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Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby.  It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid.  A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really.  She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not.  I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me.  A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away.  I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.

This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores.  I used some of the money toward a candle making kit.  It was a very simple kit  with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders.  I broke into it today and had a lot of fun.  Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.

The kit was very easy to use.  I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels.  Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use.  I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me.  I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit.  I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients.  As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.

I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try.  I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week.  The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly.  That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.

My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.

‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.

 

 

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Our Winter Solstice altar – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I’m finally enjoying a somewhat lazy day today.  I slept in and have very little to do besides clean and work on some personal projects.  I did take advantage of my freedom and caught up on some grove business.  It gave me some time to reflect on what Northern Rivers Grove accomplished by offering our Winter Solstice ritual online rather than cancel due to threat of poor weather.    I would have preferred to enjoy a more physical gathering complete with our annual gift exchange and usual, delicious potluck, but doing this enabled us to keep with Isaac Bonewits’ vision of offering public rituals, even broadcasting them.  You can read more about the experience in the link above.  It was amazing to connect with a couple people, including a distance member, from other states.  We’re discussing the possibility of streaming more of our rituals.  Considering that older, more experienced groves (like Three Cranes) are doing it, it makes me really proud of what we are able to accomplish.

As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development.  I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced.  My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year.  I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing.  I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental.  It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination.  Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.

My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip.  I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part.  I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part.  I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills.  I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less.  Why?  Some of it has been laziness.  Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook?  Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently.  I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years.  Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.

I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice.  Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order?  I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with.  I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more.  All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.

Be it so!

 

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2016 has been a strange one for many of us.  It feels disingenuous to type that, though, when I’ve lead a very comfortable life all year.  Considering the atrocities faced by people in Syria, for example…  Yet 2017, as most years, will also throw some difficulties at us, challenges that can feel insurmountable.  Sometimes they will be, and they will crush us mentally, physically, and spiritually.  More often, though, I think we can take the challenges and ride them with grace, learning the required lessons and, perhaps, teaching others along the way.  2016 saw us lose many heroes and inspirations.  Some of us lost family members or friends to various circumstances.  Many of us saw 2016 as a battering ram of defeat, and the tumult reached me on a personal level right at the very end.

I have not done my annual saining and divinatory reading for the New Year.  I have not yet looked for insight into what is coming, but I am optimistic.  Typical to my Sagittarius sign, I always look on the bright side, even after a painful situation.  To me, every hurt is a lesson.  I realize I’m showing a lot of privilege in saying that given that I’m not in a war zone or scared to use the bathroom at night…  I have gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given and I want to do more to help those in need.  It’s a theme that’s continued to show up in my magical work.  I’m looking forward to growing as a person in 2017.  I’m looking forward to growing in my spirituality and strengthening my grove.  My grove!  We became a grove in 2016.  I must focus on the successes and learn from the failures.  I will continue to work through the Nine Virtues to be the best I can be!

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – performed by the Byrds and written by Pete Seeger – came to mind today.  Despite its biblical origins, I’ve always felt the song is very Pagan.  Life is full of comings and goings, beginnings and endings, as painful as that can be.  Perhaps our paths will cross again one day, but for now, all I can think of is the wheel turning… and the work that I must continue.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
Wherever you are, whoever you are, I wish you a very blessed 2017.  May we all grow and improve in our paths and in kindness to each other.

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We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

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I recently posted that my inner conflicts about celebrating secular Thanksgiving have come to a head and I no longer feel that I can participate.  I feel even more determined about my position today after reading about what happened last night to the Water Protectors on the frontline against DAPL.

It’s been an interesting experiment so far.  My family’s reaction has been milder than expected and this is partly to do with my father feeling over the holiday fuss and my sister having similar feelings as me.  (It doesn’t hurt that my niece is supposed to go to her father for the holiday so any sentimental argument to just get together with family quickly fell apart.  We wouldn’t feel complete anyway.)  My mother was the least happy with my announcement but understood.  I’m not sure what others in my family may feel.  Confusion or disappointment, perhaps, but I’m hopeful that knowledge of what I’m doing gets them talking and thinking.  I know the few co-workers who know about my position were taken aback at first then understood my reasons when thinking it over.  I’ve made it very clear that whatever anyone else decides to do is none of my business (outside of my own household), but perhaps some will join me in my own peaceful protest.  I’m staying home, eating a simple meal with my family, not investing in the industrial food complex that cashes in on such a harmful cultural myth, and certainly not going out to support commercialism on the day itself nor during Black Friday.  I’ll save all the fuss and energy for a holiday that is actually meaningful to me and my spiritual practice.  I give gratitude every holiday – I don’t need secular Thanksgiving. 

(Although if there’s a nearby peaceful protest on the day itself, I may consider going out to that.)

So what am I doing besides simply boycotting the holiday?  Merely saying I won’t celebrate only has so much impact.  I already explained that I feel limited in what I actually can do, and I’m sure many can relate to me but want to do something.  I decided to donate what I would have spent on Thanksgiving food.  A fellow ADFer recommended this collection to help feed Lakota families who are struggling to make ends meet, so I sent some to them.  It’s probably a bit late to contribute to that at this point, but there are other options on the site to help Indigenous people.  Of course, I highly encourage those who want to help (and who can help monetarily) to make donations to the Water Protectors themselves.  They need money for supplies, legal fees, and now medical equipment.

 

 

 

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Trance 1: A Lull

We experienced a very beautiful full moon recently.  Several people commented that they felt an intense amount of energy related to it.  Normally I feel very energetic around full moons, but this month found me exhausted, drained, and even a little ill feeling.  To be sure, November has been a stressful month for many of us.

My trance practice has been very minimal the last few weeks.  I’m not proud of that, but I’ve been feeling out of it.  Work has me exhausted.  The news has me exhausted.  My daughter has been ill which has me exhausted.  Today, at a grove business meeting, I opened by pouring a few random objects out for people to view.  I asked everyone to choose an object that represents where they are in their study programs, Druidism, or even just their involvement with the group.  I chose the wine cork because I felt like I was just staying buoyant.  I wasn’t really progressing anywhere, but I was maintaining my spiritual practice to the best of my ability.

I suppose I should look on the bright side and celebrate that I haven’t just completely stopped maintaining my relationships with spirit allies, but I am disgruntled that I haven’t done more to finish the study programs I’m working on.  I’m annoyed with myself for not doing more towards my trance studies in particular.

I’ve continued to visualize my Druid egg around me in the mornings as a way to shield.  Some days I can see and feel it really clearly; others I’m barely awake and feel like I’m going through the motions.  I’ve continued to try and do my yoga on the weekends.  Last week I had a much-needed massage.  I feel like that cleared away some of the cobwebs.  Today felt particularly good as I mindfully went into my yoga, focusing on each of the Three Realms as I moved from the ground, through tree, and reached to the sky.  Perhaps, as the moon wanes, the ennui will decrease and I can meditate on what intentions to set for the new moon.

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Nine Virtues for Today

Today I meditate on the nine virtues to help me cope with what happened; with the direction my country takes. I call to the Kindreds for their guidance. 

I need wisdom to stay rational and to help  guide me through history’s spiral. May I share my wisdom with others to help them as needed. 

I need vision to be the change I wish to manifest and to help me focus on hope and peace. 

I need courage to stand up for the oppressed. 

I need piety to stay connected and anchored in the sacred through any turmoil. 

I need integrity if my ideals and values are challenged. 

I need perseverance to get through today and the next four years though bile continues to rise in my throat. 

I need moderation so that I continue to live lighter upon the Earth Mother even when society may take take take greedily. 

I need hospitality to give of myself to help those in need. 

I need fertility so that I stay and create positive change within my own community and country. 

Kindreds, hear my prayer and grant me the strength I need for this day and all days ahead. 

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