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As one last hurrah before our summer vacation ends, my family took a day-trip to Oswego, NY, to see the Draken Harald Hårfagre.  It’s a modern viking ship that traveled from Norway, down the St. Lawrence River, through some of the Great Lakes, and is now going to move through the Erie Canal, heading to New York City. The crew stressed that it’s a modern viking ship, based on historical evidence and craftsmanship, but also equipped with modern navigation technology, bathrooms, and diesel engines.  Its 21st century conveniences don’t detract from its magnificence, and the people on board have weathered Atlantic storms and maneuvered around icebergs.  They have a lot of respect for their Viking Age predecessors.  We’ve been following their voyage via Facebook and their website with great interest.  My husband has been especially interested in it since he has Norwegian ancestry and has always been drawn to Norse culture.

Of course, the front of the ship had a remarkable dragon head! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

The red sails were down, but the mast was still impressive! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

The ship was obviously built by skilled craftsmen. A lot of detail, inspired by Viking culture, covered the skip. These beautiful carvings were on the front of the ship leading up to the dragon head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens - Odin's ravens - near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God's corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens – Odin’s ravens – near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God’s corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

 

If you live in NY State and want to see the Draken, she’ll be stopping in Little Falls soon before making her way to New York City. It’s $10 per adult to board, and the short tour is worth it, in my opinion. You’ll be able to get up close and look at all the craftsmanship, smell the pine pitch covering the ropes, see the effort and passion that’s gone into the voyage, and meet with Odin’s ravens. A truly powerful experience.

 

There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the Adirondack Mountains. I used to spend just about every weekend of my childhood summers swimming in lakes, fishing off docks, climbing small mountains, and hiking through forest trails.  It was where I first learned to truly treasure the wild places that have, in many areas, vanished. It was where I grew into an animist. I always felt a sense of something there – spirits.  Very old spirits.  I felt how sacred and connected it all was, and I felt it flow in and through me.  It is different from the forests around my childhood home and my new home.  They are very special to me as well, but they are less wild.  There is more sound and light pollution. Roads interrupt their power.   Not that the Adirondacks lacks that, but there’s a greater effort to reduce it. (Although I could be romancing it as someone who does not live there…) When I’m away for long, I feel it calling.  I feel the mountains and lakes calling.  When driving on Rt 11 through Lewis County, I always look towards the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, rising beyond the rolling hills.  Last week, we returned to answer the call and renew our wild spirit.  Here are some of our experiences.

Decay never looked so magical.  My husband and I mused on the nature of animism, life, and death while hiking near the Raquette River in Tupper Lake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

It’s a bit blurry, but I was proud to stumble upon some Indian Pipe flowers in the forest.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I learned a little more about a new spirit ally at the Wild Center.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Some of the High Peaks as seen from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.  We all enjoyed our time there.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We also visited the Ausable River.  There’s a place to pull off on the road and a very short trail into the trees.  It’s a catch and release area, but we just wanted to see the river.  I had to sit quietly for a bit to take her in, then sang a song of offering.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

On a whim, we decided to explore a trail across the street from the Ausable River.  It lead to the Copperas Pond.  I wouldn’t call it an easy hike, as it went up some slight inclines and involved some scrambling over very rocky terrain.  It was challenging with a three-year-old, but she was so determined to do most of it by herself.  The end result was worth it – an isolated pond free from motor boats.  It was so quiet… we couldn’t even hear the traffic on the other side of the wooded hill we climbed over.  It’s apparently a popular hike, as there were other people in and out, but the traffic wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to enjoy lots of peaceful moments.  I definitely had to take off my hiking shoes and put my feet in to fully immerse myself in the Three Realms. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We didn’t run into too many wild animals on our hike – mostly squirrels 
and chipmunks.  I also spotted this immature frog sunning himself on a rock in the pond.  If you look closely, you’ll see his tail. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I already look forward to returning, possibly in the Autumn.  We hope to climb a small mountain now that Bee has officially caught the hiking spirit.  With any luck, she feels the pull of the mountain too, and the family tradition of exploring and honoring the Adirondacks will continue.

As Lughnasadh starts to turn us towards the Autumn Equinox, and as it is the beginning of the major harvests, I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of our little container garden. Each year, we learn more about our plant allies. Each year, through a mixture of experience and research, we recognize opportunities for growth and improvement.

I harvested several red potatoes this year. This is a better yield compared to last year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I also picked our onions and hung them to dry out a little. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We gave offerings to the local spirits in gratitude for our bounty. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2016.

Not pictured is the basket of tomatoes we gathered, mostly from my husband’s hydroponic buckets. In addition, I also gathered some basil and sage which I hung to dry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our own cupboards. 

I’m also thinking on my metaphorical harvest. I’ve had a fairly productive and joyful summer. My family hasn’t faced as many struggles this season. I have had more opportunities to do things that make my soul sing. I have room to improve, but the harvest is stil good. As we move toward Autumn, I’m already preparing a fall garden. I’m also making new goals – things to sew, books to finish, essays to write… May my next harvest be just as, or more, successful! 

The following is an account of my continued work with trance as part of ADF’s Trance 1 course, advanced studies towards Initiate status. I’ve decided to share my personal experiences on my blog as a way of accountability. If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

This weekend, I decided to work on my inner grove.  I began with my weekly devotional, but I did not utilize any drumming in this trance session. It worked surprisingly well.  After I made my offerings, I focused on my breathing, closed my eyes, and visualized a door open above my altar.  I allowed my spirit form to climb through this and enter a path.  Trees of all sorts grew on either side: ash, apple, birch, pine, etc.  I noticed holly and ferns growing closer to the ground.

One of my spirit guides, a deer, appeared through the trees.  He came from the right.  Suddenly, an otter appeared at my left.  Otter, again.  I stopped to chat and learn the otter’s name.  She’s appeared before and I figured it was time to ask.  Then a bee showed up!  I realized that I now had companions representing all three realms!  I gave offerings that I had on me, and promised more in the physical realm.

We all rode the deer to my inner grove.  There, I took stock and tidied some things.  I noticed the changes since my last visit.  The animals with me went about their business.  Deer ate some plants in the hedge, bee visited the red clovers, and otter jumped in my well, swimming out to the river connected to it.  She is very playful.

At one point, my spirit form laid down, and I actually leaned back in the physical realm too.  I looked up at the canopy circling above.  It was relaxing…  Shortly after that, I decided to return to the physical realm.  I left my spirit guides there until next time.

I’m generally not a fan of weather magic. Nature is full of give and take. Calling rain from one area to another could be detrimental if that other area also needed it. And nobody wants flooding… So what to do when there’s already a drought? I suppose praying for rain isn’t wrong. We do need it, after all…  

My daughter and I drew some rain clouds and rain on the sidewalk. I then chanted:

Rain rain

Come our way. 

Water the plants. 

Don’t delay!

Wet the Earth. 

Make some mud. 

Maybe a storm. 

Just don’t flood! 

Even better if we get some today rather than Saturday when I’ll be out all day at the FAE Fest!

Wild 
Grain – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

Each Lughnasadh, I strive to harvest some of the wild grain from the hedges. Not only is harvesting grain traditional at this time of year, but I save it so my protogrove has something with which to weave Brighid crosses during Imbolc, six months later.  With the amount of snow we get in January and February, we won’t have any access to the nice green reeds traditionally used in Ireland!   So preparing for Imbolc is part of my Lughnasadh.  It makes sense – we harvest so that we are prepared for the coming months, after all!

My daughter was such a big help this year.  She’s learning to use scissors, so I let her use a child’s pair to cut the grass.  Bee enthusiastically embraced the task. It’s so nice to share seasonal traditions with her.  (I also found some blue vervain while we were out – a happy find!)

It was difficult to get into any deep trances this past week.  We went away to a camp with some family members for a few days, which will always throw me off my routine.  However, compared to going away to a hotel, it was easier to maintain my typical devotional practices.  I set up a temporary altar and even did a little working on Lughnasadh.  In addition, my daughter and I picked some raspberries and we offered them to the local spirits.

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A temporary altar on the windowsill at camp.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Like I said, I didn’t engage with any deep trances, but I did do some meditation.  I woke up and left my husband and daughter to rest.  After my morning toilette and devotional, I went outside to the dock where I sat towards the water, relaxed, and breathed.  In my opinion, the best way to engage with the Two Powers or the Three Realms is to sit on the shore of a lake, river, or ocean.  It’s all right there for you to soak up and contemplate!

One day, I noticed a beautiful spiderweb on the dock and just stared at it for awhile.  I was struck by how delicate it was, how dainty, and yet it withstood heat, rain, and wind in order to assist the spider’s killing.  Life and death… all part of the cycle.  I realized it was Lughnasadh, and contemplated the nature of harvest.

After meditating, I did some yoga.  I would love to live on a lake or river one day.  I would go out as often as possible to do yoga on the shore!  How invigorating.  I kept it simple.  I started in child’s pose on the dock, looking through the wooden planks at the shimmering water below.  Behold the waters of life!  I then stretched my arms and fingers upwards in a sun salutation.  Hail to the sky!  I moved into a tree pose, fixating on a pine directly across the lake.  I stand like the World Tree rooted deep, crowned high!  The whole process was a moving meditation, and I felt deeply at peace and connected with the world around me.

While I’m on the topic of trance, I’ve had to put Harner’s book on Shamanism down for a bit.  While I liked the beginning, both for the author’s experiences with Shamanism and indigenous people, and for the “Journey to the Underworld” exercise, I’m starting to find the book worrisome.  The following exercise, about meeting your spirit animal, seemed… well… for lack of a better phrase, it felt like “playing Native.”  I’m all for respectfully learning from other cultures, finding parallels, etc… but it just felt too much like ripping off Indigenous people. Besides, I’ve done a variety of “meet your spirit guide” exercises before, and have been working with spirit guides for awhile in the context of modern Paganism…  Not that I don’t have more to learn (I totally d0), but I just was not feeling that exercise at all.  Amazingly, I started to see a lot of criticism of Harner and his Core Shamanism popping up among my ADF and Reconstructionist friends.  I’m sure there’s some more to learn from the book, and I’ve already grown in trance from the first exercise, but I’m not as enthusiastic about that title anymore…  I’ll pick it up again at some point.  Ah well.  It’s part of the process.

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