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Wow, August is just speeding by, and summer is slipping through my fingers like sand at the beach I visited a couple days ago.  I’m still participating in the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge,  but as predicted, I’m combining days into sporadic updates. I’ve had a busy few days of visiting family, going to the beach in Alexandria Bay, grocery shopping, and celebrating Lughnasadh with my friends at Muin Mound Grove in Syracuse, NY.  Ah, that was a grand day full of laughter with old friends, offerings, song, fire, and mead.  But anyway…

Day 3: Centering and Breath Work

This is something I strive to do each day.  I’m more successful some days than others. Goodness, there are times when I wake up early for work, feeling like a zombie, and I can barely focus on anything let alone my breath.  Most of the time, however, this is an important part of my daily devotional (which also includes grounding and divination, as discussed in my last blog post). I tend to start each working, whether it’s a formal ritual or a prayer of gratitude, with three deep breaths.  If I’m going to do trance or magic work, I will likely go into a focused meditation.

Some days, when I’m irritated or stressed, it can be helpful to find a quiet place and take deep breaths…

Day 4: Intentions

I’m supposed to reflect on my intentions for completing this challenge.  That’s fair enough, but I want to start with my big intention for August: I will move into a new house without losing my mind!  Most everything is revolving around that, although I’m also the workshop coordinator for the FAE Fest once more.  Doing that while prepping for a move has been extra stressful.  With all that and this challenge in mind, my goals are to stay as calm and level-headed as possible.  Maintaining my Druidic practice, especially breathing, grounding, and shielding will be very important to my overall wellness.  In addition, I want to do some solid magical work this month.  I’ve done some work already, all towards the new home, so that will continue.  I hope it shifts to performing a house saining later this month…

Day 5: Energy Work

Ah… the old “hand rubbing” exercise.  This brings back memories.  I was chatting with a new witch friend on ye olde MSN Messenger.  I was still wet-behind-the-ears, and he suggested I try doing that.  I actually did this with my daughter a couple months ago, but she was too overtired to focus…  I should try again.  It’s fun to just experience energy in various forms.  When I start devotionals lately, I don’t just visualize fire and water – I wave my hand over the flame and put my finger in a bowl of water.  Feeling the energy directly is more meaningful to me, more intimate, and I store that memory for times when I don’t have access to them.  I suppose that’s the key to magic – the ability to summon that energy when needed.  There are plenty of times when I can’t light a candle, but I can go to that inner grove where I see and feel the flame…

Sometimes you have to go back to the basics to get stronger.  I’ll try to add the old hand rubbing exercise to my daily work and see what happens…

Day 6: Shielding

This is a skill that I really started to develop about three years ago.  You see, I had a bit of an altercation with a colleague.  We have very different personalities – she’s very type A and I’m… not, really?  There was also a definite lack of sleep due to us both having babies at home.  Anyway, it sucked.  I didn’t feel that she would purposefully attack me psychically (I don’t see her touching the magical community with a ten foot pole), but negative emotions run wild after emotional encounters like that.  I purposefully started to develop my shielding skills.  I developed my daily “Druid Egg” routine (one day I’ll do a more detailed post on the subject).  Sometimes, when especially stressed or “threatened,” I’ll take a break and renew it.  If I’m at work, the bathroom is a great place to do that.

As a Senior Druid with a grove, and as a teacher, this sort of practice is incredibly important.  If someone is upset with you, they will put off nastiness.  I hesitate to call myself an “empath,” as I don’t think I’m as perceptive as others, but I’m definitely affected by other people.  That can impact my decision making.  Shielding is a way for me to push that extra input aside and focus on what I need, who I am, and what I stand for.  I tell the gunk coming that it cannot get me.  I own my space.

Some days, I’m better at it than others… but when I set my mind to it, those wards are up.  I find that it helps to have a really good working relationship with my spirit allies as well… just in case the shield cracks.

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The #30DaysMagicalRoots challenge started yesterday.  True to form, I’m a bit late!  Given that it was a major holiday in my tradition, I feel that’s entirely forgivable, right?  Right.  My family had a lovely, low-key Lughnasadh full of blueberry pancakes, board games, and a big dinner.  I also made offerings and went on a run, which felt particularly appropriate on a day for competitions.  Only, I was competing against myself.

So, day 1 of the 30 Days Magical Roots challenge is all about Divination.  I mostly work with the Druid Animal Oracle.  The symbolism resonates with me.  My focus this month is definitely moving.  The waiting is stressing me out.  I asked for insight into that and drew the otter – a card of play.  The Kindreds seemed to tell me to try and enjoy the process, and to not take everything so seriously.  I’m trying… but it is very difficult.

Today is day 2 and the focus is grounding.  My absolute favorite way to ground is through movement.  I reach up to the sky and let the fiery sky energy return to where it is needed.  Then I move into the yoga movement called child’s pose on the floor or ground. I let the watery, underworld energy seep back into the Earth Mother.  It is especially potent outside when you can feel the heat from the sun and the moisture in the grass or soil.

 

From sundown on July 27 to sundown July 28, I kept Brighid’s flame.  It wasn’t a continuous, literal flame.  As the daughter of a former firefighter, cat owner, and mother, there are times when I need to put it out.  I always say a prayer when I do:

Though I put the flame out in the physical realm, it is always lit in my heart.

Some people will turn their noses up to that, but Brighid has not shown any displeasure with it.  As a protector of children, domesticated animals, and homes, being practical and not tempting fate makes sense.  Part of learning about the magic of her flame is respect, after all.  And I don’t have extra money to spend on anything that could safely allow me to burn an unattended candle.  Maybe in the future.

There are areas I’d like to improve upon.  There was a time, five or six years ago, where I would treat my flame keeping time as a retreat.  I stayed away from electronic entertainment (although I would sometimes allow myself to watch educational documentaries related to my Druidism).  I read and studied.  I spent a lot of time outside.  All of that changed, especially when I became a mother.  My quiet moments come early in the morning and at night.

Right now, my biggest focus is keeping track of my times to keep the flame, and to have some intention.  I decided to blog about it this time because a Twitter friend inspired me when she posted about her own creative work during her flame tending night.  I cannot remember who that was, but she really got me thinking.

Except for Naturalist studies and continued practice with divination, most of my more intense Druid studies have halted.  I only have so much time as a mother, teacher, and Senior Druid of a grove.  The last several months, I’ve given my spare time to writing a fictional book.  I tried my best to do that during my flame tending shift.  I also made a point to give gratitude for Brighid’s blessings of talent and inspiration.  I always ask that she continue to guide and help me nourish that to improve.

I set aside some quiet time to go through my Druid Animal Oracle cards to basically renew my relationship with them.  I thought about which of the Nine Virtues each card mostly embodied, and then thought about whether the cards where mostly connected with spirituality/intellect, creativity or fertility of the land, warfare and death, or family and community.  It was a fun exercise and I got a lot out of it!

I also used some of my time last night to do a bit of candle magic.  It’s one of the first forms of magic most of us learn, but it’s continually a favorite of mine.  It’s tried and true for me, and I can really feel my focus and the energy when I’m doing it.  It feels especially appropriate to engage in candle work in conjunction with Brighid when I’m already keeping her flame.  Added a bit of extra power.

My next shift begins August 16th.  I’m hoping the magical working I did will manifest then and help me set a new focus.  I have a good feeling.  Slowly but surely, I would like to move towards once more treating those shifts as days to focus on anything related to Brighid and my Druidism.

 

Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

Between the impending move, FAE Fest, and the upcoming school year, August is going to be insane.  In an effort to help me stay rooted in my spiritual practice, and in the spirit of reflection, I’m going to try my best to participate in #30DaysMagicalRoots Challenge that Plentiful Earth is facilitating.  

If you’re interested in participating, click the above link to see the prompts.  I think it’s a bit strange that there aren’t 31 days considering the length of August, but I’ll try to use that last day to look back on my ability to work through the prompts.  Some look like they’ll help me with some of my ADF studies, too!

I may miss a day or two…  Chances are I’ll combine several in one blog post.  It’s all good, though.  The point is to reflect and deepen my spiritual practices *despite* the chaos.

 

 

I decided to walk the hedge near my apartment to see what the plants were up to.  I also hoped to find certain specimens for my herbal stash.  Alas, they were not around.  It’s funny and interesting how they’ll be present one year and not the next.  I won’t be here long enough to figure out their rhythm.  Soon I’ll start to establish a relationship with new land – one that will hopefully last much longer.

As I walked the hedge, I reflected on all I’ve learned from doing just that.  I understand the blackberry’s life cycle thanks to a somewhat hidden patch nobody but me seemed to know about. I learned about jewel weed out of an obsession to identify it.  I refined my ability to distinguish between different trees.  That sort of wisdom comes from the marriage of experience and study.  Some days I walk then hit the field guides and herbal books out of curiosity.    “What was that plant?  I didn’t recognize it.”  Other times I like to look through my books.  I’ll have moments of clarity.  “Oh wow!  I saw that flower once!  Where was it again?  Time to find it.”

Learning the land’s rhythm has been essential to my growth as a Druid.  In addition to increasing my understanding and wisdom, I try to pick up trash along the way.  Today I found some discarded plastic toys – a crushed sand castle mold and an empty bubble container.  Kids.  Sheesh.  Cleaning is usually my offering to the land in exchange for the teachings.

I’m excited to really introduce myself to a new yard, new hedge, and new forest.  I’ll take the lessons I learned here and build on them.

Forest Memories

Forest memories.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We’re in the process of buying a home!  We’ve been looking for a few months, and it seemed like we weren’t going to find anything for awhile.  I had a vision of what I wanted, and many homes just didn’t have the right layout (or a dry basement).  One property seemed to have what I wanted, but closer examination hinted at serious foundation issues.  I reached out to trusted seers for insight in addition to my own divination (gratitude to Lady Althaea for the bone readings, and to Melstery   for the runic spread.  I highly recommend them!)  Everything indicated a need for patience.  One reading advised me not to be blinded by an ideal vision, and to be open to other possibilities – while also sticking firm to what I knew I wanted.  That was so on the mark.

The home we are hoping to obtain has a lovely yard with raised beds.  There’s a peaceful shaded area with happy trees, and a stately oak in the back.  The current owners have done no landscaping, so it’s a blank canvas for me to populate with all sorts of magical allies.  There’s a wooded trail across  the street to fulfill my need to wander around green areas.  While the forest may not be “mine,” and the home is smaller than we initially sought, it checks all the boxes.

Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes according to plan with the closing, etc.  The inspection was fantastic (very grateful for my friend’s recommendation).  I cannot wait to move out of my apartment and have more control about what happens around me.  Obviously, it will entail more responsibility – but it will be “mine.”  No maintenance crew coming in to inspect; no unwanted contractors hacking the plants around me; no obnoxious people sharing the same backyard; no more ridiculously high rent.  I can build a permanent shrine outside and form a deeper relationship with the land!

I will miss the forest near my apartment. A proper farewell ritual is in the future, for sure.  I’ve been working with this land for nearly a decade.  I experienced some of the most profound growth of my life among these trees.  I was able to watch more wildlife here than my childhood home.  The land gifted me with many stones, feathers, acorns, and bones.  I saw spirits in my periphery a few times.  Many little treasures have made their way to my altars and shrines.  The forest will always be with me in these memories and gifts.  I look forward to new lessons and experiences as I turn to a new chapter and a new home.