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Traveling Prayer

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greycatsidhe:

I’ve blogged a lot about sharing my Druidic path with Bee in the hopes that others who are thinking about raising their own children in their spiritual path will see how organic and fun it can be. What Jan describes is very much what I’ve been experiencing with my toddler. They truly are sponges, and they love to be with you and do as you do more than anything!

Originally posted on Mist to Open. Mists to Bind.:

I’ve always intended on raising my children pagan, and over the past two years, as I’ve been putting that desire into practice, for the most part, it has not been a conscious effort. There are a few things that I try to teach my daughter, and a few things that I specifically explain to her, but mostly it is just involving her, and being surprised at how much she picks up. I walk my path unashamedly, and so she see all the little parts of my life where my faith and my practice are incorporated.  Toddlers are sponges.

She sees me pray each morning, and now fairly consistently asks “Mommy, pray?” So we pray together when she asks. I call out to Hestia and light her flame and some incense, and then we say “Yay, Hestia!” I’ve started adding in a super short prayer to the Three Kindreds and showing…

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The old shrine. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Sometimes we have to take a pilgrimage to where it all began – to the source of our spirituality.  By that, I mean the places where we first felt the stirrings of spirits around us, observed the interconnection of everything, and where our soul first learned to dance.  For me, that place is my childhood home – in particular, the forest behind the house.

I grew up able to play in the shade of white pines, sugar maples, red maples, black cherries, crab apples, and aspens.  I learned the name of many plants, native and invasive, and whether or not I could eat them.  I learned how to recognize numerous birds by shape and call.  I often woke up to find herds of deer or flocks of turkeys outside my bedroom window.  Once I even saw a pine marten.  I meditated below those trees, poured my first offerings there, and hailed the moon on that land.  On summer nights, the song of crickets and spring peepers was my lullaby.  On winter mornings, the happy coo of mourning doves was a gentle alarm clock.  Although I was baptized a Roman Catholic, I always felt the most spiritual out in the forest.

As moved into Paganism, and as that grew into Druidism, I started to visit a particular spot often.  I made an Earth Mother statue, placed a small, porcelain teacup below her, and brought her interesting stones, seeds, flowers, etc.  The shrine is still there, although I have to gently remove the pile of leaves blanketing it each visit.  I always feel a mixture of gratitude for where I’ve been and an extreme nostalgia for the childhood that is gone.  I can almost imagine the ghost of my childhood self playing around the trees.  Perhaps that is a different type of Nature Spirit or ghost – the positive energy we left behind in our old haunts?

I wonder what will become of my old shrine should my family ever move. Should I take those relics with me, or should I leave them there for a new child to wonder at?  Who knows if I’ll ever have to cross that bridge. It makes me a little sad to think of all the childhood homes that are now inaccessible to others because they moved away.  Such is life, though.  We can always return in our minds if we quiet ourselves long enough and unlock the memories.   For now, the shrine remains, a special landmark I occasionally pilgrimage to.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any of my arts and crafts.  Creativity is a large part of my Druidism, especially as a devotee of Brighid.  Constantly improving my skills, and making items to help my family and friends, gives me a very fulfilled feeling. As I learn old arts, especially, it helps me feel closer to my ancestors.

I recently finished knitting my first pair of socks.  This is a huge achievement for me.  I’ve been working towards this for years.  I started and stopped many times. (Perseverance is a virtue, after all!) Double-pointed needles felt intimidating and complicated, so I tried other options…  Nothing was working for me.  Finally, I found a good youtube video about making simple socks with double-pointed needles.  It wasn’t that bad at all!  Everything, including that evasive heel-turning, suddenly makes sense.  I’m definitely the type of learner who needs demonstrations.

The finished socks aren’t much to look at.  I didn’t use any fancy stitches, and I could improve the toes… They’re bulky, and more accurately called “slipper socks.”  But by gosh, they are socks with cuffs and actual heels! I can’t wait to get smaller needles and finer yarn to make socks I can actually wear with my shoes.

My first pair of knitted socks. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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It’s so easy to make excuses when we want to better ourselves.  Whether it’s working on our various Druidic study programs or exercising more, people have a tendency to put things on hold for reasons that may not always exist as legitimate obstacles.

I want to be a healthier person.  I think I already eat healthier than most other people in the country, but I’m definitely a bit of a couch potato.  A few years ago, I discovered that running was actually a fun way to exercise.  It allowed me to spend time outside, spend time with my husband on a shared goal, and even experiment with a different type of trance.  Then came some very real excuses – I became pregnant.  I had an unplanned cesarean. I was a new and very tired mother. I didn’t run, or even kayak, for a couple years.  I continued to eat relatively healthy, and nursing has helped me lose my pregnancy weight.  That and chasing an increasingly active toddler have helped me keep off the pounds.

Yet I want more.  I want to feel good about myself.  I won’t nurse forever, and I want to try and maintain what I have going on!  But the excuses, gosh!  Work stress. Work fatigue.  Need to make dinner.  It’s hot.  It’s cold. Too buggy. Blah blah blah.

Last night, my husband took his turn entertaining Bee so that I could have some time to myself.  Me time is sacred.  I absolutely must have some or I will get frustrated.  Suddenly I found myself just sitting at my computer.  I was wasting my time on a social network, mind you, not working on any of my Druidic studies or even maintaining the Northern Rivers page.  I often catch myself using Bee’s nap time to lounge on the couch and watch shows that are otherwise too scary or mature for my little one.  Sometimes I crochet or knit, but usually I just relax…

Relaxation is important, but where’s the moderation?  I found myself at my computer last night, feeling a bit restless and depressed with myself.

Then it clicked – why was I just wallowing in that?  There was time in the day, and the only one holding me back at that point was my sloth shadow-self.

Five minutes later, I had my sneakers on and was out the door, stretching, then walking, then running!  The sun was setting, and a crescent moon grinned at me from above.  My legs pumped, my heart drummed – I felt so alive!  I ran with the red-winged blackbirds fluttering through the cattails.  The mosquitos couldn’t catch me!

I hope I can keep it up…  It made me feel so positive about myself and my life.

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Tanya's crystal workshop at a local park.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Tanya’s crystal workshop at a local park.  We sat in the shade of a pavilion, put all the materials on picnic tables, meditated together, and enjoyed a feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Planning the location of a group ritual may be as simple as “inside or outside” for some, especially if they rely on utilizing each others’ homes, but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Furthermore, not everyone has enough space to accommodate more than a few visitors. Traditions like Ár nDraíocht Féin emphasize public rites, so that can further complicate things.  There are many Groves and Protogroves that meet at one or two individuals’ private property, but that seems rare.  If you’re thinking about starting an ADF study group or protogrove, but you’re worried about having an unknown number of strangers in your home, you may want to look at other options.  This may seem overwhelming at first, but you have a variety of paths to explore!

    • Public Town or City Parks

      This is an obvious place to start.  Scout out local parks with accessible bathrooms (very important), shade, and a variety of shelter in case of inclement weather.  Pavilions may even have power outlets if you’d like to have crockpots or kettles plugged in for a potluck following the ritual.  Call the appropriate city or town office to look into a reservation if you’re concerned about having tables or the possibility of shelter from rain.  My group, Northern Rivers Protogrove, rented a small pavilion at one of the largest parks in the area.  All I had to do was look up the park office online and contact them.  They required a $15 fee (which I paid by check with group funds) and asked for some basic information, including a reason for the reservation.  If you’re nervous that a park will reject you for wanting to have a ritual, you could simplify your explanation.  For example, you could say that you’re having a fall celebration while maintaining your integrity.  A ritual and a celebration are the same; it’s just word choice based on audience.   Do check with local and state laws.  I’ve heard from some in other states that parks don’t always allow religious activities.  Looking to save money?  Just meet at the park and find a free place, but be prepared with a plan B in case others beat you to all the sheltered areas.

 

    • State Parks
      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015

      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015


      Northern Rivers Protogrove recently had a ritual that we called “A Feast for Manannan mac Lir” at a local state park along the St. Lawrence River.  For a group named after the local rivers, it seemed important that we arrange this and “pay the rent” to Manannan!  The information about city or town parks also applies to State Parks, but there may be additional concerns about what you bring in and take out.  For example, a park on a protected lake won’t be an appropriate place to leave certain offerings out of environmental concerns.  Other state parks are more developed.  The location we chose had newly renovated bathrooms, a clean beach with lifeguards on duty, marina, campgrounds, pavilions, and a huge playground.  It was also more expensive to rent a pavilion here ($60), and every car had to pay a $7 parking fee, but the park is immaculate and the pavilion we rented included clear signs as well as garbage and recycling receptacles.  Since the group made a day of the event, it was worth it in my opinion.  We’re about three-four years old now, so we can afford this from time to time, but smaller groups just starting out may want to to save a bigger park for another time if there are high fees.  Also consider the accessibility of the site.  Since ADF rituals are supposed to be open, having events in a more rustic park that might not be handicapped accessible could be a bad option.  You just never know who will show up!  Look for parks with wide paths, ramps, and accessible bathrooms.

 

    • UU Churches
      Parks are great places, and of course many Druids and Polytheists want to gather outside as much as possible, but if you live in a climate with four seasons, shelter and plumbing become very attractive amenities!  This is especially so with open rituals since some people may not want to (or be physically able) to attend rituals in inclement weather.  Think the handicapped, small children, the elderly, and pregnant women.  Many Pagan groups utilize Unitarian Universalist churches.  In the past, when I lived in Utica, I belonged to an eclectic group that often rented space at the UU church for rituals, workshops, and even a couple Pagan Pride-type events.  However, this was made possible because a few of the group’s leaders were already active members of the UU church, so they were trusted with the keys.  When my protogrove was seeking ritual space, we decided to look at other options because the UU church nearest us already has a CUUPs group, and none of our members went to the UU.  Without the connections, and with time and space already needed by the CUUPs group, we decided not to pursue that option.   Having said that, if you are already active in a UU church, you should look into using that space.  You’ll have access to bathrooms and, usually, kitchen space.  Depending on the specific church’s policies, and your involvement, there may be a fee, and you may need to coordinate with another person who has a key.  Scheduling in advance will be important here due to other programing.

 

    • Metaphysical ShopsIf you’re lucky enough to live near an established magical shop with enough space, you may be able to have some rituals there!  Back in Utica, there was a shop that hosted bimonthly gatherings, and they were opened to having other groups utilize the space.  This may be a good option for new groups that don’t have an established “home base.”  It could also be a winter solution for groups that usually meet in parks.  Here in Northern NY, a few metaphysical shops have informed me that they would be happy to have us should we ever need space.  They either have a set rental fee, or merely ask for a donation.  One shop even said those who rent a space will get a special discount the day of the event.  You’ll need to consider scheduling in advance because other groups, readers, or presenters may be using the space.  One big plus is free publicity! Many people will come to your group simply because the shopkeeper knows who you are and that you’re already meeting there!

 

  • Yoga and Holistic Centers

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow.  Photo by Weretoad,  2012.

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow. Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

     

    Northern Rivers Protogrove’s base is at the beautiful Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  Not all Yoga centers will be an appropriate choice for NeoPagan groups to approach for ritual space, but don’t rule it out.  Ours is not just a studio space in a building – it’s a whole property that includes a yoga studio, kitchen, bathrooms, barn, labyrinth, nature trail, gardens, and a fire pit surrounded by a stone circle.  That last point, as well as the location’s monthly drum circles, encouraged me to ask.  This path is for those who are patient.  I didn’t have an established relationship with the center at the time, and their board wanted to know all about us.  I supplied them with links to ADF, explanations on modern Druidism, and a step-by-step guide to our rituals so that they would see that we’re working with positive energy and not trying to do any harm.  I think my openness and insistence that we are an Earth-centered path really earned us some trust.  We’ve never used the space without their live-in VP in attendance, but he’s very open-minded and loves to take part in our workings.  Our relationship with the yoga center continues to grow and improve, and in the spirit of hospitality, we try to give back when we can.  We always pay a rental fee, often giving more than required when we have highly-attended rites.   We’ve helped with yard work, painting, and occasionally attend their other functions, including fundraising to update the facilities.  We also promote each others’ activities.  Just as with the other examples, you’ll have to do a lot of cleanup when you leave in order to maintain the trust you’re building.  Northern Rivers is lucky in that we have several dedicated members who stay until the floors are cleaned, the tables and chairs put away, and the dishes are done.  We also have to schedule a year’s worth of rituals in advance because they have many other programs beyond their yoga classes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near such a facility, and have the energy and/or funds to give back, I encourage you to explore this option!

The moral of the story?

It would be nice if each Pagan group could have an established temple that meets all their needs, but new groups should spend their energy establishing themselves and having group rituals where they can.  Whether you’re starting a group, or you’re looking for a new ritual space to meet your growing needs, I encourage you to look around your community and think about what’s available to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, and never forget the virtue of hospitality when exploring these possibilities.  In fact, emphasize that virtue, letting others know that you will clean up at least, or help in other ways if possible!  Renting spaces for ritual will often bring up the question of money and how groups obtain it, but that’s a post for another time.  For now, I hope those thinking about starting a study group or protogrove will find this encouraging.  If any of my readers have found other solutions for open group rituals, please comment so those seeking options can get more ideas!

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Photo Jul 05, 11 43 06 AM

Our kayaks on the shore of Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Earlier this year, I took to doing weekly omen drawings to gain insight into what would come my way. I recently started to do daily draws for similar purposes, but I use the ogham for that so that I can better learn that system. My weekly drawings utilize my main method of divination: the Druid Animal Oracle. I still love that deck, and I grow more adept at it as I delve further down my Druidic path.

Last week, I drew the bear.  To me, the bear means personal sovereignty.  There is the connection between King Arthur and bears, of course, as well as the connection to the Gualish Goddess Artio (and we know many Goddesses are associated with sovereignty). In addition, bears are quite literally very territorial.  They take what they want, and woe to any human who gets in their way!  I also associate the bear card with hibernation, or rest.

That made a lot of sense to me.  It was my first week of summer vacation, and I truly embraced my inner bear.  I allowed myself to reclaim some of my personal time and energy.  Yes, I attended to basic housework and, of course, ran all over creation to entertain my little one, but I also sat on my butt to read, watch anime, meditate, and just chill.  I really got to wallow in my bear-self over the weekend, when I went with family to a camp on Star Lake in the lovely Adirondacks.

Photo Jul 05, 9 33 59 AM

A loon on Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I enjoyed lounging in and by the lake.  Summer hibernation, Grey style!  I could get used to a view like that.  I think I could handle getting out of bed to greet the sun shining on the water, then meditate on the dock each day in the green half of the year.  And what better place to be a bear than surrounded by pine trees?  I’m truly grateful for that opportunity.  I hope that one day, I am lucky enough to really drawn on bear’s sovereignty, and have my own home or camp on a lake or river.

What a blessing that would be!  After I’m done being a bear, I’ll have to get back to work with my eye on the prize!

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