know that sounds really New Agey, and people who are close to me know I don’t often go for that sort of thing.  Yet there is much to be said for the power of music.  There are stories of ancient bards disfiguring people with their song, which is a metaphor for how easily someone’s reputation can be changed due to a finely crafted song or story. I spent many years playing in my school’s orchestra, and that often aroused intense emotion.  When playing a song that evoked feelings of war, adventure, sadness or love, it was difficult not to get swept away in it while sitting in the middle of the source and participating in it.

Today’s experience has me curious about how the ancient Celts might have utilized sound in ritual.

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