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Archive for the ‘Druidism’ Category

When I was younger, my mother taught me to sew. My first project was a small pillow. I decorated it to look like the Earth. At least, that’s how I conceived of it in my six-year-old mind. I still have that pillow. It is a treasured reminder of how I’ve grown with the gift my mother gave me. Sewing became one of my favorite pastimes. Since that first pillow, I went on to stitch stuffed animals, curtains, and costumes. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried my hand at making a fabric doll. When I did, it was because I couldn’t afford a statue of a goddess I work with. The result was something I felt more intimately attached to. I worked with the goddess through the process, and the effort became an offering to her. I’ve gone on to make several spirit dolls since.

For the pragmatic practitioner, a doll can act as a mental stimulus to aid in focus during magic and ritual. For deeper work, dolls can become a conduit or home for trusted allies. They can become talismans to augment the magical qualities your plant spirit ally already possesses. Just as the process can connect you to the spirit you are depicting, you also have control over what materials you use. Choosing more sustainable materials can affect the character and energy of the finished piece.

Dolls are typically humanoid. While a full body is not  required, I find that a face facilitates connection. That’s the power of personification. It’s important to note, however, that such a visage should not be confused with the actual face of the spirit. It is an interpretation, one that should come through much contemplation and even research if you desire to incorporate lore (as I would do when making a deity doll). I encourage you to incorporate motifs associated with the plant. Study the leaves, stem, flowers, seeds, or roots and contemplate what designs you could incorporate.

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Mugwort Dram Pillow Art Doll by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

Originally, I had a more complex concept in mind for my mugwort spirit doll. As time went by, my idea simplified. I decided to craft a mugwort face in the spirit of a green man, but female. As an Artemisia, I find that mugwort has a very feminine energy to it. Furthermore, I wanted to connect the doll to the plant’s dream-inducing qualities and make a dream pillow. I used fabric I already had on hand, including some wool felt for the silver-green leaves I admire. The pillow is stuffed with wool and dried mugwort from my own garden.

I’m very pleased with how she turned out! All that’s left is for me to consecrate her. I encourage those curious in experimenting with spirit dolls to start with a face and add it to something like a drawstring bag or pillow that can contain dried components of your plant ally.

For some inspiration, check out Hagstone Publishing’s spirit doll Pinterest board. If you’d like to see some of the other dolls I’ve made, you can look at my portfolio. Want to join me in my plant spirit ally exploration? Check out Hagstone Publishing’s guide. It’s never too late to work through the journey.

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In an ideal world, you would be able to meditate with a living example of your chosen plant ally. Michelle Simkins of Hagstone Publishing has already written a wonderful primer on meditating with a live plant, and I encourage you to read it if you have a green acquaintance who has budded or flowered. But how can you work closely with a plant who is currently dormant within your bioregion?

As April slowly unwinds into May, my nights are cold. Here in Northern NY, temperatures regularly dip down into the 30s until around Memorial Day weekend. Yes, tree buds emerge as red and green starbursts. Yes, the songbirds and tree frogs have returned. I’ve even seen a mosquito. While some early spring plants have blossomed, many will not emerge for a few more weeks thanks to the lingering promise of frost.

My mugwort ally remains snuggled in a bed of soil. I know where the rhizomes rest, and I regularly return to say hello and check on their progress. Like most plants, we can’t see all the activity below the soil. To meditate with a live mugwort this time of year is to tap into very drowsy energy. If you are lucky enough to know where your plant ally slumbers, return regularly to keep vigil.

Below the light of April’s full moon, I reached out to mugwort. I cleared the layer of leaves, and moved the shell of last year’s growth to make room. I reverently  touched the cold soil. Soon, they will grow. I whispered prayers of greeting. Then I waited. I took note of the sensations running through my body. I felt a sense of fatigue, yet a promise for dreams. The mugwort seemed almost haughty, eager to remind me of their power even as they huddled in the earth. My dreams have certainly been vivid and strange these days. Such is the power of mugwort.

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Dried mugwort made with last summer’s growth. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

While meditating with a vibrant plant is ideal, there are ways to make a connection with a sleepy specimen. Thankfully, I have some dried mugwort I harvested last year. If you are lucky enough to already have the beginnings of a relationship with an established plant, working with dried parts – leaves, roots, flowers, or even seeds – is a wonderful alternative.

Dried mugwort is wonderful to have on hand. It is excellent for a sleepy, dream-inducing tea. Others have shared that it helps them commune with the spirit world. If you are working with a dried plant that is safe to ingest, tea is an excellent way to meditate on its properties. All parts of mugwort are safe to use, but you should avoid it if pregnant*.

As you prepare your tisane, examine the way the dried plant looks. See its color, and make a guess at what it would look like lively and vibrant. Feel the plant. Notice the difference in textures. Crush the plant between your fingers and inhale. Take note of how your body reacts. Once you pour hot water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried mugwort, let it steep and inhale. How does the scent change? How does it make you feel? Let it steep for 10 minutes. This is the perfect time to sit, breathe, and reflect on the changes in scent and color. Finally, when it’s ready, taste. Feel the warm liquid on your tongue and hold it there for a moment. As you swallow, feel it flow into your body.

No matter if your plant is bursting with green or just emerging from its wintry slumber, this is a great time to reflect on the coming days. Tomorrow is supposed to be a time to make an offering. Ask, aloud or in your mind, what the spirit of your new plant ally would like. Be prepared for what it asks. Seek guidance for future activities, especially with the creative projects such as creating shrines, writing a prayer, and crafting a spirit doll. Meditation is the beginning. As you progress, continue to make time for meditation with your plant ally. Check in, both with your body, and the plant spirit. Taking the time to still your mind and observe is foundational to the work.

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*Mugwort is known for bringing on menstruation, so while normally safe, it could cause a dangerous situation during pregnancy. As always, if you have any concerns, you should consult your doctor or midwife.

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A fresh mugwort smudge wand I made in the summer of 2016. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

When I was younger, my paternal grandmother taught me about plants. She had a lovely garden complete with perennial flowers, vegetables, and numerous herbs. Before her health declined, the garden was her pride and joy. It inspired her artistically and holistically. She was the first person to introduce me to plants as allies. While a staunch Catholic, she taught me that plants can do more than simply look attractive. Just as people, there is more below the surface. Plants have various properties that can restore or damage a person’s health. She was the first to introduce me to wild foraging. She did this with much caution. Before she had to move into an assisted living facility, she took the time to make notes in some herbal books that she then passed on to me.  All her care to point out the dangers taught me to slow down and really observe. It is in the spirit of caution that I learned to pay attention to my intuition when working with plants.

As a young adult, I kept a container garden on my apartment patio. They were very easy to maintain, in part because competitive plants (what others call weeds) are not as pervasive in containers. Yet they do appear from time to time, and are usually from airborne seeds or bird droppings. Somehow, Nature saw fit to introduce me to mugwort.

At the time, I didn’t know what was growing in my potato bin, but I’m naturally curious about new plants. I let the stems, leaves, and flowers grow so I could identify them. As an animist, I strongly believe that plants have spirits. When we slow down to contemplate a plant, we open ourselves to that spirit. I approach this relationship the same way I approach my gods – with a healthy balance of reading and contemplation. My intuition kept me looking. Referencing materials by experienced herbalists and botanists gave me peace of mind to further work with mugwort. Each of us has to find a method that works best for us, and this balanced approach felt most healthy and pragmatic to me. It continues to serve me well as I expand my herbal and gardening knowledge.

Lately, I’ve felt called to work closer with mugwort, but other plants also reach out for attention. Now that I’m a homeowner with gardening goals, I’ve felt pulled toward many potential green allies. Yet I kept “hearing whispers” from my old friend, the mugwort. There is more to learn. I wouldn’t say I was ignoring this inkling, but I put it on a backburner. Then I noticed the plant popping up in conversations. I’d see it all over social media. I would randomly open herbal books to pages about it.

When Hagstone Publishing posted about its 30 Day Plant Spirit Ally Challenge, I knew mugwort would be my focus. So here we are! I’m excited to grow and share with everyone this month. I will be posting tomorrow about meditating with mugwort to begin the journey. Later, on day 22, I will share the work I’ve done to create a mugwort spirit doll. I can’t wait to see what everyone else contributes!

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There are several tree stumps  in my back yard. At one point, there was a grove of trees in the back corner. Last year, our first full summer at our new home, I decided to observe everything growing there in order to decide how to proceed our approach to that area. Given that we only have a quarter of an acre, we have to find a balance between leaving the land alone and transforming it to make our dreams a reality. I watched and studied to determine what were invasive species, what was healthy, etc. I watched the stumps as they continued to send out shoots, fighting for life. I was tempted to let them grow, but my research lead me to reconsider. The odds are against them growing into strong trees once more. If the scrawny branches ever get very high, they will be weak and prone to wind damage. Removing a layer of last year’s oak leaves revealed that the stumps themselves are rotting. Fungi grow there, and various decomposers are making the wood soft despite what the roots are striving to do. It made me sad; the trees are dying and yet, like people, doing anything to live. Perhaps they should be put out of their misery? And so, I promised the land I would reforest the area. While I trimmed the green shoots, I prayed and chanted quietly.

Soon, we will start a new grove, starting with birch and mountain ash (rowan). We also hope to get some apple trees.

While we prepare that corner for reforestation, I decided the branches, which are mostly oak, should be put to good use rather than discarded. I chose some thick bits to dry for a future ogham set. The rest, so tender and pliable, inspired me to try something I’ve always want to do: make a wattle fence.

Well, it’s actually a garden border in what is becoming our forest/shade garden. The bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley are just coming up. I really like how the border turned out despite my inexpert hand. It adds to the woodland character of what we hope will be a quiet contemplative space full of native species. (I recently planted some wild ginger rhizomes out there below the pines.)

The border was especially fun to make since the wattle method is very old. Our ancestors used it to make fences and even construct buildings. Trying my hand at it gave me appreciation for the dead. It would have been so easy to buy a premade border, but the land provided this material. It was grown here and, eventually, it will go back to the land right here. While a part of me will always feel sad about cutting them from the stumps, this is the essence of working with the land.

My first attempt at a wattle border. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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The Plant Spirit challenge starts May 1st, and I’m so excited to take part. You can read bios from all the hosts, including me! This is kind of a big deal to me because it marks a transition. I tend to avoid putting my face and name out there in connection to my religion, but I’m reaching a crossroads.

I’ve been working on a novel, and I’m planning to attend a writers conference in June all about publishing, query letters, literary agents, etc. I’m not sure what will become of it all, but needless to say I’m getting serious about sharing my story. With that comes a question of identity.

I’ve been using my online pen name for a long time, but would I actually want to publish under that name? And yet, my story is about contemporary Pagans. Am I ready to put myself out there using my legal name? Furthermore, I still retain the long-term goal of becoming a clergyperson in my religion. Such individuals must use their legal name, to some degree, for various reasons within ADF. So, I’m following the footsteps of S. H. Hinton and JK Rowling. It feels safer. The bio linked above also includes a photo of my face, but it’s darkened by the hood of my winter coat and the forest canopy. Also a safe transition for me.

I don’t think I’ll officially change my blog bio, twitter, instagram, etc, yet. Consider this a stepping stone. Hagstone Publishing is giving me an opportunity to experiment with sharing this info.

I’m excited to take part in the Plant Spirit Ally challenge! I’m writing with some amazing practitioners and artists. Please check them out!

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I’m very excited to announce that I’m taking part in the upcoming Plant Spirit Ally Challenge hosted by Hagstone Publishing. You can read all about it here so that you, too, can participate! Specifically, I’m co-hosting days 2 and 22. After much thought, and many hints over the last few weeks, I will be working with mugwort. I’ll post more about why once the challenge starts, but I’m very inspired to make a mugwort-themed doll. Due to some other projects going on, I probably won’t be able to complete every day, but I will do my best! I hope you’ll join us in exploring a special plant in your life.

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m working through the Initiate Path of ADF. The Dedicant Path took me three years to complete. The IP is taking much longer. The biggest hurdle for me is finding the quiet time and mental space to complete the work. My career is exhausting. Keeping house is exhausting. My daughter – I love her- is exhausting. When I do have free time, most of it goes to my fiction writing these days. It’s fulfilling, and has given me a different way to connect with my spirituality. I thank Brighid daily for the inspiration she’s blessed me with. Other hobbies are easier for me to do surrounded by the chaos of childhood – belly dance, gardening, watching anime. Reading and responding to academic texts is so, so hard most of the time. I lost count how many times I was interrupted as I tried to write this…

Yet I still aspire toward completing the IP, and eventually I would like to work through the clergy training program. I need goals for when my daughter is less mommy focused, right?

I’ve had to restart my Divination 2 journal several times. Today, I decided to restart it again. The reason is probably one many of you are familiar with. At first, you consistently record entries for a few weeks, then something happens. You’re tired one day, then family visits, then you’re sick… Before you know it, you’re looking at three weeks of no entries, and no recollection. Flubbing it is antithetical to the purpose.  And so, if you’re like me, you grumble and start again because perseverance is a virtue.

But so is wisdom.Wisdom is gained through the triad of learning, experience, and reflection. So I thought about what was and wasn’t working. The most frustrating thing about my having to restart the journal is that I do a daily divination almost every day as part of my devotional! I’m doing the work, but failing to document it! I prefer typing, so my journal has been housed on my computer. I do not turn my computer on when going to work. On weekends, my family gets so busy, that I often fail to think of documenting my divination!

I recently bought a set of two little Moleskine journals. I’ve carried one in my purse for over a year, filling it with random inspiration, thoughts, and dreams. It was nearing time to replace it, but the set came with two. What to do with the other? Today I realized the second would be my divination journal. I’ve even placed it on my altar so I see and remember to record. Even if I quickly jot down the ogham I draw, I can come back to it later in the day to ruminate further. Let’s hope this is the time I actually keep my journal for five months.

 

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