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Archive for the ‘Druidism’ Category

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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plantspiritallychallenge

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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Well, it should be obvious to everyone that it’s taking me a lot longer than 21 days to go through this lore challenge from Irish Pagan School, but at least I have not given up!

Today I jumped back into “Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann.”  The Tuatha Dé Danann are described in very earthly terms, and they express fear of the Fomorians who oppress them in this part of the Invasion Cycle. It is interesting to see these beings, which so many of us venerate as gods, tremble before an Otherworldly host. This occurs before the Milesians displace them to the Underworld.

To me, this suggests more about their roles than abilities or immortality. I am drawing on more than just the excerpt discussed today. We know the Tuatha Dé Danann are people of art and science. The Fomorians, on the other hand, seem to have a more primordial position. They control the harvest, and without a successful crop or hunt, civilization, created through art and science, collapses. The event read today occurs before the Fomorians are defeated, thus before Bres teaches Lugh the secrets of agriculture. Until those lessons were learned, civilization was at the complete mercy of nature.

That is just my interpretation, but it does lead me to some curiosity about the Fomorians. If they are the primordial beings of raw, natural power, how should we relate to them today given the shifting climate? I have much to ponder, but am not prepared to share more than that.

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Oh my gods, I got so behind. Between planning for the Spring Equinox, and everyone getting sick, this ended up on the back burner. I’m home sick today. It’s my turn with what my daughter brought home from school, so I decided to be a bit productive with my studies. Might as well, right?

So, back to Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann. Today we read a bit about Lugh, specifically how he was fostered by the god Manannán mac Lir.  Lugh arrives at Tara with several of his foster brothers, and is armed with some of his foster father’s treasures – namely the horse Aonbharr, who was famously swift, Manannán’s armor, breastplate, helmet, and sword. These objects sound magical, as they promise protection and strength above and beyond normal accouterments of war.

In Ireland, fosterage was a tradition by which children were raised by another in the clan. The purpose could have been to strengthen bonds between family, and Lugh’s arrival at Tara with some of Manannán’s greatest treasures, as well as his own sons, suggests a great love and respect. I think this was important for Lugh due to his heritage. Lugh was half of the Tuath Dé Danann, and half of the Fomorians. To have Manannán for a foster father must have instilled a great trust in Lugh.

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I’ve talked about my feelings about St. Patrick’s Day in the past, as well as my reasons for celebrating it as Irish Heritage Day instead. I’ve also shared, and will share again, Morgan Daimler’s excellent post on what we do know about St. Patrick, his history, snakes, etc. Each year, I continue to see the same inaccurate histories repeated about Ireland, St. Patrick, Druids, etc. Some people, apparently, even refuse to attend Irish Heritage festivals because of it! My goodness. So, instead of wasting energy gnashing your teeth about bunk history, here are some ways to celebrate Irish Heritage Day that will promote actual Irish history and cultural preservation. Before I begin, I want to remind everyone that I’m an American polytheist and a descendant of Irish immigrants. I will never attempt to represent people who actually live in Ireland, speak Irish, etc. I’m working hard to learn the old ways from Irish sources, so this is important to me, and I gather it’s important to many Irish pagans as well.

  1. Attend an Irish Heritage festival! Yes! Go! Listen to traditional music, watch or even partake in step dancing, and rub elbows with others who are proud of, or curious about, their heritage. (Just, you know… try not to get distracted by the plastic Paddy nonsense. It misrepresents Irish culture, and a lot of it is bad for the environment anyway. Also, try to avoid perpetuating drunken stereotypes.)
  2. If you can’t attend a festival, do listen to traditional music. There is plenty to stream online. And if you ever get the chance, buy CDs from bands who are keeping the old music alive and well. Play them for your families and at your gatherings. With time, you and your loved ones will learn to sing along. Perhaps it will inspire instrumental or dance lessons!
  3. Read a book about Irish history. Not modern Pagan practice. History. Learn about ancient history, yes, but also read about modern history. I’m no expert. It’s a work in progress, but we should not embrace Irish lore, symbolism, etc without grasping the fact that the Irish culture is still alive! Learn about what makes them who they are today so that you can inform your practice from a place of integrity and respect. If sitting down to read a book is not your thing, there are many podcasts dedicated to Irish history.
  4. Read or listen to Irish lore. Check out Lora O’Brien’s “Learn the Lore” challenge on Irish Pagan School. I can’t say enough about it! I’m so grateful that she is sharing and making so much available to people all over the world.
  5. Speaking of Lora O’Brien, she posted this to her FB in 2017:
    If you want to celebrate your Irish heritage today, please educate yourself. What can you learn about the reality of Ireland today?

    Try the Magdalene Laundries. Mother and Baby ‘Homes’ all over the country, and nearly 800 dead bodies in Tuam. The 8th Amendment. The Black and Tans. Treatment of political prisoners in the North. The Hunger Strikes. The Irish homeless crisis. Mental health crisis. There’s more, but…

    Instead of spending your cash and time drinking and ‘celebrating’ today, could ya donate that cash to Irish activist causes, and use that time to learn some real history.

    Happy Paddy’s Day.

    If you are able, research some of those causes, or others, and donate. I’m currently exploring some of the environmental organizations in Ireland. When I was blessed with the ability to visit in 2011, my favorite memories are of the time I spent along the River Boyne. It was gorgeous, and I long to go back and explore more of the natural wonders in Ireland. Since it inspired and moved me, perhaps that is a cause worthy of donation. What moves you?

  6. Cook an authentic Irish dish. I really enjoy exploring recipes from “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen. I do have to alter things a bit to make them vegetarian, but I really appreciate all the extra information about the recipes and their cultural context, including how some things used to be made. Even while I don’t use meat, I think it’s important to understand traditional ingredients and why they were used.

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    I made (vegan) white soda bread today using a recipe from the book I linked and a basic, homemade vegan “buttermilk.” I think I used too much flour when I flattened it out… But I made it! I’ll offer some to my ancestors and the Good Folk. Photo by Grey Catsidhe (2019).

  7. Study the Irish language! I try to do a lesson each night using Duolingo. Like other Celtic languages, Irish (Gaeilge) needs to be preserved. Studying the language has helped me better understand how to pronounce important names, locations, and concepts within my religious practice, and it’s deepened my connection to my ancestors. Think of every lesson as an offering.
  8. Share stories with the young people in your life. Whether it’s fairy lore, mythology, tales of Ireland’s heroes (legendary or historic), or your own ancestral immigration stories, tell them to the children. As I cleaned my ancestral shrine today, I showed my daughter one of the few photos I have of my great, great, great grandmother, Mary, from County Mayo. It’s a treasure, given to me from my grandfather shortly before he passed away. My daughter was very interested, which made me so happy.

I hope you take time today to have fun, yes, but also be respectful, learn something, and promote the preservation of actual Irish history, lore, and culture.

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