Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’


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.




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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!

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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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The Latest Edition to my Bookshelf


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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