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Archive for the ‘Wicca’ Category

When we look back at our past,  it’s often easy to see the obvious sign posts we passed on our way to the present.  I’m one of those who believes that I was always a Pagan – I just didn’t realize it until the age of 17 or 18.  My father raised me to be respectful of fire, an independent thinker, and a survivor.  My mother raised me to be a third generation feminist, to believe in magic, love nature, and appreciate the world around me.  They both taught me how to be creative.  They planted the seeds of animism and nature worship in me.  The Catholicism they raised me in, with its archaic rituals and saints, acted as a gateway to polytheism.  My mother kept a small altar to St. Theresa of the Roses in her room, prayed to St. Francis to protect animals, and encouraged me to ask St. Anthony for help whenever I lost something.   Though conversion can naturally have a certain amount of uncertainty and fear attached to it, I’m sure it helped make praying to the Old Gods easier.

  My Catholic, genealogy-obsessed grandfather would probably never understand if I attempted to tell him how much his interests impacted the conversion I went through in my late teens.  Only, it would take me a few years to understand the importance of ancestors.  As I studied Wicca, I thought of my ancestors as much as I would in Catholicism.  They came before me.  Some of them lived a long time ago practicing a foreign, ancient religion and I had a vague idea that this was somehow important spiritually.  They died.  They went somewhere else.  Wicca and Catholicism honored them once a year – Samhain or All Souls Day.  Pick your faith and pick your holy day.

Druidism looks at ancestors a bit differently than Wicca.  We strive to remember them daily.  We venerate them.  We may even set up altars to them – and not just on Samhain (when we believe the ancestors are able to return to this realm for a time).  Their importance to us lasts all year long.  Many of us believe that, given their connection to us, ancestors are sometimes more concerned with our wellbeing than the Gods.  The Gods may be busier than the ancestors.  Ancestors may be in the Otherworld/Spirit World most of the time, but I and others believe we share some sort of emotional/psychic link with them.

   I’ve never asked my grandfather why he’s so interested in genealogy – I really should.  I suspect he would say something about how the past is important because it’s where we come from.  I agree.  However, I’m going to bet that it would end there.  Maybe -maybe- he has some spiritual ideas about it as well.  Maybe he looks forward to meeting them in heaven, impressing them with what he knows, and interrogating them for all the missing links.  Why have I become interested in it?  I feel that our ancestors are connected to us spiritually.  They want to help us and, maybe, they’ve “been there and done that” and don’t want to see us make similar mistakes.  Grandparents care about their children so, if you believe in an afterlife, it makes a lot of sense that a great, great grandparent would care about you as well.  To our ancient ancestors, family and tribe were extremely important.  They meant survival.  We’re linked to them – perhaps they’re even in us.  Perhaps we are them reborn.  I have small intuitions about these things but, in the end, I must remain largely agnostic.

Still, it’s strange how the ancestors reach out sometimes.  Over the Yule/Christmas season, I visited my family near Utica.  I made a point to visit my grandparents and I found out that my prolific grandfather was working on yet another history book – this one more personal than the rest which investigate the annals of small, Upstate NY towns.  He showed me the massive pile of pages chronicling his research on our ancestors – my ancestors on my father’s side.  We talked for some time about it.  All these years he’s been talking about the earliest recorded male in our family, John, and suddenly I started to learn about his wife, Susan(a).  Why hadn’t I ever thought about her before?  At the time, he told me where she was from but I wasn’t familiar with it – I only knew that it was in Northern Ireland.  (That’s where John met her while he was serving military time in British occupied Ireland.)

A month went by since learning of her.  The other night I decided to email my grandfather to see how his project was going.  I also wanted the name of Susan’s hometown for further research.  Today, in the mail, I discovered a CD version of the book.  Can you imagine my amazement at receiving such a gift a few hours after inquiring?  It is as if we were on a similar wavelength or Susan was guiding us.  Here it all was – every known record of my family, including my most recent Irish foremother.

Here she is, Susan (at some point she dropped the “a” at the end of her name).  At least, this is believed to be the only photo of her. *

She looks so ghostly in the blotchy, black and white photo, but it’s not a fearful feeling for me.  It’s more like…  I sense her looking back at me through the ages.

The more I read, the more the pieces click into place.  She’s from Armagh which, according to what I’ve been reading, was the ancient capital of Ulster.  Ulster!  To someone who is enamored with ancient Ireland, that’s a big deal.  I’m not about to spout nonsensical claims of being related to Cúchulainn or anything daft like that – it’s simply exciting to find some small connection to the place I’ve been reading about, loving, and yearning to see.  I can claim some small connection to that magical land!

What makes the story even more interesting to me is that Susan and John immigrated from Ireland to Canada and, form Canada, settled in Watertown, NY – meaning they lived around my new home turf!  My grandfather found her gravestone a few years ago.  I intend to find it myself this summer.  I would also love to go to Armagh when my husband and I finally get to Ireland.  I would love to bring a stone back and build a small cairn on her grave.  Would my presumably Christian ancestor appreciate veneration from a Pagan descendant?  Who knows.  I remain agnostic about the afterlife and whether or not it transcends religion or accommodates it all.  Perhaps she would just be happy to have a bit of her home turf and some attention from someone who still finds her wisdom important.

* LJ friends, check my blog at http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/

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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.

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Spirals

 

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.

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MVPN – It’s Official

Why am I, the self-titled “North Country Pagan,” so interested in what is going on with the Utica Pagan community? I still consider it my home, albeit a distant one now. I found my path in Utica and I made spiritual ties in Utica. My tribe is very much in the Mohawk Valley.

Today, the council of MVPN released an official statement about the future of MVPN*.

Although I am supportive and understanding of this move, change is sometimes hard to swallow. Perhaps it is that, despite my growing fondness of and involvement in ADF, I still feel isolated in Northern NY. As far as I know, I’m the only ADF druid up here. I’ve heard of some people calling themselves druids, but from what I can tell they are really Wiccan. No CRs, no ADFers, no Keltrians… Not even any OBODies as far as I can tell. That’s what I would want, I guess – Druids attached to a tradition I understand, one that is even a little CR in nature. So, back to my original point, perhaps I am simply wishing that I could have a more path-specific group closer to my new home. I am happy for my Wiccan friends, but also a little envious.

Right now, the plan seems to be for my husband and I to stay put for a couple years. If everything continues to go well where I work, we will possibly move closer to Watertown. This would mean more of a commute to my job, but we would be closer to everything else – my husband’s job, shopping centers, a big library, a theater, etc… And ultimately closer to Syracuse, home of Muin Mound, the grove I attend. Where I currently live adds an additional 30ish minutes of driving to and from Syracuse. Oh, how I wish the government would hurry up and build high-speed public trains…

To my Wiccan friends in the Mohawk Valley – I wish you the best of luck and the most sincere wish that this new group you are forming is spiritually satisfying to you. I also hope that I am welcome to join you from time to time in the spirit of friendship and a mutual wish to celebrate the turning of the wheel with you. Although we walk different Pagan paths, you are still my brothers and sisters. Kindreds bless you all.

*For my friends on Live Journal: http://mvpn.yuku.com/topic/263

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First Contact

When I moved to the North Country I started to poke around Witcvox’s directory to see who was around here. I do so every few weeks out of boredom and, sometimes, loneliness. I soon became aware of a shop called Moontide in Watertown. My work schedule and unfamiliarity with the area made it difficult for me to find. A few days ago, my husband and I explored an indoor shopping area and, lo and behold, there was Moontide.

The owner, who struck me as an intensely new agey but kind-hearted individual, dedicates half of her store to crystals, incense, and various New Age and Pagan knick knacks. The other half is full of romantic, vampiric clothing. I must admit, I want to go back and try some things on. I like ruffled blouses and long flowing skirts.

I bought a few small boxes of incense to replenish my supply, including dragon blood, a favorite of mine. I also engaged in small talk about the community and how we were new to it. She seemed glad that I didn’t complain about the snow.

I asked her about CUUPs and, while she hasn’t been in awhile, she recommends that I check it out. I got the impression that it is full of Wiccans which really isn’t a surprise. Either that or she isn’t aware that not all Pagans are Wiccan.

Anyway, that was my first venture into the local Pagan culture. There is a CUUPs meeting on Tuesday but I’m feeling under the weather today. I may not feel up to going. You may think that’s just another excuse for me to avoid socializing, but really, I do feel quite ill. Although… I must admit I’m wondering if I really should go. The very active ADF chats have been keeping me quite happy recently…

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