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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

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The old shrine. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Sometimes we have to take a pilgrimage to where it all began – to the source of our spirituality.  By that, I mean the places where we first felt the stirrings of spirits around us, observed the interconnection of everything, and where our soul first learned to dance.  For me, that place is my childhood home – in particular, the forest behind the house.

I grew up able to play in the shade of white pines, sugar maples, red maples, black cherries, crab apples, and aspens.  I learned the name of many plants, native and invasive, and whether or not I could eat them.  I learned how to recognize numerous birds by shape and call.  I often woke up to find herds of deer or flocks of turkeys outside my bedroom window.  Once I even saw a pine marten.  I meditated below those trees, poured my first offerings there, and hailed the moon on that land.  On summer nights, the song of crickets and spring peepers was my lullaby.  On winter mornings, the happy coo of mourning doves was a gentle alarm clock.  Although I was baptized a Roman Catholic, I always felt the most spiritual out in the forest.

As moved into Paganism, and as that grew into Druidism, I started to visit a particular spot often.  I made an Earth Mother statue, placed a small, porcelain teacup below her, and brought her interesting stones, seeds, flowers, etc.  The shrine is still there, although I have to gently remove the pile of leaves blanketing it each visit.  I always feel a mixture of gratitude for where I’ve been and an extreme nostalgia for the childhood that is gone.  I can almost imagine the ghost of my childhood self playing around the trees.  Perhaps that is a different type of Nature Spirit or ghost – the positive energy we left behind in our old haunts?

I wonder what will become of my old shrine should my family ever move. Should I take those relics with me, or should I leave them there for a new child to wonder at?  Who knows if I’ll ever have to cross that bridge. It makes me a little sad to think of all the childhood homes that are now inaccessible to others because they moved away.  Such is life, though.  We can always return in our minds if we quiet ourselves long enough and unlock the memories.   For now, the shrine remains, a special landmark I occasionally pilgrimage to.

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Photo Jul 05, 11 43 06 AM

Our kayaks on the shore of Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Earlier this year, I took to doing weekly omen drawings to gain insight into what would come my way. I recently started to do daily draws for similar purposes, but I use the ogham for that so that I can better learn that system. My weekly drawings utilize my main method of divination: the Druid Animal Oracle. I still love that deck, and I grow more adept at it as I delve further down my Druidic path.

Last week, I drew the bear.  To me, the bear means personal sovereignty.  There is the connection between King Arthur and bears, of course, as well as the connection to the Gualish Goddess Artio (and we know many Goddesses are associated with sovereignty). In addition, bears are quite literally very territorial.  They take what they want, and woe to any human who gets in their way!  I also associate the bear card with hibernation, or rest.

That made a lot of sense to me.  It was my first week of summer vacation, and I truly embraced my inner bear.  I allowed myself to reclaim some of my personal time and energy.  Yes, I attended to basic housework and, of course, ran all over creation to entertain my little one, but I also sat on my butt to read, watch anime, meditate, and just chill.  I really got to wallow in my bear-self over the weekend, when I went with family to a camp on Star Lake in the lovely Adirondacks.

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A loon on Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I enjoyed lounging in and by the lake.  Summer hibernation, Grey style!  I could get used to a view like that.  I think I could handle getting out of bed to greet the sun shining on the water, then meditate on the dock each day in the green half of the year.  And what better place to be a bear than surrounded by pine trees?  I’m truly grateful for that opportunity.  I hope that one day, I am lucky enough to really drawn on bear’s sovereignty, and have my own home or camp on a lake or river.

What a blessing that would be!  After I’m done being a bear, I’ll have to get back to work with my eye on the prize!

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A perfect berry makes for a perfect offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Ok, everyone, it’s officially summer in my point of view! Solstice be damned; the actual start of summer is when I taste my first, local strawberry. That happened a few days ago. First, I collected a few wild strawberries at my childhood home. Of course, the plants are few and far between, making ripe and intact berries rare and edible jewels. I felt like a child again connecting with the first plant I ever learned how to forage.

Yesterday, we picked strawberries at a local farm. The sky was gray, and there were scattered showers, but it was perfect berry picking weather! We were comfortable, didn’t get sun burns, and we were the only people picking most of the time we were there! We felt comfortable letting Bee run back and forth between us, stuffing her face with delicious harvest. I spent much of the afternoon and early evening preserving what we picked. Today I made offerings of berries and incense. I thanked the Nature Spirits for their wonderful blessings, and I thanked the Ancestors for the wisdom they passed down that allowed me to preserve the harvest.

People who are new to Druidism may wonder how to engage with it.  Seriously, it can be as simple as saying “thank you” and giving back some of what you have.  It could be the most beautiful berry you picked, or a simple prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for what those before you allowed to occur in the present because of what they shared.

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Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

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Pea Blossom. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

It’s amazing – and downright magical – how life emerges from a tiny seed and produces such beauty. After several weeks of waiting and tending, my peas have produced these beautiful blossoms. Indeed, many of the plants in my garden are showing signs of growth. Can you believe that we had snow on the ground just a couple months ago? Soon, we’ll celebrate the Summer Solstice…

I love how I get to experience a variety of seasons where I live. I appreciate each of them for different reasons. After week after grueling week of frigid temperatures, it all seems worth it now that I get to see the rebirth and growth all around. Soon, things will heat up. Sweat will roll down my back, and I’ll welcome the changing leaves and icy breeze that Autumn brings.

Turn, wheel, turn… I rejoice and join you in the dance!

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I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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