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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

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Lovely bee balm has finally blossomed! It’s time to harvest some flowers for salads and tea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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We’ve started to harvest some veggies. Along with these green onions, we also picked the first tomatoes and lettuce, and promptly devoured them! These onions became part of some delicious enchiladas. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Last Friday, my husband and I returned to the sacred land of our childhood – the glorious Adirondack Mountains of Upstate, NY.  Neither of us had been born there, but we spent time there as children.  As for myself, my family seemed to travel there just about every weekend in the summers.  Most often, we swam in Old Forge or Inlet.  Sometimes we would hike near Raquette Lake, Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake.  Sometimes we climbed little mountains.  And sometimes, those rare, special times, we would take trips into the land of the high peaks – Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.  We only swam and took short walks, but always in the gaze of the taller mountains.

The day was cool and sunny, just as we had hoped.  A light pack ready to go, we made our way to the wild heart of NY State.  Along the way, we listened to the most recent Druidcast which featured some of the speeches given at OBOD’s 50th celebration.  Even though I’m not involved with that tradition, the message was perfect for the trip.  As the high peaks began to appear, like whale fins cresting in a rolling green ocean, I felt my Druid spirit rejoice. Caitlín Matthews’ words from her speech, “Authenticity and Authority in Druidry” thundered in my heart – “I don’t call myself a Druid, I AM a Druid.”  One of the many reasons I feel that way is because of the time I spent in the Adirondacks as a child.  It was where I first started to rejoice in Mother Earth’s majesty, and where I truly fell in love with, and understood the power of conservation.  In my humble opinion, Druidism is only partially about culture.  The other part is adoring and revering the natural world.  The Adirondack helped me see that at an early age.  Now I was initiating my daughter.

We planned to climb Mt. Jo, one of the smaller mountains in Lake Placid.  With an elevation of  2876′, it would be the tallest mountain I’ve climbed to date.  Others described it as suitable for a family hike with small children.  I’m not sure they had one-year-olds in mind, but we managed through teamwork, frequent stops, a decent carrier, and sheer stubbornness.  There are two trails – short and long – the former being more difficult.  We opted for the longer trail, which was rocky and difficult enough.  I can’t imagine the shorter trail with a baby.

The trek was worth it, however.  When we reached the top (which meant passing the baby back and forth as we scrambled up some steep, rocky ledges), we felt amazing.  Even the most beautiful photographs don’t quite capture the size and majesty of the surrounding landscape.  It was like a Thomas Cole painting spilling over its canvas.  In some directions, the Earth Mother seemed to crouch, all elbows and knees.  Turn your head just so, and she appeared to relax, her breasts ample mounds at rest.  Above, the Sky Father’s bright eye looked out at her beauty from behind his lacy curtains.  A troop of iridescent dragonflies danced in her breath.

It seemed out of a folk tale; there were gurus at the top.  A young woman sat with a book, her employment to sit on the mountain for hours to guide visitors.  She helped us identify the nearby High Peaks.  A bearded gentleman sat, seemingly meditating.  His wife crouched with her loyal canine friend near the trees.  She spoke to us about how beautiful it was that we persevered with our child up the mountain, about how we were giving her a gift.  She reminisced about the times she brought her now grown children up mountains, seeming to get a little choked up.  It was moving, and made our effort seem all the more significant, all the more part of a spiritual tradition.  As we approached the top, we had thought, “Surely, we are crazy to bring a baby…,” yet she validated our calling to the mountain.  Yes, we were but three small creatures clambering over the Earth Mother’s elevated beauty, but doing so grounded us in her sacred mystery and reminded us of what it truly is to live.

Before beginning our descent, I put my hands on Mt. Jo’s rock.  It was toasty hot.  I let that warmth rise into my arms.  As I did so, I was aware of the sun above me, the Earth and trees about me, the nearby lake shimmering  just beyond our view…  Visitors to the Adirondacks are asked not to take anything nor leave anything as part of their conservation efforts.  I felt that an offering had to be made, but I’m a modern Druid and respect modern conservation (an offering in and of itself).  I left my gratitude.  I poured it into that mountain and sealed it with a kiss.  I look forward to returning with Bee when she’s older, and I can’t wait to climb more mountains…

The view from Mt. Jo’s summit. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

 

Standing in awe next to the Earth Mother’s bones. Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

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Film poster. (Fair Use)

 

Many of my favorite anime titles involve spiritual elements.  The Hayao Miyazaki films, such as My Neighbor Tototor and Princess Mononoke, were greatly inspired by animistic beliefs native to Japan.  The interaction between the human and spirit world are important elements to the stories, and I find a lot to compare to Druidism – old and new.   Someone online suggested to my husband that we check out A Letter to Momo.  While watching the preview, we couldn’t help but compare it to Miyazaki’s style.  It wasn’t just the whimsical art or the coming of age story – it was the thin line between this world and the next.  We had to watch it.

In the film, a young girl named Momo is dealing with the unresolved argument she had with her father right before his untimely death.  The dramatic change in her life, and her need to adjust, are made concrete when she and her mother move to the small island of Shio, where her grandparents live.  Along for the ride are three spirits on a mysterious mission.  Unlike just about everyone else around her, Momo can see them.  While this chance encounter with the Otherworld creates (often comical) challenges, it ultimately helps both Momo and her mother heal.

One element that intrigues me with A Letter to Momo, and indeed the same element that helps to endear Miyazaki films to me, is the proximity between this world and the spirit world. Set on a rural island, there are scenes at shrines, examples of ancestor veneration, and discussions of Japanese mythology.  The spirits, comparable to Irish lore, are neither totally benevolent nor malicious – they simply are.  They have their own histories, motivations, biases, and faults.  What separates them from the humans they interact with are their powers and Otherworldly jobs.  The three take a shining to Momo in part because of how she comes to interact with them – which includes some offerings of food.   Less obvious but still there, mixed in with all the modern farming equipment, phones, and Japanese snack foods, are little spirit homes people built once upon a time.  One of the major scenes of Momo features an old community tradition in which the families send straw boats with lanterns that they made as offerings into the sea.  I’m assuming it is part of the Japanese Obon celebration, a festival for the dead.  It’s never really explained – it’s just there, part of the culture.  The movie’s purpose is not to explain Japanese customs and beliefs to curious Americans, after all.  They just exist, as they have existed in some way for generations, embedded in the story.

In watching these films, so full of Japanese customs and folklore, I can’t help but find things to compare to the living fairy faith in Ireland, or think about how things could have been if the Pagan tradition there had not been so altered by Christianity.  What can we, as modern Druids, learn from cultures who have living animistic traditions?  It’s something to contemplate after watching the film.

I highly recommend A Letter to Momo.  It’s heartfelt, humorous, and appropriate for the whole family.  It would be especially appropriate to watch near Samhain because of the ancestral veneration.

 

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This is my first year growing scarlet runner beans. They finally blossomed over the weekend and, I must say, I’m very impressed. They’re one of the most beautiful blossoms I’ve ever seen in my garden! They really add a splash of color. I wonder if they’ll grab the attention of any hummingbirds? Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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Shrine to Airmed. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

Last year, I felt called to begin building a shrine to honor Airmed.  For those who are unfamiliar with her, she is an Irish Goddess – one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Along with her brother, Miach, and her father, Dian Cecht, she helped to heal the other Tuatha Dé Danann.  The King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Nuada, lost his arm in battle and, as a result, was seen as unfit to rule.  Dian Cecht made him a metal arm to compensate, but his son, Miach, was a more talented healer.  He made Nuada a new arm of flesh and blood so that he could once more resume his place as leader.  Dian Cecht was driven mad with jealousy; he murdered his son.  From Miach’s body grew all the healing herbs, each growing from the body part it is capable of healing.  Wise Airmed gathered them on her mantle according to their function.  Still jealous at the knowledge of his children, Dian Cecht flung the mantle and scattered the herbs so that others could not easily know the knowledge of the herbs.  Only Airmed, who so tenderly gathered and organize the plants in tribute to her brother, knew their secrets.

Because of her herbal wisdom and healing knowledge, Airmed is an excellent ally for herbalists of all levels.  I’m still very much a novice, and cultivating a relationship with her feels important.  Using a broken bit of concrete I found nearby, I painted a simple figure to represent her.  I placed this in a pot and surrounded it with some cilantro and dill that were growing wild in the mulch in my front shade/fairy garden.  Since I rent and strangers periodically come through to weed-whack anything I’m not growing in a container, I wanted to give the plants a better chance.  They look a little limp right now, but I’m hoping love from myself and Airmed will give them the strength they need to adapt and persevere.  I placed a small, leaf-shaped dish in front of her for offerings, then built a spiral of stones in front of that.

There is more I would like to do, but that will entail surrounding her with even more herbs!  I love how the shrine is taking shape.  It adds so much magic to my home, and I pray that Airmed is pleased.

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Tomatoes and carrots, together in harmony.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Tomatoes and carrots, together in harmony. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my container garden, so indulge me while I briefly update those who enjoy reading about such topics.

While last year was mostly disappointing in terms of gardening, this year I’m bouncing back.  It hasn’t all been successful.  I think I started too late and some plants appear stunted.  I’ve been having some difficulties with my lemon tree, but I’m hoping to turn that around soon.  Now that I’m on vacation, I have more time to research plants!

Difficulties aside, I have a lot to celebrate.  Most of the tomatoes I planted from seed have made it, and a majority are thriving.  I decided not to buy carrot seeds this year, as I was largely unimpressed with how they grew last year.  I did, however, decide to try some companion planting with the seeds I had left.  Why not?  One of my most healthy tomatoes is living in harmony with some very happy looking carrots!  Perhaps I should give carrots another shot next year and continue to plant them with tomato buddies.

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Potato plants! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another success (so far) has been a new plant for me.  Each year, I try to expand my gardening knowledge and experience with a new crop.  This year, I finally took the plunge on growing potatoes in containers.  I did a lot of research beforehand and decided that I would use big bins instead of investing in grow bags.  The result has been fantastic except for one tote which got too much water during a very wet period (due to runoff from the roof).  Otherwise, they are thriving.  I just hope that there’s as much growth below the surface!

I’ve also grown some very happy basil plants from seeds.  This is my third year growing basil and I’m finally doing it right. I learned, through research and experience, that basil thrives through frequent pruning.  This year, my basil is prolific.  I just harvested some and am drying it as we speak.  I don’t have enough for pesto (yet), but I am slowly restocking my dried herb pantry!  I’ll have plenty of ingredients for delicious pizza in the colder months.

Meanwhile, everything is growing.  Soon there will be vibrant flowers on the scarlet runner beans (another new one for me) and tomatoes…  I hope everyone else is having a good gardening season!

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When I first started this blog five years ago, it was originally called “North Country Pagan” because I wanted it to reflect my experiences finding things relevant to Paganism and Pagan culture in Northern NY.  My blog title eventually changed because I wanted to narrow my focus more on my spiritual path of choice, but I’d like to revamp and revive it as a subtopic within my blog.  As the Druidic community here grows, I thought it would be nice to discuss different events that are not organized by Northern Rivers Protogrove but, nevertheless, relate to, nourish, or engage us as Druids in training.  Much of what I discuss will likely be relevant to other Pagan paths as well.

Like many good little Druids in the modern era, I was called to my path out of a deep love and reverence for Nature.  I’m naturally drawn to organizations and activities that also embody that love and respect, regardless of religion.  The Thousand Islands Land Trust is such a group.  They work hard to put aside and preserve land along the Thousand Islands, build and maintain trails, plant trees, and install nesting grids for common terns.  They have also organized hikes and kayaking excursions.  Over the last few years, they have expanded their selection of community activities to involve people who may not be willing or able to engage in such physically demanding activities but still want to learn and engage with the local environment.  They now offer children’s programing, a community garden, yoga for all levels along the river, and now – “green movie nights!”

The first featured film was called “Chasing Ice.”  Part of the synopsis reads:

In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

 

The film was exciting as it sounds and did not dissapoint. It was emotionally moving, intellectually stimulating, and visually spectacular.  The icy, glacial landscapes he and his team visited were as magical as they were distant to me.  It’s amazing how the glaciers are all at once mighty and fragile in our changing world.  Even if you are already convinced of global warming and of the urgency for us to make changes in our lives, the film is still worth seeing as it demonstrates the possibility for skeptics to change their mind which is uplifting.  If you consider the Earth your mother, you won’t want to miss seeing a side of her most of us take for granted.

I hope the Thousand Islands Land Trust hosts more green movie nights, and I hope that more Pagans in the area take advantage of them to expand their knowledge and awareness.  After all, our devotion to the Earth Mother shouldn’t stop with ritual.  We must remain educated on environmental issues and make practical changes in non-ritual contexts.

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Path to Black Creek. Photo by Greycatsidhe, 2014.

I watched the sun rise from my bedroom window Solstice morning, babe at breast. No drumming or whooping, just contentment and silent prayers of thanks for the sun. And what a gorgeous, sunny day it was! We had a busy time planned with family so I decided to observe the holiday simply.  Next weekend comes the big celebration with my protogrove.

My daughter, husband, and I took a short hike to Black Creek. I brought an offering of reeds, wildflowers, and woad blossoms to pay rent to Manannan Mac Lir. Standing on a wooden overlook, I first focused on the land, water, and sky. More contentment. I felt a deep peace that I worked to carry with me all weekend. More prayers of thanks and offerings while birds sang and wind rattled the leaves… It was the music of a summer afternoon.

When I prayed to Manannan for an omen, a deep-throated bullfrog belted out a cheerful call at just the right moment to feel significant. There was joy there, and a message of healing and transformation. The cards spoke of family and instincts.

I returned to my family and held the peace of that moment in my heart. Having family can be tiring, stressful, and demanding, but my tribe is important. When the going gets tough, though, Manannan calls me to the crossroads of land, sea, and sky for a brief moment with nature. Both complete me and heal me.

Blessed Summer Solstice!

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A bouquet of offerings for Manannan and Black Creek. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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Transplanted wild chamomile. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Earlier I went out to lunch with my husband. We stopped in The Mustard Seed, a local health food store and cafe. We sat beneath a big poster displaying a variety of medicinal herbs. Weretoad asked if I had ever encountered chamomile in the wild and I said that I had not but would love to find it one day.

Sometimes the Kindreds hear you.

A delightful downpour welcomed me home after work this afternoon. Rather than rushing inside, I took a moment to revel in the cool relief the rain brought. I was rewarded with a welcomed sight – a few small patch of plants that looked like chamomile, growing right near my home!  Some research confirmed that I had discovered wild chamomile – aka “pineappleweed.”  The scent of it’s conical blossoms gave it its name.  I decided to try transplanting a couple.  Others online advised that I should trim the tops a bit to promote root growth after transplanting, so you won’t see the blossoms that gave it away in my photograph.  I brought those in and promptly brewed a cup of tea!  Well… after I gave thanks.  I disturbed some ants while digging up my new plant allies, so I gave them a peace offering of sugar-in-the-raw.

May the ants know my respect and the wild chamomile thrive both in and out of my pots!  I’m grateful the Kindreds finally allowed me to find this chamomile.  Clearly the time was right.

 

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I hope everyone is enjoying their late spring/early summer.  I certainly am!  This time last year, I was the size of a blimp, waddling everywhere, and reluctant to wander far for fear of falling or making my back ache worse than it already was.  Ah, the joys of third trimester pregnancy… My self-guided foraging and herbalism studies went on hold until, well, this year!   This year, I have some more freedom to move around and explore the forest and fields around my home.  Bee is starting to find ways to entertain herself, so I have a little more time to develop my knowledge and hobbies (when I’m not preventing her from climbing onto shelves and tables…).  If only I had known last summer – there are so many edibles literally inches from my door!

A few weeks ago, I shared my positive experience cooking with dandelions in cookies and fritters.  Dandelions are very common and arguably the most easily recognizable edible you can forage, but don’t stop there!  With the help of identification/ foraging books and websites that contain excellent written descriptions and photographs, you can add more delicious and healthful plants to your diet – for free.  

A basketful of greens harvested from my garden and lawn. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

I came up with a fun and easy option to put everything together for a light lunch: Early Summer Greens on Toast.  Along with the greens and flowers I foraged, I also include herbs from my garden, and some produce from the grocery store.  Hey, I’m not entirely self-sifficient, but this is a start!

My ingredients:

  • young, tender dandelion leaves
  • young, tender plantain leaves
  • chickweed leaves, flowers, and tender stems (I can only find the mouse ear variety near my home)
  • ground ivy leaves
  • wood sorrel
  • basil
  • pineapple sage
  • chives (including blossoms if available)
  • organic tomato
  • locally harvested fiddleheads
  • wholewheat bread, toasted

Ahhh… fiddleheads… One of the many signs of summer.  Something about their spiral adds a touch of Druidic whimsy to my cooking.  I have yet to find them on my own. For now, I buy locally harvested fiddleheads from my grocery store.

After washing everything and chopping the tomato, I sauté the lot in a shallow pan with olive oil.  Cook on medium until the fiddleheads are tender.  Greens reduce quite a bit, so if you want more, you’ll need to harvest much more than you see in my basket.  The fiddleheads add texture while the tomatoes add more flavor and color.  The basil, chives, sage, and ground ivy add quite a bit of flavor themselves!  My salt-loving husband never adds extra seasonings to this dish!  Serve on toast to give everything a nice, crunchy base.  Enjoy the taste and savor your growing knowledge of the land.

 

Thank you, Nature Spirits!  Yum! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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