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My Autumn Harvest

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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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Oh my goodness.  Where has the time gone?  For those curious, I’m all moved into my new home!  Huzzah!  It was a stressful process that disrupted my spiritual practice, but sacrifice is necessary for change.  I’m starting to get back into things, though.  With that, I want to tie up loose ends and finish the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge.  I’m going to keep this short and sweet as I still have boxes to unpack!  My focus will be how I’ve kept up (or struggled) with the following topics through the move.

Day 16: Connect with Mother Earth

Sometimes, I just took a moment to stand or sit outside, admiring my new yard.  Sometimes that’s all you need.

Day 17: Raise some energy

After I got my keys, the first thing I did was do a saining to purify and bless my home, and make peace with the spirits within and without.  I think I raised a decent amount of energy doing that, all things considered…

Day 18: Elemental magic

While I acknowledge the importance of the four elements in many traditions, I typically work with the Three Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky, as well as the Triple Hallows of Fire, Well, and Tree.  I often see them as corresponding with each other.  Today, I briefly meditated on them as I began putting my daily practice back together.

Day 19: Sacred Space/Circle Casting

I recreate the cosmos as is traditional in ADF Druid rites.  This is largely based on what we know about Indo-European ritual.  I haven’t done much of this lately…  But I did move in a circle when I sained my home.  Circles are sacred.  I like circles.

Day 20: Ethics

I should really reflect on the Nine Virtues and how they relate to moving…  This could be a future blog post.

Day 21: Symbols

Fire, water, trees, and spirals.  I’ve been especially connected to trees lately.  Connecting to them has been easiest for me at the moment.  Fire, and its connection to the heart and home, has also been significant to me.

Day 22: Self-Purification

Ahhh… that first shower after moving was certainly purifying.

Day 23: Book of Shadows/Grimoire

As I packed and unpacked, I rediscovered my first grimoire.  My first boyfriend gave me the journal for my birthday, and I filled that book with what I studied and my own illustrations.  It’s a beautiful piece that I treasure.  I haven’t updated my current grimoire.  I really should…

Day 24: Sabbats

I’ve been talking with my grove about making this the next workshop topic, specifically what our local wheel of the year is like.

Day 25: Esbats

For the last month, I’ve simply been going outside to observe and say some words.  I took note of my surroundings, trying to capture the view to memory.

Day 26: Create a sigil

Have not done this yet.  Thinking about making something to represent protection for my home…  I imagine something I could trace on my door when I leave.

Day 27: Healing

I’ve been all about self-care lately as we recover…  Tea, warm showers, chocolate…

Day 28: Magical Podcasts

I don’t listen to many, lately.  I don’t have a lot of time to devote to them.  I did listen to a lot of music while cleaning and painting, though…  My daughter and I like to dance and sing.  I don’t think she’d have patience for a podcast at this age.

Day 29: Astrology

My sun sign is Sagittarius.  I was instructed to look into my moon sign which is Aquarius.  Much to ponder…

Day 30: Make a commitment to yourself

Now that the pile of boxes is on the decline, my family and I are starting to settle.  As I returned to work and thus my routine this morning, I decided to revive my daily devotional.  I have not erected an altar yet because everything is in such a state of flux.  I’m working on a cabinet to serve such a role.  In the meantime, I simply stepped outside and poured an offering of my tea and bird seed.  I said prayers and took an omen for the day.  It felt right to start my day that way once more.

Meeting the Land

We explored a wooded trail near our new home today. It was lovely. I look forward to visiting again, especially in the autumn when it’s not so buggy. We went right down to the Indian River and said hello.  Next time I go down the trail, I need to bring a bag. So much trash. It’s a real shame. Time to form a positive relationship with a new patch of land. 

I feel like there’s a maelstrom swirling around inside me lately.  Along with relaxing to some of my favorite shows, I’ve been throwing myself into writing.  Writing anything – my book, blog updates, tweets, even my first fanfic – just to keep that swirl of stressful worries from tearing me open.  With that in mind, here’s the next bit of the Magical Roots Challenge.

  • Day 12 – Deity

 

Photo and doll by Grey Catsidhe

I’m a polytheist, usually leaning towards the hard side, but somewhat soft in regards to PanCeltic deities I suppose (for example, I see Brighid being the same as Brigantia).  I primarily work with Brighid, and I consider myself her priestess.  I’m always working to improve in this aspect.  I’ve been trying to revitalize my flamekeeping practices to make them more reflective and spiritually oriented, but it’s difficult as a mother.  I mean… you can’t meditate all day when the child wants to watch cartoons or would prefer to race you up and down the sidewalk instead of taking a walk along the hedge.  But I try, and consider motherhood one of the challenges she has given me through which to learn and grow as an individual.  I also work with her as my primary muse, the protector of our hearth and home, and unofficial grove patron*.  I even work with her as my gatekeeper in most rituals simply because of the closeness I feel to her, and her connection to all three hallows.  It just makes sense to me.  It’s worked really well in my personal and grove rites.  Rather than a poem, I’m including a photo of a simple doll I made to represent her.  She sits on my altar, always a reminder and focal point during my flametending work.  I should write a poem to her though… The thoughts are there, especially with what I’m going through and all the chaos in the world… I just need to organize them.  I’ve also been thinking about a short story… Soon, my friends.  Soon.

 

  • Day 13 – Stone/Crystal

Photo by Grey Catsidhe


I don’t often work with crystals.  In fact, I usually don’t buy them anymore.  I’ve written in the past on the reasons and why I prefer to work with stones I find in the forest, in lakes, or rivers.  I do some work with my quartz crystal ball, though.  I brought him home years ago from one of my favorite and most trusted mineral stores – Sticks n Stones.  I put him in the window during the full moon to charge, and he usually hangs out on my altar to energize things as I need.  Fun fact – he has a bit of a crack.  I got him on a discount, but I love him all the same.  As a young Pagan just finding my way, I thought having a crystal ball would be très chic, and I was curious about scrying.  I wouldn’t have been able to afford one of the flawless balls, so I adopted what most people would have overlooked as a flawed piece.  Regardless, he still came from the Earth mother and is one of my treasures.

  • Day 14 – Incense
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Photo and incense by Grey Catsidhe

Incense is one of my favorite offerings to give.  As a Sagittarius, I’m drawn to flames. I love the way my prayers spiral upward and outward to the spirits on perfumed smoke. Brighid often requests it.  UPG- she loves spicy scents like cinnamon.  This prompted me to try making cones with ground cinnamon.  So easy!   I aspire to make more incense by hand.  I attempted some simple kyphi, but it didn’t turn out well.  My goal is to get makko powder and experiment with that, and I would really like to work with resin from local trees.

  • Day 15 – Kitchen Witchery 
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Photo and cookies by Grey Catsidhe

I fancy myself a bit of a kitchen witch.  Much of what I do revolves around the hearth, and it’s a natural extension of my work with Brighid.  (I mean, really… weren’t most of our ancestral mothers doing folk magic in the kitchen at some point?)  Along with candle magic, doing work with food or tea is one of my favorites.  It’s easy and practical.  Feeling ill?  Make a tea to help you physically and spiritually.  Stir some energy and say a prayer over that ginger, lemon, and honey.  Cut some sigils into your dough.  Stir the pot of soup a certain number of times as you add seasonings and pray for blessings and nourishment.  Make special dishes to reflect the seasons, and be sure to give some as an offering!  Most importantly, say prayers of gratitude before eating and, if possible, start to compost and garden so you can bring the magic of the plant world and its cycles into your kitchen.  Connect to the land during the high days – literally and not just metaphorically.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

*The only reason I say Brighid is our unofficial grove patroness is because, while many of us work with her, many others are not dedicated to her.  Some of our members are of other hearth cultures, even though we have an Irish focus.  So, out of respect to grove members, we haven’t pushed that.  We do give her a lot of offerings though…

Thoughts

The air sizzles with tension.  I see so much hatred on the news.  I see and hear about rising conflicts in the world.  I hear the noise from the nearby military base as they practice, and it makes my gut twist.

Rev. Melissa Hill of ADF wrote a great piece that really sums up a lot of my feelings, and highlights how I, and so many, could do more to improve things.

I’ve been mentally exhausted lately.  Sometimes I feel too weighed down by my own stress to feel that I can make a difference. Sometimes I just want to lose myself in my writing, in fantasy stories from others…  Hill’s piece renewed my strength.  Until I’m financially in a place to give monetary support, I will continue to do my best to speak out when I see racism and oppression.  I’ll do my best to give my students a safe place to be themselves and discuss their worries.  I’ll work to communicate better with parents, to show them that I value diversity, respect their language, their cultures, and try to include them in the school community more often.  I’ll continue to make sure others know my grove strives to be a safe, inclusive place.  As I work on my book, I’ll try to be more mindful of diversity.  I will remain open and receptive when others approach me with ways to improve in these areas.

Be it so.

Time for another edition of the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge!  I’m trying not to go out of my mind while I wait for details on the closing.  I’ve always heard that moving is one of the most stressful ordeals, and I believe it because it’s been that way in the past.  But buying a house on top of moving takes the cake.

Day 7 – Yoga Pose

I enjoy many yoga poses.  Tree pose feels very Druidic, and it’s a great way to impress kids, but my absolute favorite is child’s pose.  It is my go-to for grounding, so I’ve already touched on this a bit.  When sending energy back into the Earth after a devotional or spellwork, it feels essential for me to get right down and rest on the Mother.  I haven’t taken an actual yoga class in months, but my favorite moments are entering this post and sitting there for several minutes.  I swear, if I could stop time, I would just to stay a bit longer…

Day 8 – Meditation

No matter how many guided meditations I experience, I always go back to the Two-Powers / Tree Meditations, and simply visiting my inner grove.  They are basic, foundational meditations, but they are essential to my practice.  I can always tailor them to my needs – whether it’s solo or group work, seasonal, energy work, or moving into a trance.  They are good places to start, and a safe base camp for trance.  If I’m away from my altar, I always have my inner grove.  Everything I need is there, really.

Day 9 – Daily Practices

Much of what I’ve already written about for this challenge encompasses my daily practice.  Unless I’m ill or something has disrupted my routine, I start each day in a similar way.  My devotional consists of sitting before my altar, lighting a candle, and filling a bowl with water.  I wave my hand over the flame and touch the water.  I also touch my wand or another representation of the tree.  I’ll usually do a Two Powers meditation which then moves into shielding through the Druid Egg.  I make offerings to the Three Kindred, and say prayers of gratitude.  I may ask for help in some way.
I will then say a divination prayer before shuffling and pulling my daily card from the Druid Animal Oracle deck.  I will briefly reflect on this, give thanks, and ground.

Day 10 – Herb/Plant/Tree

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Mugwort smudge wand – Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I feel very blessed to have mugwort growing in my garden.  I know many other witches and Druids who would love some (although they all seem to have stashes of nettle or comfrey).  Someone saw fit to introduce me to mugwort, so I am working with her.  I want to get to know her better, and this is the time for it.  She’s grown quite tall, but she has not produced flowers yet.  Once she does, I will harvest some of her for later workings.  I made smudge wands last year, and will likely make more.  According to Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, mugwort is traditionally used on the Isle of Man for purification.  On the practical side, many small, annoying flies dislike it.  I also want to experiment with mugwort tea for dream and trancework.

Day 11 – Write a Spell

I came up with this earlier after my daughter jammed her fingers in her dresser door.  I took her fingers between my hands, visualizing healing powers flowing into her.  Then I chanted, “Booboos be gone.  Ouchies too.  You will feel better the whole day through.”  Short and sweet, but it instantly cheered her up after experiencing one of life’s lesser pains.  Always useful with wee ones.

Wow, August is just speeding by, and summer is slipping through my fingers like sand at the beach I visited a couple days ago.  I’m still participating in the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge,  but as predicted, I’m combining days into sporadic updates. I’ve had a busy few days of visiting family, going to the beach in Alexandria Bay, grocery shopping, and celebrating Lughnasadh with my friends at Muin Mound Grove in Syracuse, NY.  Ah, that was a grand day full of laughter with old friends, offerings, song, fire, and mead.  But anyway…

Day 3: Centering and Breath Work

This is something I strive to do each day.  I’m more successful some days than others. Goodness, there are times when I wake up early for work, feeling like a zombie, and I can barely focus on anything let alone my breath.  Most of the time, however, this is an important part of my daily devotional (which also includes grounding and divination, as discussed in my last blog post). I tend to start each working, whether it’s a formal ritual or a prayer of gratitude, with three deep breaths.  If I’m going to do trance or magic work, I will likely go into a focused meditation.

Some days, when I’m irritated or stressed, it can be helpful to find a quiet place and take deep breaths…

Day 4: Intentions

I’m supposed to reflect on my intentions for completing this challenge.  That’s fair enough, but I want to start with my big intention for August: I will move into a new house without losing my mind!  Most everything is revolving around that, although I’m also the workshop coordinator for the FAE Fest once more.  Doing that while prepping for a move has been extra stressful.  With all that and this challenge in mind, my goals are to stay as calm and level-headed as possible.  Maintaining my Druidic practice, especially breathing, grounding, and shielding will be very important to my overall wellness.  In addition, I want to do some solid magical work this month.  I’ve done some work already, all towards the new home, so that will continue.  I hope it shifts to performing a house saining later this month…

Day 5: Energy Work

Ah… the old “hand rubbing” exercise.  This brings back memories.  I was chatting with a new witch friend on ye olde MSN Messenger.  I was still wet-behind-the-ears, and he suggested I try doing that.  I actually did this with my daughter a couple months ago, but she was too overtired to focus…  I should try again.  It’s fun to just experience energy in various forms.  When I start devotionals lately, I don’t just visualize fire and water – I wave my hand over the flame and put my finger in a bowl of water.  Feeling the energy directly is more meaningful to me, more intimate, and I store that memory for times when I don’t have access to them.  I suppose that’s the key to magic – the ability to summon that energy when needed.  There are plenty of times when I can’t light a candle, but I can go to that inner grove where I see and feel the flame…

Sometimes you have to go back to the basics to get stronger.  I’ll try to add the old hand rubbing exercise to my daily work and see what happens…

Day 6: Shielding

This is a skill that I really started to develop about three years ago.  You see, I had a bit of an altercation with a colleague.  We have very different personalities – she’s very type A and I’m… not, really?  There was also a definite lack of sleep due to us both having babies at home.  Anyway, it sucked.  I didn’t feel that she would purposefully attack me psychically (I don’t see her touching the magical community with a ten foot pole), but negative emotions run wild after emotional encounters like that.  I purposefully started to develop my shielding skills.  I developed my daily “Druid Egg” routine (one day I’ll do a more detailed post on the subject).  Sometimes, when especially stressed or “threatened,” I’ll take a break and renew it.  If I’m at work, the bathroom is a great place to do that.

As a Senior Druid with a grove, and as a teacher, this sort of practice is incredibly important.  If someone is upset with you, they will put off nastiness.  I hesitate to call myself an “empath,” as I don’t think I’m as perceptive as others, but I’m definitely affected by other people.  That can impact my decision making.  Shielding is a way for me to push that extra input aside and focus on what I need, who I am, and what I stand for.  I tell the gunk coming that it cannot get me.  I own my space.

Some days, I’m better at it than others… but when I set my mind to it, those wards are up.  I find that it helps to have a really good working relationship with my spirit allies as well… just in case the shield cracks.