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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

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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I recently discovered something that is helping me with the more academic requirements in ADF’s advanced study programs. Bee is capable of eating finger foods so, sometimes, in the evening, I’ll put her in her highchair, give her some organic baby rice cakes, puffs, or fruit, and let her have at it. Meanwhile, I sit at the table next to her with a cup of tea, some reading materials, and notes. Sometimes I even read bits aloud for her which she finds entertaining.

Sure, I only get to read a few pages at a time, but it’s better than nothing! Here I go, as fast as a speeding oak!

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Offerings given. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Off to the forest with offerings tucked in my coat pocket, I trudged through the snow. Though much of it has melted, certain areas, especially the places between human dwellings and the forest, are still very deep. Movement was slow and difficult without snowshoes. As always, I thought of my spirit animal, the white tailed deer, as I clumsily made my way. They are so graceful and surefooted in the snow. Were a pack of coydogs to chase me, I would have a difficult time getting away in such conditions. And yet even thinking of deer surviving in the winter gave me strength and renewed my perseverance.

As I crossed the hedge, I noticed how the going became easier. The snow was melting faster in the forest. Why was that? Was it because the canopy of evergreens kept so much from piling up so there’s just less there?

Chickadees sang happily. I made my way to the shrine, passing some deflated birthday balloons that had blown in from somewhere. I made a mental note to grab them on my way back. As I stepped up a hill towards the shrine, I noted the familiar shapes of deer a few yards away. I stopped and looked around. When you slow down and really look  it is amazing what you can see.  A whole herd seemed to materialize out of the trees.  Some stared back at me, some struck their hooves against the ground, others continued to eat.  I proceeded slowly, not wanting to frighten them.  This herd and I continue to meet.  Do they recognize my coat, my tread, my scent?

I held an apple out to them.  I did not expect them to come and take it from me, nor do I want to encourage that.  I spoke softly, praising them, wishing them well, and telling them my intent.  I softly chanted “Fur and Feather”.  They ran a little to the other side of the forest.  They watched me a moment more, then vanished into the woods as they walked away.

I placed the offering upon the shrine, its stones bare of snow.  I thought of the deer, admiring their qualities.  They are all at once gentle, courageous, persevering, nurturing, cautious, and the females are very tribal seeming.  They are good qualities to admire and emulate.

I left more offerings of seed and herbs for the local spirits.  I took in the stillness and the life all around.  The melting snow… The red buds forming on branches… Spring is coming and potential is in the air!  I left the forest feeling light hearted and festive.  Funny how I even had balloons in my hand…

Snow melting around the roots of a big hemlock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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The ice thawed quite a bit on the weekend, and the bitter cold hadn’t returned, so I decided to take a stroll to the forest.  I missed it last week, even with my desire to learn more about the tree and other beings around my home.  I did stop and say hello to the ash tree on my way.  There was a silence about it today.  A village it may be, but it’s a sleepy village right now.

The forest hedge was full of life signs.  Water pooled amid the snow and weeds.  Hoof tracks and deer droppings.  Coyote tracks and scat.  Once more, an ominous reminder of how the forest is not a zen garden.  With that in mind, I crossed the hedge and slowly made my way up the small hill into the forest.

I quickly realized I had disturbed a herd of deer.  We all stood and stared at each other for a long while.  I took a few quiet, slow steps in, able to watch the deer, but the snow was crisp and broke loudly.  In typical clumsy human fashion, I made a lot of noise walking about no matter how hard I tried not to.  The deer scattered, leaping gracefully over a distant ridge.  My heart leapt with them…

I made my offerings and stood listening.  The forest felt different than it did a few weeks ago.  That ominous feeling was gone and the forest was playing its music.  The red squirrels quarreled.  The crows cawed.  The morning doves cooed.  I left feeling refreshed.

Now that the temperatures have returned to below zero fahrenheit (a low of -27 today!), I marvel at the woodland creatures and how they survive.  Of course some won’t make it, but each species overall perseveres.  It’s really inspiring…

 

 

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Trees are more than just the tree itself. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

It’s a beautiful day in the North Country. It’s warmer than the week before. There was even a small bit of sun earlier. A perfect day for a walk to the forest. Only… yesterday’s rain made the lingering ice even more hazardous. The driveway and remaining “snow” are really slick. Walking the short distance from my door to my car is clumsy enough for me. I decided it would be too dangerous to go into the forest on my own today. And why risk twisting an ankle when I have to provide for my family and take care of a baby? There’s definitely something to be said about getting out in the elements no matter the weather to commune with the spirits of Nature… but there’s also wisdom in knowing not to take unnecessary risks!

That didn’t mean I gave up and went back inside!  I just decided to commune with nature closer to home.  It’s something I really ought to do more.  We have a lovely tree in the front which I believe is an ash.  I would like to grow closer to it and part of that will involve spending time with it.  I made offerings at its base and said hello, but quickly realized the tree is not simply the tree.  It plays host to a whole tribe of beings – fussy moss, pale lichens, insects hibernating in the folds of its bark, grasses and mallows growing below, morning doves cooing above…  When you stand before a tree, you are really standing before a village!  So I have a lot of work ahead of me.  I want to positively identify these creatures and learn of their properties and lore.  If I make this little patch the focus of my natural awareness for the sake of my current Druidic studies, I will be able to visit more frequently.  I will still make my treks to the forest, but the ash is easier to get to – and clearly just as wild!

 

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…is moving…

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Doyle doesn’t look anywhere as interested as I am!

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I seem to go through a cycle of three settings – study, experience, and lazy bum.  Occasionally the study and experience join forces and I truly feel like I’m living the path of a Druid, balancing the two in a beautiful dance of books, meditations, walks in the forest, and discussion groups.  Recently, I’ve been going through one of those rare periods which is exciting.  Having Northern Rivers Protogrove so close to home definitely helps.  It motivates me to continue my studies, organize opportunities for others to learn and grow, and insists that I keep practicing so that I can live up to the work I’m trying to do.

Spring break helped too.  It’s amazing what I was able to get done…  For example, my Liturgy 1 essay for the Naturalist Guild study program was approved after a couple revisions.  I’m very proud of the work I did on that essay!  I may share it eventually, but I’m waiting for the same essay to get reviewed for the Initiate and Generalist study programs.

I’ve also realized just how much I do on a weekly basis that can count towards some of my ADF study program essays.  Journaling about time in nature?  Why wasn’t I working on that sooner.  Hell, I might just go back through my blog and find the various entries I’ve done on such experiences to flesh it out.  Journal about a piece of art made for a grove?  Why didn’t I start that sooner?  Like when I made that altar cloth for Samhain!?  Record and reflect on divination I’ve done?  I could have finished the required amount of work for that essay long ago had I been journaling consistently!

I’m hoping I can keep this pace up for a bit.  I know that my priorities will be shifting very soon and a new setting will dominate my focus – mama.

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When we decided to try having a baby, my husband and I were well aware of the fact that doing so would mean putting some of ourselves aside (at least for a little while).  We must re-prioritize how we spend our excess money and time.  Traveling will be a little difficult for a few years.  Spontaneous nights out at the movies will stop until the little one is old enough to come along (here’s hoping there are some good children’s movies in the making!).  I’d like to think I’ll still be able to do the crafting I like, but even now my energy levels aren’t what they usually were. Any sewing or fiber work I’ve done has been for the baby or my future niece (although I did take time to make my friend Corinne a pair of owl earrings).  I don’t see that changing any time soon.  My desire to vend has vanished for the time being. I’m planning to “close” my certificate of authority allowing me to sell at craft fairs.  I will probably make more pieces to put in the ADF store or other local shops in the area, but I’m no longer taking consignments.  Any free time I have to craft, I intend to spend it expressing myself just how I want, making things for the protogrove, or for my baby.

A fellow blogger, Octopusdance, wrote about “Pagan Monasticism” the other day and it got me thinking.  I remember a younger me wishing I could just go away from the rest of society and focus intently on my spiritual path.  I would spend my time in a self-sufficient community of like-minded individuals.  We would grow and prepare our own food, tend a garden sanctuary to the Nature Spirits, make our own tools, teach each other our specialties, commune with the Spirit World, meditate, and study.  And of course, nights would be spent around the fire telling stories, singing songs, and drinking our own homemade meads, ales, and wines.

What a dream, right?  Now, initially I was thinking of such places as child and spouse-free because, let’s face it, family creates distraction.   Monastic life couldn’t be for me, at least not in this life.

Then something dawned on me.  I was thinking of a deeply spiritual life through the lens of Christianity and Buddhism.  I suddenly recalled reading about the ancient Druids’ ability to marry and have children (Ellis, 82).  Indeed, Irish stories are full of Druids having liaisons and children, and the Gods themselves were constantly trysting and marrying.  Why would the Druids limit themselves if they didn’t want to?  Now, of course, we know the ancient Druids held a high place in society.  Fosterage was probably a common practice among them just as it was with other high ranking families.  There’s evidence that Medieval Irish children were given to foster parents around the age of seven (Bitel, 86).  Did this practice exist among the ancient Druids?  If it did, seven year olds are far more independent than infants.  If a female Druid had a baby, did she take a break?  Were her duties lessened?  Did the community help her?  We may never know.

And yet, perhaps we modern Druids can continue to be (or at least try to be) deeply spiritual while acting as parents.  It’s not monastic life, but then again, we modern Druids have embraced an idea of reveling in all of life’s blessings (within moderation) rather than denying them to ourselves.  Parenthood is just another joy to be experienced, another lesson to be learned, and another way of experiencing the Kindreds.

So, no, I don’t see myself sacrificing my spiritual life.

Northern Rivers Protogrove remains a priority to me.  It doesn’t rank as high as the baby, of course, but I set this whole thing in motion last year with the study group and I don’t intend to see it fall on its face.  Thankfully, everyone involved is also very dedicated and very supportive of my pregnancy.  My protogrove sisters are excited to help plan a Mother Blessing ceremony for me, and I am hoping to having a baby saining ritual later in the year.  I have confidence in them that if I ever need to be absent from a rite, they will perform beautifully!  I’ve even had offers from nearby ADFers to come and help with a summer High Day should I not feel up to it as I approach delivery.  Even after the baby is born, we plan our rites ahead of time.  I’m sure a family member will be able to babysit for a few hours while we celebrate.  Bringing baby to workshops, study sessions, and business meetings won’t deter me.  I’m hoping to carry baby close, and my husband can easily take a fussy babe away for a moment if needed. Thank goodness for Weretoad!  Thus I intend to remain a facilitator and “priestess type figure” for my little community.  I do not, however, intend to become clergy anytime soon.  I will continue to work on my Initiate Study Program to better serve my community and deepen my spiritual practices, but the clergy training program, and the demands of clergy responsibility, are a bit beyond me right now.  Those are goals for later in life.

But what about my personal practices?  I guess I won’t really know until the baby arrives.  I’ve read and heard that the first few weeks are the hardest.  My world will revolve around the baby and recovering.  I imagine any energy I have left could go towards a prayer before my altar or a lit candle on Brighid’s shrine.  Seems appropriate.  After that, I may just set aside some time each week, like a Saturday morning, for meditation and ritual.  I am hopeful that I can continue my daily devotionals.  Things may be a bit touch and go for the first year or so, but I imagine it will settle out eventually and I’ll be able to have a routine again.  It will be a new routine, but it will exist.

My life as I knew it is going to change – already is changing – and some things must be sacrificed for the new life I’m bringing into the world – at least for a little while.  Yet I don’t intend for my spirituality to be one of them.  If anything, I can see the baby strengthening my Druidism.

I guess only time will tell!

Bitel, Lisa M.  Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland.  Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY.  1998.

Ellis, Peter B.  A Brief History of the Druids.  Carroll & Graf Publishers: New York, NY.  2002.

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Today I received word that my Devotional Practice essay passed review!  I’m posting it here for you to read.

 

Since completing my “Art Muse Essay” in 2010, I’ve been working with Brighid in my artistic pursuits, most of which involve fabric and fiber.  Seán Ó Duinn, author of The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint, explained several Irish customs and beliefs linking Brighid to fabric, fiber, and traditionally female art, in addition to her well-known association with blacksmithing.  Upon learning about her textile associations, I felt even more strongly that I should thank her for the talent and inspiration she blesses me with.  In an effort to build a stronger relationship with her, I’ve done my best to perform a very simple rite each time I embark on creative projects.

In my “Art Muse Essay”, I explained that I was lighting a candle for her prior to artistic work.  This practice has evolved over that last few years.  Originally, I was using the same candle I light on my flame keeping shift as part of my work with the Brighid’s Hearth SIG.  I have since decided that I want to save that candle for my flame keeping shifts or healing work.  They are less frequent whereas I am always sewing, crocheting, felting, or drawing something!  I required an alternative – something specific to my artistic rite.

Somewhere along the way I decided that incense would be a good offering.  Unverified personal gnosis told me to offer “fiery” blends.  Brighid seems very pleased with cinnamon, clove, and sunny-smelling lemongrass.  I’ve offered floral blends before, such as heather, and the incense tends not to burn fully.  It’s as if Brighid says she’s had enough and pinches it out.  Occasionally, when I am feeling ill and worry that incense will bother my senses, I have offered cups of herbal tea.  Once more, I use cinnamon or other “fiery spices.”  The blend of fire, water, and herbs is very pleasing to her and I have had good experiences with this offering as well.

Prior to beginning my work, I stand before Brighid’s altar.  It sits above my stove, which feels like the most appropriate place given her fiery associations.  I then light a stick or cone of incense and say the prayer I wrote.  Like my ritual of thanks, it has gone through several revisions.

Lady Brighid

Great Goddess of arts and crafts

You who put the fire in my head

You who bless me with talent and inspiration -

I thank you for your blessings.

I pray that you continue to bless me with talent and inspiration.

I pray that my art improves and continues to bring a smile to you.

May you know my love, gratitude, and worship in all I say and do.

May I bring honor to you in my work!

Lady Brighid, please accept my offering!

I then place the incense in its holder and begin my workings.  The scent wafts through my home and reminds me of her presence.  I try my best to do this act of devotion every day I set about artistic pursuits.  Although I have not felt the need, I can imagine myself using this rite, with an altered prayer, to ask for inspiration.  Thus far, Brighid puts the fire in my head almost every day, and there has been no drought of projects for me to embark on!

Since beginning to perform this personal rite, I have felt my bond with Brighid grow and strengthen.  I frequently receive bursts of inspiration and feel her warmth regularly.  I believe this to be reciprocity.  I ask for inspiration, receive it, and send her my thanks and gifts of incense purchases especially for her.   The cycle continues! I’ve felt a deeper connection to my artistic pursuits – and not just with regards to Brighid.  I have started to recognize a deepening bond to my female ancestors, especially when I practice very traditional arts such as hand stitching and spinning with a drop spindle.  I wonder about my old Irish ancestors.  Did they remember Brighid, as the Goddess or Saint, on Imbolc?  Did they think of her when they knit a warm sweater?  Did they have a cherished bit of fabric that they put out each Imbolc eve to use as a healing object?  I wonder, imagine, and feel myself becoming a part of a large tapestry of tradition going back into antiquity.

The only negative aspect of my artistic rite to Brighid is that I feel my relationship with my other patron has been ignored.  I do not feel as bonded and this must be remedied.  Working with Brighid in my artistic pursuits has taught me what it means to live Paganism.  I do not just pay lip service to her on Imbolc, but honor her and thank her each day.  I know I can do this in other areas of my life, thus deepening my bonds with other deities and Kindred.  Brighid has inspired me again!

 

Ó Duinn, Seán.  The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint.  Dublin:
Columba Press, 2005.

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