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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

I’m not sure if Sarah Lawless knows just how much she inspires and influences so many of us on our various spiritual paths. When she posted this amazing photograph of her kitchen, I was struck by how beautifully natural it all was.  I’ve been living in my new apartment for a little over a year and struggling with finding a good place to dry my herbs.  In my old apartment, I used to tie everything into bundles and hang them on curtain rods in the windows.  It was just too much sun, too much dust, and it looked dreadful…  I’ve looked at various drying racks for sale but money is not something I give away easily these days.  So when Sarah shared that window into her world, I thought, “Of course!  A branch hung on a wall!”  How natural, how sensible, how affordable, and how witchy and Druidic.  What’s more, I had a dried branch in the garage.  I found it a few years ago and something about it said, “Take me home!  You’ll need me one day!”  Today was the day.

I lovingly removed as much bark as I could and made an offering to Airmed.  Bee helped me harvest some of the herbs in our garden today, as well as some chili peppers.  While she napped, I wrapped some wire at different sections on the branch so that attaching herbs would be easier.  I decided to hang the branch in my bedroom near my altar.  Not only is near near my ritual space, but it will be one of the last things I see when I go to sleep, and one of the first I see upon waking.  I’ll (hopefully) be less inclined to let herbs sit and accumulate dust like I used to when they hung in a seldom used room.

I know I still have much to learn about herbalism.  The drying branch may not be the most ideal in the long run, or I may need to just suck up and put paper bags on my herbs.  I would also like to make a drying screen for individual leaves and blossoms one day.  In the meantime, I think this is a big improvement! 

 

My new herb-drying branch, inspired by Sarah Lawless. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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A black and yellow garden spider.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A black and yellow garden spider. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

This weekend, I took some time to explore the hedge and get to know it a little more. As a Druid in the Northeastern part of the US, I think I spend a lot of time focused on forests, especially the trees. We are blessed with them here, after all! The hedge is the boundary I cross to get there. Occasionally I stop and check the blackberry patch there, or harvest some jewelweed to tend to the mosquito bites I got in the forest… but it so often takes a backseat to the forest itself.

I’ve noticed myself spending more time there this summer.  I like to stick closer to home than I used to, whether Bee is with me or not, so the hedge is a nice place to go.  There are so many potential plant allies there such as burdock, thistle, chicory, red clover, and curly dock. There are also some facinating animals hanging out in this transitional zone, like the black and yellow garden spider I spotted on Saturday right before the sky opened up. I returned to the spot today, Sunday, not expecting to see it again since we had quite a heavy downfall accompanied but a lot of wind. However, there the web and spider remained! Nature Spirits can be incredibly persistent and strong!  

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Colorful legs for colorful fairies. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

It’s been awhile, but the fires of inspiration have started to glow strongly in my head. I’m very excited to start making dolls again! Slowly yet surely, one body part at a time…

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This Lughnasadh season’s harvest has made me very happy.  I garden in containers on my patio because I rent.  I don’t have enough room or resources at this time to grow all the food my family eats, but I’m always proud of contributing to our stores.  Every year comes with successes, failures, and the resulting lessons.  

Red potatoes from my garden. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

This year I decided to try growing potatoes in containers. I had never done this before but did some research beforehand to know it was possible. I also decided to throw my remaining container-variety carrot seeds in with some tomatoes.  I didn’t have luck with them last year (possibly due to the sun they were getting), but I figured it was worth a try again under different conditions.  Last year, they were grown in a pot on their own.  This year I decided to try some companion planting.  

My carrot harvest. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The results of both have been amazingly successful given the amount I planted and the size of my operation.  There is always room for improvement, and this season has brought me more lessons and things I want to try, but I really must thank the Nature Spirits and Earth Mother for such a splendid harvest!

One lesson (which was really something I already knew but it was made more vivid) has been just how creative and destructive growing root veggies are.  Without going on too much of a tangent, all magic (despite what some may say) in simultaneously creative and destructive. Since creation relies on the the destruction and reorganization of something else, you simply cannot get something for nothing.  It is why I reject notions of “white and black magic.”  I also understand that gardening means the destruction of other places – habitats, mostly.  There are definitely less intrusive methods of gardening, and I strive to learn and embrace them as I grow in my practice, but no matter what, even obtaining only plant-based foods, I am causing the destruction and death of others – including animals.  This is why, in my perspective, we need to approach our meals, whatever they are comprised of, with an extreme amount of humility, respect, and generosity.  Eating, to me, is a spiritual experience.  In striving to eat locally grown and seasonal foods, I am communing with nature in a very intimate way.  I take it into me, become one with nature, affirm my place as a Nature Spirit and child of Earth.  Each time we eat, we take in some of the energy that has been recycled for countless generations.  It is why I still pray before a meal.

Anyway, the disruption we cause in our eating was made painfully obvious to me as I harvested my potatoes.  There are two ways to go about this – you either reach into the containers and dig around, or you dump them.  Either way, a whole mini eco-system is disrupted.  I went with the former simply because my containers were so large and heavy.  As I unearthed each pink orb, roots tore.  Small creatures ran – centipedes wriggled away and earthworms tumbled out of dirt clumps before spearheading back into the soil.  At one point, a large mother wolf spider with babies on her back rolled out of a potato plant’s roots as I yanked upwards.   Some soil fell on her and I noticed that some of her babies vanished.  I moved her as best I could, but I fear some little ones may have been killed or separated by accident.  It broke my heart, and I’m still hoping she was reunited with them.  

These episodes are unavoidable in gardening and other forms of magical transformations. In exchange for food, we curse smaller creatures out of their homes and often lives.  In exchange for healing, we essentially curse microbes.  In exchange for justice, you curse another party and their family. It goes on and on…

Even if you’re a vegetarian like me, it is impossible to live in such a way where you do absolutely no harm. All any of us can do is to make the choices we feel are best for ourselves and those we share the world with, continue to learn, and try to live in better harmony with the world.  That will mean different things to different people, but it will help us all approach our meals and each other with deeper respect and love.

It’s amazing what some potatoes and carrots can teach you.

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My yoga mat on a soft bed of moss.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

My yoga mat on a soft bed of moss. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Today I did something special. Special for me. I gave myself permission to leave my toddler with my husband for a couple hours so I could do some yoga. The Thousand Islands Land Trust teamed up with River Yoga to offer some “Yoga Treks.” Basically, they were monthly outdoor yoga sessions, each taking place in one of TILT’s nature preserves. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend June or July’s offering, but I made sure I got to attend today’s.  It was held at their new Otter Creek Preserve  in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Although still under construction (there’s currently no parking lot and a sign that you will miss if you aren’t looking carefully), it was an amazing place*.  I wasn’t able to see all of it as we only entered a clearing in a forest to do our yoga.  Everyone was wearing yoga shorts and flip flops – not exactly what you’d want to wear on trails that consist of the woody remains of plants poking up to stab your toes.

The clearing reminded me of the Adirondacks.  The soil was dominated by a thick, soft bed of moss that occasionally opened up to reveal stone painted in an earthy mosaic of lichens.  Here and there, baby oak and white pine pushed upwards, promising that this clearing will have more shade someday.  I unrolled my seldom-used yoga mat on some of that delightful moss.  Getting comfortable, I realized I selected a spot next to a mother and chid white oak.

The class was lead by yoga instructor Liz Price-Kellogg.  The moment I saw her, I felt her nurturing energy.  She had a kind, patient voice and an approachability about her.  I knew I needn’t feel self-conscious about my rustiness and inexperience.  This class emphasized the philosophy of yoga, and her focus was on yoga as a moving meditation rather than simply exercise.  She gently lead us through grounding and centering exercises, invited us to listen to our inner messages, to the Earth’s voice.  The experience was so earthy, so animistic, so, well, Pagan feeling that I sometimes thought I was at a Pagan pride event!

As I lay on my back, starring up at the cerulean sky and oak branches brimming with green acorns, I realized how much I needed this.  I spend so much time organizing rituals and leading others.  At home, I meditate on my own, but it’s still my voice, my own inexperienced guidance, so often interrupted by household noises.  To spend this long in meditation, guided by another’s experience and perspective, was liberating, inspirational, and deeply informative.  At times, it was difficult to relax since I have a very busy and talkative mind, but that eventually hushed so that the only obstacles were the sun sometimes shining too brightly on my face, and the ants crawling over my body.  Yoga outside was, as Liz said, a humbling experience.  Laying on the Earth Mother, surrounded by forest and wildlife, was precisely the intimate retreat this Druid needed.  I need to give myself permission for this more often.

Although the yoga treks are done for this year, both TILT and Liz are poised to offer them again.  I definitely plan to take part as often as possible, and am already thinking about when I can fit more regular yoga classes into my life.

* When the trail is completed, there will be a lookout point and a suspension bridge.  It will be amazing and I can’t wait to explore the whole thing!  Expect a “North Country Druid” post when I do!

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Picked up a locally made candle and gathered some fallen rowan berries for later magical use.

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Last weekend, we celebrated Lughnasadh with friends from Northern Rivers Protogrove and Muin Mound Grove at the latter’s annual Lugh Games. There was friendly competition, feasting, swimming, singing around a fire, and a lovely ritual. My husband was crowned the champion of the games! It was a wonderful time.

Today, I celebrated Lughnasadh with my family. Having already participated in a large, formal ritual, today was about our household customs.  I hope my readers had a blessed Lughnasadh.  May the season be fruitful for everyone!

One of our traditions is to gather wild grass gone to seed on Lughnasadh. It’s the closest we have to wheat near our home and it acts as a centerpiece on our dinner table. Come Imbolc, our Druid group will use the grass to make Brighid crosses. Gathering it was a wonderful excuse to spend some time outside on this lovely Lughnasadh day! Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

Although it’s a small harvest, I’m proud of it!, especially the potatoes. I only dug around a corner in one of my potato bins and was pleasantly surprised! Huzzah for harvest!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

We set our table for a homemade dinner of salad, roasted veggies, seitan, corn on the cob, red wine, and my first attempt at “wheat sheaf” bread. Everything was delicious, and much of it came from local farms or our own patio garden!  We made offerings to Lugh and Tailtiu.  After dinner, I used some of the cornhusks to make corn dollies.  I can’t wait to share that tradition with Bee.   Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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