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Posts Tagged ‘altars’

I honor and work with the Three Kindreds: the Nature Spirits, Gods and Goddesses, and the Ancestors.  The later tends to fall to the sidelines all too often in my daily practice, which is very unfortunate.  I pride myself and my tradition for paying better  attention to the beloved dead, but I know I have room for improvement.  And since most cultures who venerate ancestors share the belief that they are more likely to help you than the other spirits due to their vested interest in the tribe, it makes sense to keep that hospitality flowing!

A fellow ADFer really inspired me by posting about having coffee with her ancestors.  I’m not much for coffee, but I could surely share tea!  The only problem was that my ancestor altar had become a tiny corner on my bookshelf which is relegated to a hard to reach corner in our new place.  Boo!

It suddenly occurred to me that I had space over the hutch my father refurbished for me!  What’s more, it is in the dining room where I can enjoy a cup of tea with my ancestors!  And not only that, they can join us for every meal!  (Talk about super convenient for Samhain!)

My ancestral altar, all moved in to the dining room. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

After I moved the altar to its new home, I felt called to make some Irish soda bread.  I never made traditional soda bread before, so I searched for a manageable recipe.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it without raisins or caraway seeds, but it came out wonderfully!  And of course, the first piece went to the ancestors.  Today, as Bee and I enjoyed our breakfast, I shared some tea with my ancestors, invited the beloved dead, and delved into some Celtic studies.  It occurred to me the ancestors were talking to me through the history book…  How appropriate.

My first attempt at baking traditional Irish soda bread! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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My time is limited and, as a result, I haven’t felt pulled to make the very detailed, large dolls I made prior to pregnancy.  Those will come again, but I’ve recently found myself returning to my roots and making dolls with very simple shapes.  Some may view that as backwards, but something Phillip Carr-Gomm said in the latest Druidcast really spoke to me.  He compared the movement of people back to religions inspired by very ancient myths to salmon returning to their spawning ground and taking part in a cycle rebirth.  Not only did it make sense to me in regards to Druidism’s place in the modern world, but it dawned on me that I was experiencing the same thing in my art.  Motherhood has transformed my life in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand.  It is impacting my art.  Everything has to be reborn in this new phase of my life.

You may have seen the Waldorf-inspired gnomes I’ve been making for my daughter.  They are akin to my early exploration of doll making.  Limbs are very complicated and so I’m not bothering with them so much right now.  Recently I’ve been wanting to spend less time on constructing the form and more on adding soul.  I decided to make a new Brighid doll for my altar.  I’ve said this many times, but I’m a proponent of using your talents to make your own ritual tools.  For me, the desire to create representations of deities for my altars is what brought me to doll making in the first place.  I retired my original Brighid doll.  She was very top-heavy and required a metal and wooden stand.  With baby just months away from walking, it seemed like a safety hazard.  Brighid has a new home upon my altar and in a form that matches my evolving understanding of her.  She is more voluptuous, draped in a tartan cloak “pined” with a Celtic knot button to represent her smithcraft and art in general.  Although I did not make limbs in the usual sense, her hand peeks out from her cloak to magically hold her sacred flame, something I needle felted using dyed sheep wool (also very appropriate for this Goddess).

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m rather happy with how she turned out.  As I worked on this Brighid doll, the Goddess sent her inspiration to me and I’ve already started to dream up another doll to represent another Goddess I’ve been working with.  In the meantime, I’m planning to ritually consecrate this doll in Brighid’s name to create a “home away from home” for her, thus facilitating communication.

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A blessed Winter Solstice to my readers! The sun is reborn and we rejoice in the lengthening days!

Hoof prints guide me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Yesterday was a hard day for us because of Potion’s passing.  But we persevered and, after a long day of work, delved into preparations for today.  There were gifts to finish, floors to clean, and evergreens to be collected.  Although an ice storm was on the way, and the ground was already starting to freeze, Potion’s death made me want to take a walk in the woods even more.  As I told my father, who offered to come with me, sometimes I like to go alone.  Getting away from other people and spending some silent time with the trees can be very meditative.  It also allowed me to get in touch with my spirit guide.  The snow was crusted over and hard, but I followed the deer tracks in and around the woods.  I made offerings to my spirit guide and the local Nature kin.  I collected the evergreens from the ground, considering them gifts from the deer who pull the branches down to feed.  I have no need to cut from the actual trees.

A basket full of green! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

I added the greenery to my altar and over my hutch where my Yule goat and wooden sun hang out. In the future, when I have more time, energy, and Bee is old enough to help, I would love to gather enough to make big garlands to drape over the dining room window and along the stairway.

Following Three Crane Grove’s Twelve Days of Yule, yesterday was for remembering mothers. I put some special mementos and photos on my altar to pay homage to my ancestral mothers and the spirit of motherhood. I also took some me-time and had a warm, relaxing shower. Offerings were poured and words were said.

My altar grows ever more festive! Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

I was very excited to stay up and keep vigil for the sun, but between the emotional exhaustion, all the prep for today, and general infant care, I found myself increasingly exhausted. I went to bed but set an alarm and was able to greet the sun in my own way – singing “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison with Bee grinning ear to ear!  This was followed by some more napping, a breakfast of waffles, our gift exchange, watching “Love Actually,” and our Winter Solstice feast!  My wonderful husband, who is an amazing baker, made me a pecan pie as a gift.  I made a spinach and mushroom quiche.  Not pictured are the roasted potatoes I made or the salad my father put together!

Our Winter Solstice Feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Now we’re relaxing and hoping not to lose power from the big ice storm. It gives me a lot of extra time to finish crafting gifts for family. Speaking of that, if you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas or activities to do with little ones, take a peek at these great suggestions:

Pagan Ozark Mama teaches you how to make a “Yule Heart.”  If you are influenced by a Heathen hearth culture, check out her delightful wooden Sleipnir tutorial!

8 Magical crafts to gift or adorn your Solstice tree from The Magic Onions.  Here’s 8 more that use natural materials found in the wild!

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Have you ever heard of treasure baskets?  They are a simple, wonderful, and magical idea for play.  They are a large part of Montessori philosophy which embraces heuristic play.  Here’s a great introduction to the concept, including suggestions.

I was inspired to make a treasure basket all about Druidism.    Traditionally, treasure baskets are wide, rounded, and low for easy access, but I’m using a rectangular basket with a lid because it wasn’t being used for anything else.  This Druidism treasure basket is very basic and as baby-friendly as possible right now while still avoiding plastics.  Bee is only just starting to grasp and manipulate objects with her hands. She’s all about exploring with her mouth so things have to be safe*.  The basket will grow and change as she does.  Some of the items will likely move to a Waldorf concept – the nature table / play altar**!

 

Current Contents: 

  • A paper skull for the ancestors.
  • A fleece pink heart for the beloved dead (currently a favorite item).
  • An extra Druid Animal Oracle card I had laying around for Nature Spirits, divination, and water since it depicts a seal.
  • A wool ball I felted to symbolize Nature spirits and Brighid (sheep).  It could also be a cloud for sky.
  • A large seashell to represent the sea, Manannan, and the  Nature spirits.
  • A poof of yellow and orange mesh fabric to represent fire, sky, Brighid, and the Shining Ones in general.

In the Works:

  • A general Goddess and God doll to represent the divine (duotheistic, I know, but I don’t want to be too prescriptive with her).  Each will be made of a different texture to keep things interesting!
  • A wooden teething tree.  Her papa is responsible for this project!
  • More treasure baskets!  I plan to make/update one for each High Day!  A Winter Solstice basket is already in progress.

 

* She will always be under supervision when playing with her treasure baskets.  I feel nervous putting a shell in the mix, but it’s been cleaned and is too big for swallowing.  So far, she just likes to look at it.

** Stay tuned as I explore and build a play altar with Bee!

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On Saturday night, Northern Rivers Protogrove gathered to celebrate Samhain and honor the Ancestors. We decided to have the rite indoors as the rain and cold were quite intense. We are aiming to be more family-friendly and we wanted the little ones to be safe and comfortable.  I used to look down my nose at “fair weather Pagans,” but my tune is changing.  I’m all for communing with Nature in the rain and snow, and there’s definitely a time and place for that, but when you practice a tribal religion, the needs of the many must come first.  Although
I missed the stone circle, we set up a beautiful altar inside the Kripalu Yoga Center.

We called to An Morrigan as the gatekeeper. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

We also set up a special shrine for the visiting Ancestors.  Guests brought photographs, skulls, and other mementos.  I happened to see an announcement that this Samhain marked ADF’s 30th year, so I grabbed the copy of Oak Leaves that eulogizes our late founder, Isaac Bonewits.  He’s definitely an ancestor of the heart for many an ADF grove and protogrove!

We made offerings to the Ancestors and made a special temporary shrine for them. Here you see just one of many mementos brought – a photo of ADF’s late founder, Isaac Bonewits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

My friend Tara lead the rite and she did a fantastic job.  She even made some wonderful favors for guests in the form of little skulls painted on stones she gathered from a lake.  This Samhain Northern Rivers Protogrove met another milestone in that we have been having our High Day rituals at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center for an entire year!  It’s been a beautiful partnership and I’m so grateful for their hospitality.  Between the growth in ritual attendees and the outstanding participation and leadership of fellow members, I am so proud of us.  On a personal note, since I wasn’t leading the rite, I took the opportunity to write and memorize an invocation to the Ancestors.  I was told I did a wonderful job, and people were moved by my delivery.  It’s always good to hear!  My favorite part of every Samhain, however, is the spiritual and emotional release that comes with honoring our beloved dead and accepting the beauty and inevitably of death as well as the promise of life’s renewal.

Here’s to a new liturgical year full of new and wonderful developments with Northern Rivers Protogrove!

We paid special reverence to the new Ancestors, those who passed away this year. Using a tradition I learned from Muin Mound Grove, everyone announced the name of a new Ancestor while placing a clove into an apple. We invited them to “come to the light” so that they could join the other Ancestors and cross over to the Otherworld. As always, it was very moving. Photo, Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Local Harvest – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

My family has grown and I feel pulled to add greater emphasis to our holiday observations.  I’ve always expressed my excitement for Samhain and Winter Solstice through decorating, but I want to explore that with the other High Days as well.  If my daughter is anything like I was as a youngster, it will add joy to her own life.  As our holidays emphasize nature and the agricultural cycle, the decor will also help to educate her about Druidism and the world she lives in.  Furthermore, taking the time to do this helps me to engage in my tradition.

The centerpiece of the Autumn Equinox is, both literally and conceptually, the cornucopia.  I placed it on our dining-room table to remind us of the blessings we’ve received.  I filled it with locally grown veggies – including two from my own garden!  Since taking the photo, I’ve added a tablecloth that I hemmed this afternoon.  It’s orange and adds a seasonal brightness to the home!

Seasonal Simplified Altar – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

I also added some seasonal color to my main altar.  I used a garland of faux leaves and, despite being fake, they look nice!  And if my cats go after them, they won’t get sick or make a huge mess.

In addition to my decorating, I’ve been listening to my Autumnal playlist.  It includes tracks such as “Mabon” and “Equinox” by Omnia, “Golden Apples” by Faun, and “Leaves that are Green” by Simon and Garfunkel.  It’s a decidedly mellow playlist, which seems to fit this time of year.  It’s a contemplative time as we approach the season of death and sleep.  It’s a time to count one’s blessings and accept the changes underway.  The magic and excitement that balance with Samhain’s sense of saddness hasn’t fully been realized yet.  The will come as the harvest winds down and the veil thins…

Next on the list – planning my family meal!  Stay tuned.

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Simplified Altar

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I decided to simplify my altar recently. My father bumped into it, causing a few things to fall. Nothing broke and he put everything back, but it got me thinking just how easy it would be for Bee to do the same, possibly hurting herself. I also wanted to pack an item away that had been given to me by someone who has since caused a loved one pain. It no longer felt right on my altar. At least not for now.

I’m not used to such a simplified altar, but it is sure to change with the seasons.  I am hoping to decorate a little more for the Autumn Equinox this weekend. For now… there’s a single acorn there to commemorate the season!

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