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Archive for the ‘Druidism’ Category

The forest is full of exciting energy right now.  It’s similar to the energy I feel in the autumn; it’s change and potential.

“Icy Ribcage” – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The ice gives way to the warm sunbeams penetrating the forest canopy. Copious deer droppings around these icy terreriums reveal that they are serving as watering holes until they evaporate. Even after her season, An Cailleach finds a way to provide for her herds…

“Book of Forest Wisdom” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Last year’s detritus, natural and human made, has spent the winter soaking up snow and ice.  The warmth finds it disintegrating.  Although I will be taking a bag with me on my next hike, as cleaning litter can be one of the best offerings to Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother, I find some of it beautiful at this time of year.  Some clothing has been ripped up, no doubt incorporated into hibernation nests.  Some, like the notebook above, have become poignant landmarks.  What was written there?  If the owner returned, what would he or she think of the message the forest left on the pages?  Whatever it says, it is fleeting…

“New Trout Lily.” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

…for soon, new growth, like this trout lily, will take over. When I see these mottled leaves, which will soon sprout delightful yellow flowers, I know that spring is here to stay. It is wisdom handed down to me from my parents, and the potential to share that with Bee excites me. Here and there, grasses are growing between the rotting leaves. Moss puffs up with pride.  Majestic ferns fan out, adding their bright green to an otherwise brown forest floor. Soon they will expand, and other green Nature Spirits will join them, making it difficult for me to walk in the forest.

“Horned God.” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The forest is changing, putting on its green cloak.  An Cailleach goes to sleep and the virile forest spirits reclaim their place.  There is adventure to be had in the woods, and my heart skips a beat thinking of a new season to explore and learn from the wild teachers.

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Now that the temperatures are starting to rise (slightly) and there is more daylight in the evening, I’ve started to take Bee out for walks with me.  We don’t go very far, but it’s nice to get outside and share that with her.  It’s how we saw our first robins and red-winged blackbirds of the year.  I keep pointing them out to her, naming their calls, and delighting in how she smiles as they fly.  I’ve also started to name trees as we pass them.  So much of what I learned about the natural world came from family members who did the same with me as a child.  It may seem mundane to some, but it’s really the transmission of a sacred knowledge.  I would never claim expertise in the matter, but it always amazes me how few people can identify some of the most common song birds, trees, or wildflowers.  Truly, a person’s first steps into the realm of any Earth-Centered spirituality should be learning the names of their local flora and fauna.

This past weekend, my husband and I took Bee into the forest with us for the first time.  The look on her face as she gazed up at the vaulted canopy of hemlock trees made my heart swell.  I hope she always has that wonder and awe.  I made offerings to the local spirits but did not feel anything particularly numinous in the forest on that occasion, but the experience with my little family was deeply spiritual as it was.  It was a rite of passage, really.  While Bee may never embrace the path of the Druid, or any Pagan path, I hope that I am passing on a deep love and respect for the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits.

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Blessing seeds at my altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Having moved my altar into my bedroom for improved child safety and privacy, I decided my next task would be blessing seeds prior to planting.  Gardening is one of my favorite activities.  It’s very fulfilling and feels deeply spiritual.  Growing my own herbs and what food I can is magical.  I know exactly where my plant allies come from and it deepens my relationship with the Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother.  I don’t have a huge garden, and what I do have is relegated to containers on my patio – but it’s a start, right?  Every year, my container garden grows and improves, as does my experience!

I placed the seed packets on my altar and did my usual  devotional rite, but made special offerings to Airmed, a Goddess associated with herbalism.  I asked her and the Kindreds to bless my seeds.  Although I am growing fruits and veggies as well as herbs, Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” so it seems appropriate.  My impression is that Airmed is happy to work with gardeners, and I would love to deepen my relationship with her this gardening season.

After making offerings, I prayed:

In the name of fire, well, and sacred tree,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
In the name of the land, the sea, and the sky,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
In the name of the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and the Gods and Goddesses,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
So be it!

I drew an omen after and the blackbird and cow jumped out of my Druid Animal Oracle deck.  My intuition tells me that this means I will have a bountiful year if I listen to my inner voice.  I’d say that’s both a promising omen and good advice!

Next I started my first round of seeds indoors.  I’m doing my best to garden according to the moon.  It’s a bit difficult to hit the time right and have a moment to do everything because of the baby and working during the week.  According to local herbalist and magical practitioner, Sue-Ryn Burns, the first quarter is a good time to plant aboveground crops like greens, flowers, and herbs.  The second quarter is a good time for starting fruits and veggies.  We’re nearly to the 2nd quarter.  Now seemed like the best time when considering the month, usual last frost date, and farming almanacs.  It’s a good compromise all around!

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The week’s stress comes to a head on Sundays, and the call from the forest is strongest then.  Come dance with the trees!  Come lose yourself in the quiet!  Come heal!  So I listen and go.

It snowed last night.  Not a dusting but a proper, North Country snow.  Everything was melting over the last couple days, but my trek to the forest once more found me knee-deep in cold, white dunes.

The forest welcomed me.  It seems, whenever I reach the hedge and ask permission to enter, a great wind blows and beckons me further in.  There was a stillness, but it was a comfortable stillness.  An anticipation, really; a “let’s hunker down and weather this once more” sort of feeling.  In the distance, returned song birds chirped, promising the green season to come.

An Cailleach has shaken her cloak once more so it felt right to visit an old tree in the woods that I have gone to for several years when I want to speak with her.  There is definitely something of her about it.  It is gnarled and full of holes.  It is the hag tree in the woods.  I made offerings – corn for her deer herds and a big, thick slice of homemade bread for the Goddess herself.  Some UPG I’ve received repeatedly is that she loves homemade bread.  I thanked her for the many lessons of winter.  Once more, she has taught us that we are not in charge.  The seasons shift when the spirits and the Natural World feel it is right.  All we can do is adapt and be patient.

After  giving the offerings, I stood and closed my eyes.  I listened to the sounds of winter.  The wind howling through the branches, the trees creaking…  It’s the voice of An Cailleach.  Soon she will quiet and I will have to wait to hear her whisper and shout again.

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Earth Hour has come and gone on the East Coast of the USA.  I believe this is my sixth year participating.  I remember the first year my husband (then fiance) and I took part.  We turned all the lights off and went for a lovely evening stroll.  This year, although things are warming up, it’s a bit nippy out at night.  We turned everything off, including our phones, and enjoyed some time together.  We only lit enough candles to safely move around the first floor: one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the bathroom.  We then lit one on the altar and did a devotional.  It just feels right for us to use this time to honor the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits in ritual.  We did a short meditation and spent a few moments enjoying the stillness.  Well, the stillness available to us with a very active baby!

A few people I know commented that they don’t understand Earth Hour.  They feel it is irrelevant, silly, or some such.  And that’s fine.  Not everyone will find it meaningful.  But my husband and I do.  I still believe that it’s an important way to make a stand, albeit merely a symbolic one.  Does it accomplish much in terms of actually saving energy?  In the grand scheme, no.  We still drove our gas-powered car to get groceries today, turned our computers back on after, etc.  But putting that hour aside each year is symbolic.  It is my way of saying that I still believe in the message.  It is my way of saying that I’m willing to make little sacrifices.  Every year, we make another change, take another baby step*.  Earth Hour is a good time to stop and contemplate that.

My husband and I also find a lot of value in setting aside that time to get away from our technology.  It’s when we can turn off, tune out, and reflect.  When I was working through Ian Corrigan’s Nine Moons studies, I set aside a day each week as a retreat from social networking and watching shows.  It was wonderful but didn’t last that long.  Sometimes it does feel like we’re all addicted to this technology.  Even when we aren’t on the computer, it might be on in another room.  The cellphone is on and people can reach you any time.  There’s a pressure to get back to people right away!  There’s an inkling to look, just to see, and make sure nobody said anything to you, to see what others are doing, to check the weather, to check the news, to check this and that…  And when you’re unable to do it at home, most of us are online at our jobs, using the internet to manage, plan, translate, collaborate, synthesize, publish, etc… When we leave our homes to socialize with family and friends, so many find it acceptable to somehow simultaneously use their smartphones to “multitask”**.

Earth Hour gives you an excuse to be in the moment.  Sure, we can do that at any time, but sometimes we really need an excuse for ourselves.  When we aren’t doing those things we feel we should, we can get antsy, even guilty.  It feels good to turn everything off and sit in the dark.  I should make a point to do it more often!

After our ritual, we played hangman by candlelight at the kitchen table.  We giggled and had a genuinely wonderful time.  When the hour was up and we turned the living room light back on, I thought about how lucky we are to even have that ability…

For more on why Earth Hour is still relevant, see this great post.

*This year, it’s all about reusable diapers and, for the last few months, reusable wipes!
** I’m so glad we went back to “dumbphones.”  I feel like I live more in the moment when we are out.  And really, it’s so very annoying to hang out with people and have them whip out their phones to play games or whatever.  Did I do that?  Gosh… I was so rude!

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Baby Bee's first basket!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Baby Bee’s first basket! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Along with honoring the change of seasons with Northern Rivers Protogrove, my little family and I observed it in our own way.  For dinner, we had some lovely omelets with asparagus.  We also gave Bee a basket of goodies.  I’m still not sure if this is something we’ll do every year or not.  I crocheted her a basket using scrap fabric, thus making it baby-safe.  I filled it with the Spring gnome I made, some purple socks, some organic baby food, a board book all about spring, and a beautiful wooden bowl and spoon set from Nova Natural.  We read the book just about every day, and she enjoys touching the textured images.  I plan to get her the other seasonal books in the series for those high days too.

I got into the spirit by finally placing my seed order.  There are still a few things I’m thinking of buying (like a potato grow bag and a container blueberry plant), but ordering seeds is a start.  I selected some tomato plants, eggplants, zucchini, cucumber, basil, chard, and scarlet runner beans.  I’m really excited to try those last seeds.  They produce beautiful, red flowers!  Oh, do I have plans for my little patio…

We ended the evening with a small family ritual.  My husband held Bee while I lead the rite.  We let her choose a dyed egg to offer the Nature Sprits, which was adorable.  Our omen for the season was the salmon.  Wisdom instantly came to mind upon seeing the card.  Truly, Weretoad and I are gaining a lot as Bee becomes more mobile.  We are growing as parents.  We thought we had childproofed the home a lot but, as soon as she started to properly crawl, we realized how wrong we were.  As a result, I’ve decided that my altar must go upstairs in the bedroom in order to prevent anything from falling onto her little head…

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I recently discovered something that is helping me with the more academic requirements in ADF’s advanced study programs. Bee is capable of eating finger foods so, sometimes, in the evening, I’ll put her in her highchair, give her some organic baby rice cakes, puffs, or fruit, and let her have at it. Meanwhile, I sit at the table next to her with a cup of tea, some reading materials, and notes. Sometimes I even read bits aloud for her which she finds entertaining.

Sure, I only get to read a few pages at a time, but it’s better than nothing! Here I go, as fast as a speeding oak!

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It’s the Spring Equinox and it’s snowing in the North Country.  Go figure.  Of course, if you look, you’ll find signs of spring all over.  Nature just doesn’t throw a switch and say, “Tada!  Spring now!”  The transition between seasons is a gradual process full of growth and decline.

I spent the last couple weekend nature walks seeking signs of spring.  I’ve already remarked about the buds on some of the trees.  There are also small patches in the forest where the snow has melted, leaving  lush puddles to sparkle in the sun (when she decides to show her face).  The sounds of winter – ice falling from branches, red squirrels chattering, morning doves cooing – are starting to find new accompaniment from migrating song birds.  I’ve heard their chant but not seen them yet!

Green! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Closer to home, now that the snow is starting to melt, there are patches of brown and green grass.  There are also patches of other plants, like what I believe are mallows*.  Oh, it makes my heart so happy to see the green…

The last time I left the forest, I stopped at a tree stump that always makes me think of An Cailleach.  I thanked her for the lessons of winter.  We’ve had a long, hard one but it teaches us patience, humility, and togetherness.  These sort of winters also force us to reflect on our level of disaster preparedness.  An Cailleach reminds us that we aren’t as in-control as we’d like to think, and it’s good to be reminded that.  Each season has a way of making the others all that much sweeter as the wheel turns…

May you have a very blessed Spring Equinox!  Go seek out the signs!

* If you’re an experienced forager and would like to chime in on whether or not those are, indeed, mallows that I photographed – I would appreciate your wisdom!

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Our lovely, naturally dyed eggs. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

For years, it has been my ambition to naturally dye eggs for the Spring Equinox.  Last year, I attempted to use some green tea (which I’ve successfully used to dye fabric), but the eggs were not a good color for dying.  I make a point to buy eggs that are either organic or local.  Since the Spring Equinox in the North Country is hardly the start of spring other regions experience, there aren’t a lot of local folks selling eggs.  It’s not farmer’s market season.  And of course, most people I know have chickens who lay brown eggs.  All of the organic eggs available at the stores are also brown.  Brown is a lovely color!  I also know folks whose chickens lay gorgeous blues and greens!  But the point is, I wanted to try my hand at dying eggs without red dye number 40.

This year I asked one of my favorite local farmers if they had any white eggs and they did!  They set the whites aside just for me.  We hard boiled and dyed a dozen of them using things we had in our cupboards: frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, and yellow onion skins.  My hypothesis was that the onion skins would be the least vibrant, but that was actually the opposite! Left to soak the eggs overnight, they produced a vibrant orange.  The strawberries created a very soft pinkish tan and the blueberries made a cozy sort of indigo.

The eggs developed an odd but interesting texture in the form of little bubbles.  These could be brushed away to reveal a lighter coating underneath.  This was either the result of me forgetting to thoroughly wash the boiled eggs before submersing them in the dye, or because I added an extra bit of vinegar to the dye after boiling.

Next year, I would like to be better prepared and try some different colors.  I need to plan my meals just right so that we have beets and red cabbage around.  I would have tried turmeric but we need to get some more.  We’ll do more experimentation next year!  Hopefully Bee will be old enough to enjoy it some! I imagine trying different foods and guessing the  eventual colors would be very fun for a wee one.  Part science, part art, and all magic!

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The Three Hallows in the center of Northern Rivers Protogrove’s Spring Equinox ritual.

Spring Equinox 2014 | Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF.

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