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Revisions

Some of you know I’m writing a book. I don’t often talk about it here. I haven’t blogged as much recently in part because I spend so much free time working on my story!

My novel features contemporary Pagans. There’s a scene at a Bealtaine celebration between two consenting adult characters. That said, I’ve gone back to this part again and again because of controversies in my religious community. I don’t want to add to the problem. I don’t want predators to think they’ve got an automatic in at Bealtaine, or at any time, with a group of Pagans. I think I’ve finally found a balance between celebrating the sex-positive nature of our community, while also showing a group that values everyone’s safety and comfort. I’ve also revised the book quite a bit to point out that this holiday is not all about sex. The ritual depicted focuses on cleansing after winter, and the intimate scene is afterward in the privacy of the characters’ tent. They certainly are tapping into the more flirtatious energy of Bealtaine, but there is no coercion. The purpose of the scene is to demonstrate just how deeply the characters care for and trust one another, and the growth promoted by Bealtaine is a perfect symbolic backdrop for it.

I’m really proud of how it’s turning out. The grove depicted in my book is very much inspired by Northern Rivers and Muin Mound Grove. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I feel blessed to have found such positive, safe places. If others eventually read my novel, may it serve as a model of what can be.

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Last night, under the eclipse of the full moon, I worked on some healing magic. While I stirred the oils and beeswax, a chant came to me. As is sometimes the case, it came in bits and spurts until it took shape. I stirred and let the words unfold. After my working, I made a point to write it down. It was simple, to the point, and very effective feeling. It was also very specific to that thing I was working on.

Today I am achy after so much shoveling yesterday afternoon. My sister made me a rice pillow to heat up and apply to sore muscles. It’s especially useful when it’s -10 ° F outside! After heating, I held the pillow in my hands, and said the chant again, but altering the words to name the object. I share the chant with you in case you would like to utilize it in your work with Brighid. If you’re like me, you work with her all year, but it seems especially timely to share it now as Imbolc approaches.

 

Brighid of the healing well,
Brighid of the warming flame,
Brighid of the nourishing oak,
Let this ___ heal in your name.

May Brighid bless you in your healing work, however complex or simple it may be.

My child has been a bit of a handful lately, especially in the evenings.  It’s probably a result of too many things packed into a week, fatigue, and the excitement of the holidays.  The last couple evenings have been particularly trying.

In our home, we talk about Santa as a spirit of generosity and giving; Santa does not deliver gifts to our house.  The spirit inspires us to give to each other.  We honor this seasonal spirit during our Twelve Days of Solstice observation with prayers of gratitude and offerings of milk and cookies.  Tonight, after my daughter was being exceptionally bratty about bedtime, I took a deep breath, and calmly explained what many people tell their children.  She’s aware that most of her peers think Santa himself brings gifts.  Today I shared another piece of that story – that parents tell their children Santa will not deliver gifts if he sees them being naughty.

“Right now,” I said, “I sense Santa’s disappointment because I am disappointed, and we are wondering if we should not give  you some of the gifts we’ve picked out.”

Of course, she did not like the sound of that.

Then I took it a step further.  I told her about Krampus.  I think most of you know who he is.  If you don’t recognize the name, go ahead and google him.

“Many of our ancestors believed in the Krampus.  He is kind of a mean looking spirit who punishes naughty kids around the holidays.  He puts them in a bag and beats them with his sticks!”

She became visibly shaken by this story.  She asked if Krampus is real.  Now, as an animist, I believe in spirits, but I also believe in the power of metaphor.  My husband is very agnostic, and he feels it’s also important that we show our child different sides of belief and thinking.

So I say what I always say.  “Some people believe in him.  No matter what, the story of Krampus exists for a reason.  Long ago, parents told their children that Krampus would do those things because winter is hard.  If children don’t listen to their parents, and if they don’t help with the house, they could get very sick or die.  Other people in the house could get sick and die.  It’s important that we take care of ourselves, keep our bodies and homes clean, and help to make life easier for each other.  So in a way, if you are naughty, you call naughtiness into the house.  Naughtiness, meanness, dirtiness – it’s kind of like a spirit.  We can get sick, we get stressed, we get upset.  Santa is a different kind of energy.  He is joy, safety, comfort.  We want that kind of spirit in the house, right?”

I explained that it’s the same with school.  If you are a good student, you have a happier teacher, friends who want to play with you, a clean school, a safer school.  Being a good person who tries to help, rather than make like more difficult for others, is usually going to be happier.  There will always be exceptions, of course… but I think it’s important to understand the value of cooperation*.

That really clicked with her.  Do good things, attract good things.  Give good energy to cultivate it.

And you know what?  She calmed down.  Assured that we work hard to keep our home safe and positive, she finished her job for the night.  We went to her room, I read her a peaceful Winter Solstice story to remind her of the very happy energy about the occasion, said our prayers of good rest and protection, and it was great!  I reinforced just how enjoyable it was to quickly finish her bedtime chores so that we had time (and I had energy) to read a book and sing a song.

I’m not posting this to encourage other Pagan parents to go about things this way.  I just wanted to share my experience.  It was interesting. As I was talking to hwe, I realized I was verbalizing a belief that I hadn’t fully articulated in the past.  My relationship with Santa has evolved since I was a child, and I really felt close to that spirit tonight.  Krampus, too.  I don’t really think of him as a malevolent, evil being – definitely a spirit deserving of respect and distance.  But I felt I understood his purpose – to remind people of the importance of helping your family, working together to prepare for winter’s dangers, and to teach our children that there are consequences beyond simply losing a momentary pleasure like television privileges.  It was also probably one of the deepest conversations we’ve had about spirits, energy, ethics, and one’s reputation.

 

*Obviously, we want our daughter to feel comfortable with being independent, taking positive risks, not going along with peer pressure, etc.  But that’s a different sort of lesson.  I just wanted my daughter to brush her damn teeth.  LOL

 

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

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!