Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

It’s “Small Business Saturday,” so I went to one of my favorite villages to support the local shops as I prepare for Winter Solstice giving. Supporting local businesses is so important when it comes to living more sustainably. Making such efforts is important to me on my path.  If you’re going to spend money on material goods, why not keep it in your local economies and help regional artisans, farmers, herbalists, etc?  If at all possible, help talented local Pagans!

As I browsed, I thought about the many times new Pagans ask where one can get “supplies.”  Usually, they’re looking for metaphysical shops.  Yes, they can be great places to start, but what if they’re gone?  Many communities have lost brick and mortar Pagan shops due to the poor economy.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have one or two, they may not be in convenient locations.  Or perhaps they carry some items but not others, or they just aren’t up to your ethical standards.  We all know the places I’m talking about: mass produced statues made in China, cheap incense that makes you gag, paraffin candles, gem stones of dubious origin that were probably raped from the Earth Mother…  Get the picture? So what’s a tree-hugging dirt worshiper to do?

My suggestion is always to look at three categories of local shops: artisan co-ops, heath food stores, and local food producers.  Let’s take a look at each category.

Artisan Co-Ops

These are places in which artisans from around the region each pay an entrance fee and cooperatively work together to sell their goods in one location.  There are usually a variety of mediums represented.  There are a few in the Northern NY region around the 1000 Islands area, and I know they exist in other places.  They’re often the most impressive shops in otherwise touristy areas.  (Who really needs another plastic snow globe?) What would interest a visiting Pagan?  The shop I was in earlier had a plethora of hand dipped candles (including black, believe it or not), wooden and clay bowls, incense holders, blended oils, soaps (think purification), tea, and my favorite handmade incense. Heck, you could even buy a woven or dyed scarf and use it as an altar cloth if you want!  Don’t see exactly what you want?  Chances are, there’s an artist there who could make it for a commission.  Sure, things are a little more costly, but walking an Earth-Centered path means making more ethical choices.  Saving up for a handmade wooden bowl may cost me more, but there’s more integrity there than buying a cheaper, mass-produced bowl in a big box store.  Think of the act of saving and supporting an artist as an offering to the Earth Mother! The beauty of co-ops is that you get to meet the different artists, so I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the people.  I know that the woman who makes the incense, for example, doesn’t use some of the harmful ingredients that other brands use, like saltpeter.  She also grows or forages for many of the ingredients.

Health Food Stores

Does your hometown have a small health food store?  Try to support them when you have herbal needs!  Many sell organic herbs in bulk.  I can get just about everything I could want at my local shop – dry herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, and, occasionally, beeswax.  Some even carry clean-burning candles and incense.  If I can’t grow it or forage for it myself, chances are my local health food store will have it.  If not, they can often order it for me.  If you’re advancing in your studies and want to make your own herbal goodies, or you simply want specific herbs for an offering, start here!

Local Food Producers

I’m referring to farm stands, wineries, and distilleries here. Eating local is a large part of my Druidism because it forces me to pay attention to the agricultural year, hence the Wheel of the Year.  Locally grown food or flowers could be in your calming tea, your healing pot of soup, your group potluck, or your offering bowl.  Interested in making herbal goodies in your magical rites?  Get your hands on some local honey!  That stuff is already brimming with healing energy.  Similarly, your wineries and distilleries will offer different alcohols in which to infuse herbs.  Unless you’re specifically looking for some energy from another land, alcohol made with grapes, grain and other ingredients from your region will be flowing with the blessings of your local Nature Spirits.

The next time you meet a new Pagan who wonders where to get supplies, I hope you’ll refer the seeker to an artisan co-op, health food store, or local food producers.

Read Full Post »


Elderberry syrup in progress. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I write this, the year’s first real snowfall is blanketing the land. It’s a time of rest and introspection. Spiritually, it’s a new year. As with our secular New Year, it’s custom to reflect on various aspects of our lives, how we’ve changed, and where we’re going. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my path and why I blog about it. Some of this came about through discussions with Lady Althea via Twitter, specifically about how motherhood has changed our paths, and how our spirituality should be more about doing than keeping up with appearances. Some of my thoughts came through an interview I did with my friend Corinne for her upcoming podcast – Who’s Your Mama? The focus of the podcast is on mothers and how they find a balance between their mamahood and various life passions. Corinne is interviewing friends from around the country first to get into the groove, as it were, and thought my story about finding time to further my Druidic pursuits and found a protogrove, all while raising a little one, was inspiring. I felt that I rambled a bit, but she said it was great! I’ll be sure that share that when it comes out in January.


My little one joins me at my altar for a daily devotional. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My religious practices haven’t changed much in the last year, but the way I engage with them has.  The same time restricting forces that limit my blogging also limit the amount of time I have for involved ritual, magic, meditation, and trance. I’ve had to get creative in how I engage with my spirituality, and that’s only deepened my understanding of something I already knew to be true – magic and ritual is in everything. When we approach our daily tasks mindfully, aware of the interconnections, we are engaged with our spirit allies.  I’ve also worked on my self-discipline.  While accepting my limitations in time and energy at this point in time, I’ve managed to strike a balance.  My trance studies are on hold for the time being, but I’ve worked hard to maintain the devotional practices I revitalized through ADF’s liturgical study program.  I’m also working on my divination journal, focusing more on the practical work until I have a little extra time for the academic side of my Druidism.  As a result, my understanding of the Druid Animal Oracle and ogham is improving.

One area that I’ve improved on in the past year is my hearth or kitchen magic.  I’m working on incorporating more holistic approaches to cleaning and health; and I’ve continued to make mostly home-cooked meals, often utilizing local ingredients.  This has helped me grow in my herbal knowledge and connection to the land.  Sharing these processes with my youngster, and showing her how to put love and intention into all we do, only strengthens my own focus.

Including a toddler in seasonal and daily religious observances can be tricky, especially when they involve fire, but, in retrospect, I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to share with her. Bee is learning how to calm and focus her breathing.  With my assistance, she uses a candle snuffer to assist in our symbolic smooring rite each evening.  I explain to her what is a good task for her, and what is definitely a grownup job. She can snuff, but she cannot light the candle.  These realities may be upsetting to her at first, but with repetition, she accepts them. This is teaching her respect for fire, that she has skills to grow into, and that there are times for quiet and action in ritual.  Best of all, she’s learned to say “thank you” for abundance, inspiration, and beauty.  It warms my heart when she reminds me that it’s time to do our “Brighid prayer” or when she randomly thanks the Earth Mother on our short walks outside.

So while I sometimes feel that I’m not doing enough, or sharing enough – in reality, I have a lot to celebrate about the last year!  I hope you take some time to reflect on your own practice and growth over the year.




Read Full Post »

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. She enjoys exploring them with her magnifying glass. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015


I’ve already written a bit about treasure baskets in the past.  Now that Bee is older, they’re becoming even more fun!  Currently, she has a basket of different pinecones and acorns on her “play altar” / “nature table.”  It’s been a great way for her to explore some of Mother Nature’s diversity.  It’s an open-ended way to explore and play.  She sometimes sorts them by type or size.  Once she used them to make imprints in play dough.

One thing that I like about this particular treasure basket is that it’s very seasonal, and Bee has been able to add to it whenever we’re out on our walks.  She gets really excited when she finds new acorns, acorn caps, and cones. I ask her if she’d like to take one to her nature table.  This activity shows her that she has choice and that her opinions matter to me.  We also say “thank you” to the Earth Mother and trees whenever we bring a new friend inside.  Of course, it’s also added to her vocabulary!

Knowing your child is definitely important when it comes to making new treasure baskets.  Bee is past the age of putting random things in her mouth.  We’ve had many discussions about what is and isn’t food.  (We’ll save the fact that many of our ancestors used ground acorns and pine nuts in meals for another day…)  For the last few months, she’s demonstrated an understanding that only food should go in her mouth.  Her last treasure basket was filled with different shells, and we introduced some smaller specimens towards the end.  Last year, I wasn’t able to let her play with anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.  It’s amazing how quickly little ones learn!

I’m planning to retire the pinecone and acorn treasure basket for a bit (I’ll bring them out again in the future), so I’m excitedly thinking about what the next basket will be!

Read Full Post »

My Ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My sister recently lost one of her kitties to old age and disease.  The elderly cat, named “Carmel”, had reached the crazy age of 17 or 18, which is ancient for a cat.  Her hearing was mostly gone, and her eyes were riddled with cataracts.  Her hips and legs were starting to give out on her, and she would randomly fall.  The vet determined she had a lot of issues and was suffering, so my sister made the difficult choice that so many of us who love our furry allies have to face from time to time.

If you look closely at the recent photo of my ancestral shrine, you’ll see a few photos or reminders of furry friends past.  I didn’t have a photo of Carmel, so I just offered some cat food.  I will honor her again at my Samhain ritual.

Some people do not view deceased pets as ancestors, and indeed they do not share our blood… but we can honor ancestors of blood, place, and heart – the later referring to those outside of our families who inspired or guided us.  Yes, our pets are literally nature spirits, but I’ve found that the Three Kindreds are not black and white categories.  For example there are many Gods who take on the appearance of animals or plants.  There are also ancestors who have been deified.  Finally, there are stories in IE myth suggesting that different groups of people can claim plants or animals as ancestors.  While I will never tell someone that they are wrong for not including their dead furry companions in their ancestral workings, it certainly feels appropriate to me.  When Samhain comes, I always invite members of my protogrove to bring mementos of those who have died since the previous Samhain – and I make sure to remind them that representations of fallen pets are welcomed.

Read Full Post »

Some plantain leaf and heal-all I harvested. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

I’ve noticed a significant decrease in temperature recently. There have been reports of frost in the Adirondacks, and the chilly nights have already started to impact my garden. Some of the less cold-tolerant plants are starting to wilt or die back. An Cailleach is waking up, and as much as I love autumn, it means that many of our Nature Spirit allies who bless us with food, healing, and other creature comforts are going to go back into the Earth Mother for awhile.

Each year I say I’m going to prepare more than the year before, and I never do quite as much as I hope.  I always have grand plans of stuffing my cupboards with canned or dehydrated veggies and fruit.  One of these days, that will happen, but it won’t be this year.  However, just as I learn more about gardening each year, I also learn something new when it comes to preserving the harvest and preparing for the cold season.

This autumn, I’m trying to save a few little things here and there. For example, I forage for useful herbs as I play with Bee around the house.  As I do this, she is also learning about the world around her.  And even though I just haven’t had the time to can lots of fruits and veggies, I may make bigger batches while preparing our daily meals, then freeze some for later.  Today I made apple pie and prepared twice as much filling as I needed.  Just a little extra effort will make for a sweet reward on a cold, winter day.

Fresh apple pie. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I prepare for the winter in these small ways, I reflect on my gratitude for the blessings of the Three Kindreds.  The Nature Spirits have given me so much in the form of food, shelter, and healing herbs throughout the green season.  In gardening, foraging, and preserving, I am calling on age-old knowledge passed down from my Ancestors.  I give gratitude to Airmed for herbs in my garden and to Brighid for the transformative power of the hearth fire as I cook and preserve.  I thank An Dagda for the abundance we have.  I suppose I could even thank An Cailleach for the chill in my freezer!  (Hmmm… never thought of that before…)

Read Full Post »

Although my divination method of choice remains “The Druid Animal Oracle,” I’ve been working to improve my understanding of ogham.  Each day, after I perform my morning or afternoon devotional, I ask for an omen for the day and draw an ogham symbol from a muslin bag.  I’m getting better at interpreting certain symbols and seeing how they could relate to my day, both as I head to known destinations and activities, and in reflection at the end of the day.  Other symbols, however, continue to elude me.  Part of this is due to the variety of interpretations in the books I have.  Others seem very ominous, only for my day to be relatively stress-free.  This left me confused and second-guessing the symbols.  I wasn’t about to give up, though, as I know that questioning and critiquing are part of the learning process.

Blackthorn has been one ogham symbol that has continued to bloggle me.  Skip Ellison’s book Ogham: The Secret Language of the Druids summarizes its meaning as “Trouble & negativity” (125).  Ian Corrigan also touched on Ogham in his work A Druid’s Companion: Lore & Rituals for the Work of Druidry.  He summarizes its meaning as “trouble and protection.”  Finally, Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secrets of the Ogham by Steve Blamires simplifies blackthorn as such: “Be prepared for a transition; prepare for something about to end; sudden change; death” (253).   It’s quite the variety, but the common denominator is always fairly negative.  Of course, most authors expand on the tree by looking at its folklore and biology.  Blackthorn, however, continued to confuse me in part because of the symbolism associated with other trees.  For example, some authors equate hawthorn with “unpleasant period(s)” (Blamires 253), or yew with death (Corrigan and Ellison).  According to Cúchulainn, heather could also relate to death through his comparing it to the “shroud of the lifeless one,” (Ellison 47).  Ultimately, one has to consider all the information as well as our own perceptions, but I was feeling overwhelmed.  Perhaps part of this is my own inexperience with actual, living blackthorns?

Then I started to think about blackthorn in terms of “strife.”  Many authors link its Gaelic name for the ogham, “straif” or “straiph,” with the English word “strife.”  I was repeatedly drawing blackthorn, and I was getting worried.  At the same time, I’ve been pouring over books to work on an ADF course – Indo European Mythology 1.  There’s a major comparative element to it, so I decided to pull out all my materials from my college mythology class.  Oh, the wealth of material I have on Greek mythology!  I was rereading Hesiod’s “Works and Days,” which outlines good morals as well as when and how Ancient Greeks should have performed certain tasks.  It’s quite a fascinating peek back in time, honestly, one that people who follow a Celtic hearth culture could only dream of finding.  Anyway, Hesiod discusses strife:

And I will speak to Perses the naked truth:
There was never one kind of Strife.  Indeed on this earth
two kinds exist.  The one is praised by her friends,
the other found blameworthy.  These two are not of one mind.
The one – so harsh – fosters evil war and the fray of battle.
No man loves this oppressive Strife, but compulsion
and divine will grant her a share of honor.
The other one is black Night’s elder daughter;
and the son of Kronos, who dwells on ethereal heights,
planted her in the roots of the earth and among men.
She is much better, and she stirs even the shiftless on to work.
A man will long for work when he sees a man of wealth
who rushes with zeal to plow and plant
and husband his homestead.  One neighbor envies another
who hastens to his riches.  This Strife is good for mortals.
Then potters eye one another’s success and craftsmen, too;
the beggar’s envy is a beggar, the singer’s a singer.
Perses, treasure this thought deep down in your heart,
do not let malicious Strife curb your zeal for work
so you can see and hear the brawls of the market place. (lines 10 – 29, translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis)

This passage was a reminder not to lose sight of the less ominous interpretations of straif.  They are also part of the blackthorn.  Just as Hesiod says there are two kinds of strife, a positive and negative, blackthorn has its sides.  It depends on the perception and context.  The thorny bush could indeed be protective in certain circumstances.  I don’t see death in it, though.  I feel that yew, with its association with graveyards, has a better connection to death than blackthorn, but the latter surely relates to trouble and difficulties in reaching our goals due to all those thorns.

Later that day, I further meditated on blackthorn while at yoga class.  Before we started, our teacher set an intention for us.  She asked us to think about transitions.  As we went through our stretches, breathing, and movement, she would remind us to stop and think about the processes we go through to transition between one pose and another.  Sometimes, those transitions were quite challenging.  They sometimes made me feel a little clumsy or sore, yet they were part of an ongoing process.

It dawned on me that the blackthorn I was drawing could relate to a transition I’ve been going through in my career.   It’s certainly been stressful, but not dreadful.  All the blackthorn could be related to the strife of hard work as I transitioned, and the difficulties of that process.

This whole experience, while probably kind of roundabout, has felt like a breakthrough in my understanding of some of the ogham symbols.  Let the journey continue!

Read Full Post »

Rowan Harvest

I harvested a lovely handful of rowan berries near the river this afternoon. Tomorrow I will thread and hang them to dry for magical talismans. I always look forward to rowan berries in August.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,422 other followers