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A Winter Travel Prayer

An Cailleach, I call to you

On this wintry, snowy day.

Please be gentle with my kin

As we drive from work or play.

By Grey Catsidhe

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A Pre-Ritual Prayer

Ah, that crazy time leading up to a ritual.  As Senior Druid of Northern Rivers Grove, organizing the celebrations is often my responsibility.  I embrace it, though it is quite an offering of time and energy.  There was recently a conversation on one of the ADF groups about how ritual leaders feel following ceremonies.  Many describe feeling drained, and that is usually how I feel.  Even when things go well, I need to spend a lot of time in my pjs the next day.

Preparation is hard work, especially because our rituals aren’t held on grove property.  We have to carry our tools, food, cutlery, workshop materials, and membership information to a building that often serves another purpose.  They do not have room to house our materials, nor should they.  Many tools need cleaning, physically or spiritually, after our gatherings, after all.  Liturgies need to be written, and chant sheets prepared. Group offerings and magical materials packed. I need to check on all the celebrants prior to our ritual.

I’m trying to delegate more, but I’ve always been a bit of a control freak.  I like things done a certain way, and I’m learning to let go a bit.  It’s important to do that as I won’t be the Senior Druid forever, and the grove belongs to all its members.  Still, I forget about little jobs that I could hand out.  Things like greeting guests and explaining things often fall to me by default.  Sometimes it seems people need permission to handle some tasks because they’re used to me handling them.  I’ve read other groves assign the role of host/hostess to someone not in charge of ritual, and I think that’s brilliant!  This time, another member is taking charge of the workshop, while another is handling the kid activity.  Wooo!  I can breathe a bit.

Anyway, in the spirit of making sure everything is ready, here’s a prayer I wrote today.  I’m participating in the #prayeraday challenge that many ADFers are contributing to.  I hope you enjoy my Pre-Ritual Prayer!

preritualprayer

 

Pre-Ritual Prayer

I pray our liturgy complete,
The tools lovingly packed.
I pray the meal is cooked to eat,
The plates carefully stacked.

I pray the chants we chose today
Inspire and uplift.
I pray my offerings in tow.
Kindreds, accept my gift!

I pray our guests are kind of heart-
Find solace in our light.
I pray we all arrive on time,
Then reach home safe at night.

By Grey Catsidhe

Macha Calls

If you haven’t read Sara Ann Lawless’ latest, revealing post, you really must.  It’s called “So Long, and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community.”   It’s long, raw, and has the potential to trigger.  If you are up to reading it, I highly recommend it out of necessity.

 

The experiences she described should never have happened.  I look back on my own history of finding and growing in Paganism with amazement.  I somehow got to where I am without facing the extremes she and others endured.  My worst experiences have been uncomfortable conversations, lingering stares, and, recently, realizing that the founder of my tradition behaved in a way that was not honorable toward women. (I also had experiences outside the Pagan sphere, of course…)  Somehow, I have been pretty lucky in life.  I say that not to brag, but with a sense of astonishment given what so many friends and family have experienced.  I thank my watchful parents for some of that, but also my husband.  I started to date him when I began visiting covens, circles, and groves.  He tirelessly accompanied me, always supportive and protective.  As grateful as I am for that, I recognize how sad it is that I felt I needed to rely on him.  Truly, I would not have gone to Muin Mound Grove had he not agreed to join me.  Going to a home with a bunch of strangers for a ritual?  I would have never done that without my 6’6″ partner by my side just in case.

It sucks that it has to be that way.  What if I had been single?  What if I hadn’t had any friends interested in exploring with me?  Thankfully, the first Pagan circle I joined was run by a woman more concerned with fellowship and communal learning than power.  Thankfully, Muin Mound was, and is, a family-friendly, safe group.  Decisions are made by the members, not one person.  I flourished in both places.  What if they had been  toxic environments?  Who would I be today?  Thinking of some other groups and individuals I met who gave me red flags, I shudder …

The news is filled with stories like Sarah’s, but on a more global scale.  Women (cis, trans, etc), are voicing our pain, our worries, our stories.  Watching my daughter grow, I worry for her.  I can only keep her safe for so long. A large reason I work to create a safe, family-friendly grove is for her and the other children of my Pagan friends.

It is hard, very mundane work.  Some of the most important protective magic you do will be that way.  When I started down the Druidic path, I didn’t envision myself writing and reviewing bylaws.  I didn’t consider the importance of introducing myself with a pronoun.  I thought we’d get together and meditate, but we also come together to chat about the importance of safety, inclusion, etc.  It can be grueling and challenging, but it’s necessary.  Each time, the protective sphere around the grove strengthens.  Sometimes cracks form, and everyone needs to buckle down and repair, or else everything will shatter.

 

I’ve found myself drawn to Macha lately.  A little over a year ago, she came to me during a trance.  She reappears from time to time, but her voice is getting louder.  With everything going on in the political realm of America, the Me Too movement… it’s no wonder.  This sovereignty goddess cursed the men of Ulster, cursed the patriarchy that wronged her.  She’s a warrior who perseveres, and I’m curious about others who hear her call.

I’m particularly drawn to her  because, as my grandfather’s genealogy research found, I have an ancestor from Armagh Co, which was named after Macha (Ard Mhacha).

Today, as the Senate prepares to vote, I felt compelled to make offerings to Macha.  I prayed to her and asked for omens.  My daughter joined me and made an offering to Brighid, which was also very appropriate.  My little one doesn’t know what’s happening, so she was perplexed by my words.  I pray that Brighid wraps her protective mantle around the young ones.  I pray that Macha lends me her strength and, in time, lends that to my child when it’s needed.

For more inspiration on how to protect your groves, covens, and circles, I suggest reading Rev. Melissa Hill’s “Ways to Protect Your Community from Sexual Predation.”  If you don’t already have bylaws in your group, begin to work on them collectively.  Actively promote inclusion and begin to explore the concept of, and work to promote, a culture of consent.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on that myself.  How many times have I said or done something that I probably shouldn’t have?  There wasn’t any intent other than to have a chuckle with my friends, but people may see it differently.  There are times I know I made someone uncomfortable with a joke.  Even as a woman, I have to think of my own behaviors towards others.  I want to be a better example for my child, for my grove, and community.  May that work spiral outward.

Macha, I hear you.

A Harvest Prayer

My work through the Initiate Path of ADF has been slow but steady this past year. I may not always be “studying” in the traditional sense, and I may not be as prolific as others in ADF, but I’m always doing something. Writing prayers for my practice is one such something.

The very practical prayers preserved in the Carmina Gadelica inspired me since I first read them.  There are prayers and songs for all manner of mundane but very important activities such as herding cattle and weaving.  These chores become imbued with sacred purpose when you add that extra focus and energy. Song and prayer is also an excellent offering.  I’ve been working to infuse my own life with small acts of magic, blessing, and thanksgiving.  Not only does it keep me connected to my tradition, the land, and the spirits, but it buoys me up during difficult times, helping me feel part of something greater, even when life becomes overwhelming.  (And believe me… September has found me feeling detached at times…)

On this Autumn Equinox, I share with you a prayer I started around the Summer Solstice, and tweaked throughout the season.  I now say it while tending my garden, or harvesting food and herbs as I did today.  I usually sing it to the tune of “Now the Rite is at an End.”  It just fits!

 

The image includes a photo of some herbs I collected today while singing the above.  My hands smell like the mugwort, calendula, and sage I harvested.  Here’s text for those who’d like it:

Spirits of this plant, I pray
And give thanks for this great crop.
May you heal and nourish us,
And the cycle never stop.

– by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

May your harvest be bountiful, and I hope you get outside to enjoy the seasonal changes.  As for my family, we are joining with our grovemates to celebrate!  Feel free to utilize the prayer in your own celebrations and gardening work.  Or, even better, perhaps it will inspire you to write your own!

Clearing the Dust

When I woke up this morning, after going about my toilette, I approached my altar, but decided I would hold off on my usual devotional.  I felt unsettled, so I went outside.  I contemplated yoga, but my inner voice urged me to stretch up to the sun, to feel the dewy grass on my feet, then pour a libation instead.  That felt good.  I said a prayer of thanksgiving.

I returned to contemplate my altar.  I’ve been in my home for just over a year, now, and the corner altar in my kitchen has stood for about that long.  I examined the buildup of incense dust and cobwebs.  I work with my altar daily, but bits of rituals past cling in the shadows of rocks, offering bowls, and statuary.  When spiders move in, I tend to welcome them.  My mother always taught me that, unless they present a danger, they are good luck. I offer hospitality,  but that means their webbing, shed skin, and bits of dust linger when they move on.

My eyes took all of this in, and I began to consider how this time of year – September in particular – always finds me  slightly detached from my practice. My work life reclaims much of my energy.  I have little else to give when I return from a long day of teaching and nurturing children.  I view what I do as an extension of my relationship with Brighid.  My values, my beliefs, they do not go away.  They inform me, guide me… and yet, my time and energy to do deeper spirit work diminishes.

It is a frustrating part of my own personal wheel of the year.

I am missing Pagan Pride Day today.  Ever since I had a child, it’s been hit or miss for me.  I’m exhausted.  My family is exhausted.  We’ve all been exposed to everyone else’s germs at school, and my daughter is not feeling her best.  So I’m putting our health first, knowing that we will be with our grove to celebrate the Autumn Equinox next weekend.  That will reinvigorate me further, and carry me into the Samhain season, renewed and ready for rebirth.

Back to the dusty altar.  The dust, I realize, represented something more.  Yes, that sort of thing accumulates through life and ritual (especially when incense is involved).  Yet there was more – it was the miasma of magic past made manifest.  The spiders, drawn to the corner to catch fruit flies opportunistically sipping from my offering bowls, were telling me I needed to tidy up.

So I did.  This morning, I did not light any incense.  I did not make any offerings of food or drink at my altar.  I gave time and care.  I dusted each item with love.  I washed away residue.  I replaced each sacred object tenderly, kissing some, stroking others.  I made sure my allies knew they were still very much welcomed.

You may wonder if I considered the moon phase or astrological sign.  You may nod with approval as I did this before a High Day.  You may shake your head at me for the informality of it all.  However, what I did felt right, and listening to your heart, your instincts, then acting on them, using what is at hand, is an important part of my practice, I feel.  Considering that I am putting a lot of thought into the Autumn Equinox ritual next weekend, this very off-the-cuff cleansing ritual felt like a needed juxtaposition.

Tonight, I am planning to ritually sain and mark the anniversary of our moving here.  I will honor the spirits in my home, and re-consecrate that space.  In the meantime, I’m going to sit and pour an offering to myself: a well-deserved cup of tea.

 

Hyde Lake in Theresa, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Between difficulties with our car, cleaning at home, and going back to work a few weeks early, my summer is ending before I’m ready. I have no right to complain, though. Life is relatively good, and the summer fun I did have was wonderful and exciting! And rather than mope, I try my best to seize the day. Because my car, the only one with a roof rack, was in the shop for several weeks, we didn’t get to do much kayaking this year. Today, we changed that with a trip to nearby Hyde Lake.

There’s a lot of nature to explore, even at the boat launch.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

My daughter hadn’t been here since she was a baby, so she was excited to explore a “new” landscape.  We even saw a weasel while in our boat.

KayakHydeLake2018
It turns out, time on a lake was just what I needed. I felt really stressed a few days ago, and I’m making some changes in life because of it.  There’s been a lot of that in the air, I gather.   Anyway, I plan to post a bit about that eventually, but today it was all about finding a slice of paradise.  My husband and daughter were excited to head out with me for a little adventure near home.  Where land, water, and sky meet, I felt rejuvenated.

I await autumn with open arms, but the stress of an increased workload comes along with all the apples, pumpkins, and spiced chai lattes.  Make sure you get outside and reconnect with the people, and places, who mean a lot to you.

Like most Americans, I grew up hearing people moan about weeds. My grandmother, an avid gardener, was fussy. She didn’t want anything growing between the cracks of her sidewalk. When she still lived at home, she often poured boiling water over unwanted plants. Old fashioned, effective, relatively eco-friendly in terms of chemical use, but laborious. At the same time, she was the first to teach me about foraging and herbalism. She had a respect for the plant world, but wanted control over what grew where in her yard, as many do.  Myself included to an extent! My mother and father have been more relaxed about it. They prefer hand weeding and mulching, but don’t get hung up on dandelions and other diversity in the yard. My mother was always delighted to get bouquets of dandelions, and she taught us to make wishes when they went to seed. Her tolerance transferred to me, but magnified to a deeper respect for plants like dandelions – plants that not only are beautiful in their own ways, but very nutritious for us and pollinators like bees.

Since my early forays into gardening, I’ve been reading about herbs, and that also lead me to foraging. I’m in no way an expert. I have so much to learn about living in harmony with the natural world while also keeping my “territory” safe for my family and veggie patch. You can imagine my horror as I looked out my window to see my new neighbor spraying chemicals on the dandelions and clovers this spring. I’m, shall we say, friendly with weeds?

I actually dislike the word “weed,” but it’s easier than saying “plants growing where I don’t exactly want them.” I suppose I should just call them “wild plants.” The more I learn, walking through my yard is like browsing a grocery store. It’s not just “grass” or “lawn.” I can name much of the flora. Not all, and don’t ask me for Latin names… like I said. Not an expert. Weeding my veggie patch is an interesting mental process for me. It must be done. Just as I do not want fleas on my cats, I understand that my veggies will be less successful with too much competition. And yet, I have internal conversations like this:

“Oooh, lamb’s quarters! I’ll let you grow for now, but I’m coming back for you later. You’re going in a stir fry…”

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My sandy, yet flourishing, herb spiral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I made a deal with the crabgrass today. I know it will die off in the autumn, but for now, its roots are helping to prevent soil erosion in my fledgling herb garden. The soil here is very sandy in places. I have my work ahead of me, but for this year, I’m accepting the crabgrass in the bare spots to keep things together when I water. I told the grass, “I’ll let you grow here for now, as long as you aren’t right next to the herbs. In exchange, you need to accept my haircuts!”  Yeah, I’d rather not have seeds settle in there.  I’ll plan to fill those areas in with something else next year.

I did tear plenty out around the lavender, though.

While my family is cultivating parts of the yard for food, we understand the importance of buffer zones for native species and pollinators. The back of our yard, right up by the stone border separating us from the cemetery, is filled with all manner of plants. I needed to see who was there before making decisions about what I want to do with that area. However, one corner is for the pollinator garden (or the “fairy garden” as my daughter likes to call it). We’ve dedicated it to the local spirits. Unless guided to do so, we are not taking anything from it for ourselves. I’ve since learned there are raspberries growing there. They are for the birds. We’ve planted bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop. Some other plants are starting to grow there, too. I’m carefully weeding so that the native varieties are able to flourish.

Elsewhere in the yard, we also leave patches of clover alone for the most part. The previous owners had a big dog, and he dug massive holes around the yard.  Before we finalized the purchase, they helpfully filled those in for safety, but we had big sandy patches all over.  We let crabgrass and flowering plants take those areas for now and just let them go nuts.  It’s better looking than sandy spots.  I’ve noticed many happy bees, and they bring their joy to our veggie and herb patches. It’s a win-win!  In the meantime, I continue to study foraging, learning what I can eat, how it impacts everything else in the yard, and am even dipping my toes into permaculture.

That said, if we get something really dangerous, I’ll probably follow my grandmother’s lead and bring out the tea kettle…