Study Programs

As you know, I’m very excited that the Artisan Guild study program in ADF was finally approved. At long last I can finally start! Only… I need some books.

I need to learn about art history. Unfortunately I never had time for those courses in college (a transcript would have counted…) Many of my artsy friends who were lucky enough to take such a course bemoan how boring it was. Maybe so, but I find the subject fascinating and always regretted my short supply of time. There was always a major or minor-related class I needed.

C’est la vie. I can study it now on my own and within a guild. After looking at reviews of the other suggested reading, I have decided that Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition by Penelope J.E. Davies, Walter B. Denny, Frima Fox Hofrichter, and Joseph F. Jacobs is the best option. Unfortunately, because of its textbook status, it’s also quite expensive. There are used copies but, again, a pretty penny. I’m first checking (via Facebook) to see if any of my art major/minor friends have a copy they are willing to lend or sell. Failing that, when I get my next paycheck, I’ll make the investment. I do so adore books, so it wouldn’t really depress me to drop some cash on one as celebrated as this.

While on the subject of ADF study programs, I really do intend to finish my intention letter for the initiate study program tonight. I think I recently said that, even should I have to revise some of my DP to get in, I am okay with that. I don’t intend to rush through the ISP. I’m hoping to begin a masters program this fall or next spring. The Gods know I won’t be able to do it all at once. But if I can chip away at it, requirement after requirement, and somehow motivate myself to practice every day, that would be a wonderful development in my spiritual life.

SU Chaplain

I fell a bit behind reading my blogs this evening. I just found out, thanks to Jason of The Wild Hunt, that Syracuse University now has a Pagan chaplain. Congratulations to Mary Hudson! This is spectacular news for the Pagan community, especially here in Upstate NY. Hudson helped to found SPIRAL, the same group that puts on our local Pagan Pride Day in Liverpool. Considering the religious studies program offered by SU, it only makes sense that the institution would recognize the need for such a progressive step in the right direction. There already seem to be many active Pagan groups in and around Syracuse. Let’s hope the trend continues and we see more recognition and religious freedom. The more people know about us, the more we’ll be accepted. That’s the hope, anyway.

Where do my offerings go?

It is true that I live in northern, rural NY. However I still live in an apartment. I feel like I live in a tiny suburb. It’s former military housing and looks like a development. All the buildings are practically carbon copies. There is a forest here and I have access to it, but it’s a bit of a walk from my doorstep. So where do I put my often biodegradable offerings? I don’t want to flush them because there are concerns of water pollution, even if the offerings are biodegradable. I don’t want to throw them out because that seems less than pious.

My solution has been to create a small sacred place outside of my apartment, on my patio, for offerings to go. This has been a learning experience with various pros and cons. It started as a small clay pot filled with dirt, stones, and a fairy statue. At some point, a liquid offering froze in a crack and shattered a chunk of the pot. It wasn’t looking good for a month. I wasn’t sure what to do… Today I converted a red metal pail into my offering pot / mini fairy rock garden. There are also some shiny gems and bits of silver in there. I included shards of the old pot to create some continuity. I’m hoping the metal will be better able to withstand the occasional liquid offering in the cold. Although, since the shattering incident, I’ve been giving more incense offerings. Even so, I nailed some drainage holes into the bottom.

It still doesn’t look all that amazing. In the spring and summer I want to surround it with flower pots and maybe even paint the pot a different color.

Visiting the tribe, traveling altars, and study programs.

We took the weekend to visit some of our tribe in Utica. We spent a majority of it with my parents which was lovely. We had a belated birthday dinner for my father and watched a couple movies with them. We also spent some time with some friends/in-laws. I’m not sure what to call them now. Friends? Family? Both? I like calling people close to my heart my tribe but only a handful of people don’t look at my cross-eyed when I use that expression. All the same, hanging out with loved ones was very enjoyable. The only downside is that we missed an invitation from our neighbors to come over and play cards. They seem like nice people and are all in a similar life stage. We keep missing their social gatherings due to previously planned engagements or lack of foresight. (The last time we found out about a party we had already showered and settled down for the evening… Thus we didn’t really feel like doing anything else.) I don’t want to come across as flakes to them and I would *really* like to make some friends up here.

Anyway, going down to Utica made me realize how much I need a traveling altar. I’m adding that to my list of projects now! I did a lot of my devotional work in my mental nemeton (although I did fall asleep one night…) It worked but I would have liked the altar to help me focus.

Speaking of creating a traveling altar, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the purpose of undergoing the Artisan Guild study program. In addition to learning more about art history, theory, and methodology, one of the goals is for students to develop a “personal integration and understanding of the arts as spiritual practice” (from the Study Program). This is what I feel I truly need. I am already aware that artistic expression is very important to me. Creating is a magical practice and the end result is something that expresses my spirituality, love of life, and, quite often, my love and awe of the Kindreds. I’m realizing that I want to better tap into that energy. Part of that will come, I’m sure, through a greater understanding of how my ancestors created things. But I would also like to develop rituals that become part of my personal religion – rituals that nourish my inspiration, further bond me to my muse and patroness, and make art even more of a ritualistic part of my life.

With these goals in mind, I am hopeful to begin the study program soon. In addition, I am also hopeful to begin the Initiate study program. I need to finish my letter of intent. I’m a little nervous about submitting it, but I know that, even if my elders don’t think I’m up to the challenge yet, I will have ample opportunity to improve and reapply. I’m tenacious and stubborn when I want to be. Growing in my spirituality is important to me and, as an academically minded person, study and knowledge motivate me.

Remember that stand I salvaged earlier? I saw an old picture frame in the pile as well. After bringing the husband home tonight, I asked if he would stop with me to take a look. It’s large and seems fairly old. The glass was broken and covered in frost, but we could see an almost ghostly portrait of a man staring out at us. We decided the frame was salvageable even though some of the decor was broken off.

I brought it in and immediately got to work sanding the wood and old paint as much as I wanted. I had to pry the pack off with a hammer. The portrait, which was drawn, had already been damaged. Opening the frame exacerbated the tears, unfortunately. The paper was backed by a rectangle of fabric which, stiffened with age, disintegrated almost instantly. I tried to peal some of it off to save the portrait but only ripped it more. I kept a chunk of the gentleman’s face – the eyes. Don’t ask me why – I really couldn’t say. It’s currently pinned on the bulletin board in my studio. Maybe I’ll decoupage it onto something.

Anyway, my plan for the frame is to nail/staple wires horizontally from right to left. I’m then going to use it as a jewelry organizer for the bathroom. Shabby chic, as they say. I’ve given it a coat of paint and I might just leave it as a single coat. I like the dark colors showing through the rose pink. I’m going to add some accents and, where the decor was rubbed off, I’m going to write something. What, I don’t know. I’m thinking about “jewelry” in French. I’m kind of going for a French theme in the bathroom I suppose… Slowly but surely…

Creative projects like these get me so excited. I feel so close to Brighid and the imbas she puts in my head. I’m very glad that my artistic motivation has returned.

Speaking of art, the Artisan Guild study program in ADF was officially approved! Since completing the Dedicant Path, I’ve been excitedly waiting for this.

Goodbye NNY_Pagans. Hello used TV stand!

When I moved up here, I immediately began searching the vast internet for signs of Pagan life in Northern NY. I came across the Yahoo group, NNY_Pagans. (I think that was its title…) The mailing list was pretty much dead. The occasional email about a psychic fair or event in Syracuse would show up. I got an email about the death of an Upstate Pagan elder. Otherwise? Zip. And then, this past month, I noticed an influx of adult-themed threads. Disheartened, I finally unsubscribed. I’ll have to resume my search for a community of Northern NY Pagans. I’m surprised not to find something more prominent, really. There *are* Pagans up here. Witchvox attests to the existence of at least a few scattered solitaries. I know there are a couple groups at least – one at the UU Church and another of dubious reputation (according to a couple folks). At one point (I’m not sure if it’s still in existence) there was a Heathen group. Not to mention the Pagans in Fort Drum. I know they are there, too! There are meeting minutes online describing a group of Pagans wanting a ritual space and/or time. Perhaps it’s the migratory nature of the military keeping them from looking to the outside community? On the other hand, if I were in their shoes, I would seek something out even if it was only going to be for a year or two.

In other news, I found a perfectly functional television stand in the garbage near my apartment today. I’m assuming the family bought a larger TV for the Super Bowl and needed a different stand (or something). Still, why throw it out? Why not donate it? Or find another use for it? The ignorance and laziness of people really frustrates me. Luckily I’m all for garbage picking and I now have a new piece of furniture! We don’t need another TV stand but we could use more storage for books and such. Maybe we could put the printer on it… It’s currently sitting (rather unattractively, I might add) on the floor.

Eating local means eating within season.

A couple years ago I was attending a Wicca 101 class lead by my good friend Katrina. At this time I had already left Wicca for Druidism, but I felt the desire to attend her class for various reasons: friendship, a hope to learn something different, a new perspective, and an excuse to practice my meditation skills. One of the biggest things I got out of the class was a newfound understanding of the Wheel of the Year and its connection to the land and agriculture. Intellectually I realized that certain foods were connected with the seasons and were therefore symbolic of the holidays. It wasn’t until her discussion on food and the High Days that it dawned on me – eating, especially to someone on an Earth-centered path, is an incredibly spiritual act!

That lesson, combined with my desire to be more sustainable and ecologically responsible, has lead me to seek out different ways of eating and cooking. My husband and I have cut out most of the HFC in our diet. We’re now trying to limit the amount of corn we have. Basically, if we don’t expect corn to be in the product but it shows up on the list, we don’t buy it. This means no more Kraft Mac and Cheese or Smuckers jam! In other words, we’re attempting to avoid processed foods while simultaneously starting to boycott big business farms/monocultures . We still buy veggie burgers but we don’t eat them often and I’m moving more towards making my own out of lentil, nuts, and bread crumbs. We’ve been religiously buying organic, naturally sweetened cereals. Our snacks are pickled veggies, fruit, nuts, and dries berries from the Mennonites and Amish. (I like to keep a dish full of nuts on the coffee table for snack attacks.) Trying to wean myself off the Veggie Bootie… I loves it… I may make it a weekend treat. Hubby still likes his chocolate syrup too… Baby steps, right?

Anyway, I was thinking more about our desire to be more supportive of our local farmers’ market and how that means, for the most part, eating within season. What’s available at the market right now? Eggs, preserves, onions, squash, and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! We already have tons from a future in-law.

So eating in the winter means eating potatoes. Who ate a lot of potatoes? My Irish ancestors, of course! In fact, our rotund starchy friends have been a staple of the British Isles as a whole for decades. It only makes sense to look to them for inspiration. During my lunch break today I started to collect different potato recipes – Irish, British, and “Newish.”

Tonight I’m trying my hand at Cornish pasties. I remember loving them when in Penzance. I only had a couple, but I’ve always meant to try making them myself. My first batch isn’t really anything spectacular, but if I continue to practice I’m sure I’ll get better at the construction. Next on the list is vegetarian shepherds pie.

Oh, and my hubby makes some pretty mean homemade French fries.

Valentine’s Day

The “writer’s block” topic on Live Journal today is about Valentine’s Day and I decided to add my two cents.

Given that we’re less than a week out from Valentines, how do you feel about the approaching holiday? Will you participate or abstain? If you’re not in a relationship, how will you celebrate your single status?

You know… I just don’t do V-day anymore. It used to be a big deal to me, in part because a majority of my life was spent in public education where, every year, we spent tons of money on candy and crappy, mass-produced cards that my classmates inevitably threw away shortly after receiving. As someone trying to live a more sustainable life, I can’t help but see this highly commercialized holiday as environmentally disgusting. Ok, I’ll admit a detail about my personal life – I work with children. Despite my feelings, I don’t want to disappoint their wee little hearts. Try to discuss sustainability with an X-Box and toy-obsessed youngster. I dare you. 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t change much because, in the end, it’s really the attitude of the parents that matter. All the same, I’m not giving cards or plastic bags of candy. They are getting pencils bedecked in hearts because they are useful. Yes, I am that sort of adult.

“But Grey Catsidhe! You’re newly married! Aren’t you going to have a romantic evening with your hubby?”

Our first date several years ago was on Valentine’s Day. A year after that, we started to think about why we were celebrating. We knew we loved each other. But…was that really a good reason to go out and spend money? Especially after the winter holiday season? We were in college and we were broke. When we really thought about it, we realized that Valentine’s Day just didn’t matter to us. If we were going to spend money on gifts, then let that be on our birthdays and the Solstice. Otherwise… Neither of us are Catholic so St. Valentine doesn’t matter to us. I’m a Celtic Recon/Druid, so Lupercalia isn’t for me either. And I’m no longer a fan of celebrating religious holidays claimed by secular America just because it’s socially traditional. Bah. I’ll stick to traditions that I actually find enjoyable!

If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, that’s fine. Go out and have fun! Maybe even take some advice and see how sustainable you can be while you celebrate. My husband and I? We’ll use a holiday as an excuse to get jiggy with it on the 1st of May. Beltaine baby! Sex in the forest! Show the plants how it’s done! February is too cold for that anyway… So why even bother? 😉



A friend over on live journal (fire_is_born) recently posted about pentacles and how they weren’t his favorite magical symbol. He concludes that “there’s something unnerving about all those harsh acute angles everywhere, jutting about menacingly.” Although I never really gave it much thought before, I find myself agreeing with him. The pentacle is a fine symbol, and although I can find it in nature from time to time (like in the apple), I find the spiral so much more comforting and accessible. You find it in the unfurling fiddlehead (as pictured); in subtle and violent whirlpools; in powerful tornados and hurricanes; in the coils of a shell; in the flow of the very universe itself.

Fire_is_born gave me the idea to physically make the spiral in ritual when opening the gates. I’m definitely going to try that when I do my next ritual. I know that Kirk spins in a spiral when he leads. I sometimes use spirals in magic. For example, whenever I’m worried about getting pregnant, I draw a counterclockwise spiral over my abdomen accompanied by a prayer. I’ve drawn spirals in the air over newly planted seeds in the hope to inspire growth.

My actions should provide a window into my interpretation of the symbol. It represents the continual flow of time and our interconnectedness with everything in the universe. It’s the circle of the year and the change of the seasons. It’s the never-ending story of creation and destruction.

For some more beautiful spiral imagery, check out Original Beauty, a wonderful blog with inspiring photos.