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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

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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The Latest Edition to my Bookshelf

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Good thing I’m a mythology nerd. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

I’m still working my way through Patterns of Comparative Religion by Eliade.  It is quite the beast, but very interesting.  There is a lot of fascinating information within its pages, but it is not focused on Indo-European mythology the way Jaan Puhvel’s book is supposed to be.  I’m hoping that I find it a little more helpful as I continue to trudge through Indo-European Mythology 1 – one of ADF’s advanced study programs.  It’s taking me a long time, but I’m learning so much.  So much.

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The big news in the North Country this week has been the weather. It was really disruptive of peoples’ work and school schedules, and it ended up forcing my family to change our grocery shopping habits. It also changed my devotional routine. After we were able to safely drive into town for food, and by the time we returned, it just wasn’t prudent to venture into the forest for my devotional rite. I miss my shrine and the cathedral of trees, but I don’t feel secure trudging through thigh-high snow after dark while the temperatures are so frigid.

I decided to do my ritual beneath the ash tree in front of my home. The result was a very quiet and quick rite. My neighbors were either away or busy in their kitchens. Everyone’s blinds were down, and I think the only one watching me was my black cat, Doyle, peeking through the window. The ritual followed the usual simplified COoR of the ADF tradition. The tree was the sturdy ash, the fire was the setting sun, and the water was the snow piled all around me, chilling me to the bone.   It was very easy visualize cold water flowing up through my legs. Taking deep breaths and letting tension and worry slip away, I felt the distant warmth of the sun slide down my body. Quiet prayers were said, offerings of fruit, grain, and whiskey were given, and I drew an omen for the week. The Kindreds gave me the salmon, which I interpreted as wisdom. I got a sense that there may be some challenges this week, so I will need to jump a little higher from the pond to get what I need, but it will help me on my journey.

Although I missed the forest, standing below the ash tree brought a great sense of peace. For the first time since moving in, I thought I even saw a bit of a face in the tree. Perhaps, through more frequent interactions, I’m opening up to its spirit, it is opening up to me, or both. Not that I expect trees to have human faces, but you know how our minds work when it comes to relating…

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Look What Came in the Mail!

Just in time for my liturgy practicum studies.

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When life gets busy, I tend to feel that my spirituality comes out of focus. Socializing, driving from place to place, and my day job all distract me from my studies. Being a mother and keeping my home is exhausting. So often, I find myself snuggled in a bathrobe, on the couch, watching something on Netflix.  When I log on to the internet, I see others in my tradition discussing the various ADF study programs that they’re working through, and I think of how long it’s taking me…  I’m about ready to give up on trance and magic for now.  I just can’t seem to adhere to a routine with my fussy toddler teething so frequently.  It can be really discouraging…

When I went into the forest to do my devotional on Sunday, I found myself dwelling on everything I wasn’t doing enough of: practicing meditation or trance, magical work, studying Irish, studying herbalism…  My ritual itself felt a little melancholy.  It was such a chilly, overcast day. All the lovely autumn colors from the last couple weeks had blown away. Ravens chuckled in the distance, reminding me at once of An Morrigan and her connection to death.  The veil is thin, Samhain is coming, and the natural world both dies and prepares for slumber.

Once inside, I gradually began to realize all the ways that I am living and growing spiritually.  I am doing my best to maintain a positive relationship with the Kindreds by giving offerings and saying prayers of gratitude.  I practice simple, practical forms of magic – folk magic, kitchen magic, basic shielding and grounding.  I may not be actively studying Irish each day, but I’m learning when I can.  I may not be reading as much as I used to, but I’m fitting that in when I can as well.  I’ve started to journal each Sunday afternoon, and my liturgy journal shows growth and reflection.  Most importantly, I’m sharing the joy of life’s most basic magic with my daughter.  We sing and dance to music, delight in simple stories, and enjoy expressing our creativity with art.  We explore nature together, and her complete awe in everything has awakened something deep inside me.  Lately, a majority of the books I read are my child’s.  We read them together – fiction and non-fiction, verse and prose.   She hears my prayers and sees me make offerings.

My Druidism is growing as fast as an oak, which is okay.  The experience of tending to my little acorn is just part of my journey.  It is teaching me to be patient and nurturing, and to reconnect to the world’s most primal and joyful magic.

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It arrived! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m ashamed to say that I never read the late Adler’s groundbreaking book, Drawing Down the Moon.  The news of her sudden death moved me to order it immediately.  I needed to read it; I needed to honor one of our community’s elders – now ancestors.  I had admired her as a journalist on NPR, now I definitely needed to explore this other side of her.

It arrived today!  I’m very excited to start.  I’m not sure how I will fit it in with my other projects – the various ADF study programs, sewing, crocheting, and managing a protogrove…  but I’m committed to finish it by Samhain.  In fact, I invited my grovies to join me in reading or rereading it with me.  We’ll periodically discuss things that jump out at us on our Facebook group, and have a final discussion towards the end of October.  We’ll then honor her further at our Samhain ritual.

I can’t believe it took me this long…

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If you’re ever in the 1000 Islands, visit the Thousand Islands Art Center in Clayton, NY. They have exhibits and offer a variety of classes. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

Last Sunday, I was called on by a friend in my community and protogrove to sain her workspace – the pottery studio at the Thousand Islands Art Center.  It was a wonderful experience for both of us, and I learned a lot!

I was extremely humbled when she asked me to perform this ritual.  She told me she felt I had the experience and that she trusted me.  Not only did this make me feel good about myself and the rituals I’ve been leading in the area, but it reminded me of why I started Northern Rivers Protogrove.  It’s always been for community.  Not only is gathering with like-minded people to celebrate the seasonal changes and honor the Kindreds deeply fulfilling to me, but it is to others as well.  When I started the study group that would evolve into Northern Rivers, the growing interest and feedback I received clearly showed that there was something lacking in the area.  I returned to my Initiate Letter of Intent in thinking about this because I remember writing a lot about community.  I wanted to continue within my tradition’s study programs to grow in my spirituality and to give back to others.  Agreeing to help my friend really reawakened that awareness of “calling” in me.  It takes a lot of work and preparation to serve the community, and there are challenges as I need to balance it with the needs of my other career and my family, but it’s still very important and deeply gratifying.

Before I agreed to help, I first asked why she wanted the saining.  I wanted to know if she desired a general blessing because of new beginnings and old, negative energy, or if she felt there was something darker there – an angry ghost, perhaps.  I very honestly told her that I have very little experience with such things and do not currently feel comfortably taking that on.  We have mutual trust and she also honestly told me that it wasn’t anything of the sort.  Because I never want to put my own sanity or my family’s safety in harm’s way, I don’t see myself performing sainings for anyone I haven’t known for a little while.  That trust is important.  Maybe, down the road, I’ll feel more comfortable helping strangers, but I just lack the experience right now.  It’s important to know your limits and establish your own boundaries based on what you honestly feel are your current skills.  Having done a yearly saining of my own home around the New Years (both secular and religious), I felt confident in my abilities, and my relationship with the Kindreds, for her needs.

Like I said, this was a positive experience for both of us.  She felt that the space was on the mend, and I felt myself putting my magical training to good use for a wonderful person. It can be intimidating to do magic and ritual for others, but leading seasonal rites for Northern Rivers has taught me that the best rituals are when I do what feels best in my heart and listen to my intuition.  That’s exactly what I did.  As soon as I allowed for that to happen, symbols started to jump out at me from the environment.  In our discussion after the ritual, it was revealed that many of my feelings had a real basis in what my friend was experiencing.  The omen, as well, was also very telling to both of us.  When that happens, it feels damn good!

Now I did learn some things to help me improve for the future.  Next time, I should tour the entire space beforehand.  I thought we would sain the studio only, but in reality she also wanted to attend to another storage area that belongs to the studio but was across the hallway.  I felt a bit clumsy and annoyed with myself when she revealed this mid-ritual, but it was easy to fix and incorporate into the rite.  As I always tell my grovies, we have to be able to think on-the-fly in ritual when necessary.  I also forgot to bring a separate bowl for offerings.  Thankfully, I set up a working altar right by a door so we were able to pour offerings in the garden nearby.

Gifts from a friend.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Gifts from a friend. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Let me point out that, regardless of my belief that our clergy and elders should be compensated for their work, I didn’t go about this for any other reasons than to help a friend and hone my skills.  She surprised me after it all by gifting me with some of her favorite (locally made) incense and a dish that she made in the studio.  I was absolutely giddy with her gifts since they are things I can use in future magical workings!   These gifts are precious to me and will remind me of how good and fulfilling it is to give mack to my community.  Furthermore, this whole experience will help me complete some of my advanced Druidic studies within ADF!  Like Magic 2!  Go me!

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