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I felt stressed the last couple of weeks. Work has been a major contributor to that, but I also credit the extreme cold. It meant a lot of time inside, shielded from the sun. When the temperatures rose to the 40s this weekend (yay, heatwave!), I heard the call of the forest and needed to get out. I knew it was time when my family was getting on my last nerve.  Thus, I retreated into the woods.  I walked down the trail, admiring the mingling deer and snowmobile tracks.  I delighted in the songbirds joyfully welcoming the sun through the clouds.

I felt that I could breathe.

True to my Sagittarian sign, I’m frequently beset by wanderlust.  I crave exploration and adventure, and simply trudging around the forest on my own can satisfy that.  I slipped off the trail and just stood, staring up at the canopy of the arboreal cathedral. I felt so free and rejuvenated.

With the forest fresh in my heart, I’m ready for another week.

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Persevering

My spiritual community was recently rocked with news on allegations of sexual misconduct by our late founder, Isaac Bonewits.  While the initial accusations occurred before ADF was founded, others have come forth with more experiences.  Like others in ADF, I’ve felt a mixed bag of emotions.  Mostly, disappointment, sadness for the victims, confusion, listlessness, and even anger.

Despite it all, I continued to drag myself to my altar in the mornings to perform my daily devotionals.  The first time was difficult.  I hesitated as I called to the ancestors.  I had to consider my words carefully.

I never met Bonewits, but his ideas have had a major influence on my life.  One of my dear friends lent me his classic Essential Guide to Druidism.  I eagerly read about, then joined, ADF.  It clicked with me, and the community was already widespread and active compared to the still small and fragmented Celtic Recon community that also interests me.  As I worked my way through study programs, I found myself learning more from his other works, especially NeoPagan Rites.  He inspired me.

I remembered hearing a story about Bonewits bringing a bag full of condoms to a festival, but I didn’t really think much of it at the time.  It made me chuckle.  It reveals my naivety about sexual relations in the past.  I’ve been lucky that my sexual experiences have all been consensual.  Back then, my idea of rape was that it was always forced, either through violence or the imposition of mind altering substances.  My mother taught me to fight – kick, bite, scratch, and do anything necessary to get away.  Reading about other peoples’ experiences would later teach me that it wasn’t always violent.  It could simply involve fear, an imbalance in power, coercion, etc.  I hadn’t thought of the condom story for years, but I recalled it with each new allegation, and it was no longer amusing.

Like many in my community, I’m still processing everything.  I’ve read reactions from people who have been friends with Bonewits, victims of sexual harassment and abuse, people who worry about due process, and people who work with convicted sex offenders.   We are experiencing something that the rest of my country is also grappling with.  Change is afoot, and transformation is often messy.  Mistakes will be made, but hopefully, lessons will be learned.  My hope is that ADF, like the rest of the country, can move towards something better for the next generation.

I want to help make the world a better place for my own child.  I’m pleased with the Mother Grove’s responses to this, and the work they’re doing to strengthen our sexual misconduct policy with training on creating a culture of consent.  As a senior druid, I look forward to future training and bringing it back to my own grove.

As others have said, I believe that ADF is more than Bonewits.  We cannot ignore or hide our past, but our roots go even deeper than our founder.  The ideas that he organized were inspired by older teachings.   He stood on the shoulders of others, just as we all do.  We each contribute but none of us represents the whole picture.  And beyond it all, the gods and goddesses themselves stir the cauldron of wisdom and ignite the flames of inspiration.  We have more to draw on than the work of one man.    My brothers, sisters, and teachers at Muin Mound Grove shared their hospitality with me for years, helping me grow on the path.  My dear friend in Ithaca who is now starting her own grove continues to grow with me.  All the fellow Dedicants I’ve worked with as a reviewer have shared their own perspectives with me.  The priests, priestesses, initiates, solitaries, bards, artisans, warriors, flamekeepers, and many, many others who have played a part in my own spiritual journey.  And, of course, my own grovemates who are a spiritual family to me.  I’m so proud of the work we have done to grow, not only in developing our liturgical style and traditions, but in creating a safe, family-friendly atmosphere.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s been more rewarding than not.  I intend to keep up the work, not for the sake of our flawed founder, but for the sake of my community, and the spirits who called me to do the work, to persevere.

May Brighid wrap her healing mantle around the victims.  

May she bless us with the warmth of compassion.

May Lugh bring justice as it is deserved.

May he teach us the skills we need to improve and build.

May Morrighan wake our inner warriors with her mighty call.

May she grant us the courage to continue the hard work ahead.

– Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

A Gift

Sigil of the Cosmos wall hanging.

I’ve been reviewing Dedicant Path submissions for several years now. Since I already feel stretched thin with life’s demands and acting as a Senior Druid for my grove, doing this feels like a good way to give back to my religious community.  While I had a couple frustrating ordeals, the overall experience has been positive.  I learn something from each submission, even if it’s only gaining new perspective on familiar topics.  Viewing photos of peoples’ home shrines always inspires me.

Today I got a thank you letter and handmade gift from the author of the last DP I reviewed.  It meant so much to know that my feedback was helpful.  I’m going to treasure the letter and wall hanging.  I have so much gratitude to be part of this community.

 

Reflecting on My 2017

My altar as of Dec 2017.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

Many people reflect on the year upon entering its final hours. I’ve made a point to set some time aside and do so on my blog for many years, so here I am, keeping the tradition alive!  I try to maintain various traditions in my home. It’s become even more important to me as my daughter grows. I find value passing on customs from my family as well as my religious tradition. One such tradition is cleaning the home, as best as we are able, on New Year’s Eve. This year was the first that she took part, manning the duster. She seemed proud to assist, although I know I have to go back and get all the corners she missed due to her height or playful negligence.

As I scrubbed and swept, I reflected on one of my greatest achievements of 2017 – buying a home. Although it was not what I originally envisioned, I’m very proud and glad to have a place of our own. We have land to befriend, to plant, and I cannot wait to get started in the spring. It’s taking time, but we’re making it our own. I refinished a cabinet a couple months ago and set up my altar in the kitchen area. It’s still very much a work in progress. I intend to hang my Tree of Life tapestry above it, and I would like to install a shelf or two to display important images while tidying the surface of the altar itself. I need to organize other areas of the home, but I thought my readers would be interested to see my new altar space. Some may even take solace in the fact that it’s taking me time to get it where I want it – and even that will change as I do.

As I reflected on my joy and gratitude for buying a home, I couldn’t help but think of the difficulties many in my generation face in grasping similar dreams. Like other millennials, I continue to struggle with paying off student loan debt, but, somehow, I’ve made it this far. I find myself pondering how I can give back to my community and help those who do not have shelter, especially in these frigid temperatures.

My other great accomplishment this year has been completing a novel. I’m very proud of it. I’m still waiting for my husband to finish reading it, but I hope to share my story with a few others before I decide how to proceede. This year has found my creative spark reinvigorated. I’ve been writing stories and poetry, I delved into the world of cosplay to challenge and improve my sewing skills, and I even started to make candles here and there. It allowed me to connect with Brighid as I once did – as a creative person. For awhile, her mothering qualities eclipsed all others, so it’s been a bit of a rebirth for me.

2017 found me leaving certain aspects of my Druidism on the back burner, however. My formal studies have stalled. My flamekeeping has been on-and-off, something that riles up my old Catholic guilt. While I’ve maintained morning devotionals, my weekly rituals and meditations have been sporadic. No doubt, much of this was due to the disturbance and stress of moving. In all honesty, though, I’ve been exhausted from work, the news, and the seemingly ceaseless march of dishes and laundry. I chose, instead, to escape into fiction – my own and others’.

I am hoping to restore balance in 2018. I want to continue my creative pursuits, but also renew my Druid studies, especially trance, magic, and divination. I need to set aside time for myself, but prioritize so that I’m truly doing activities that feed my soul and elevate my skill set so that I may better serve my family, my grove, my community, and my Kindred. I hope to take better care of my body and exercise more so that I’m not so damn tired all the time. Especially after work… And somehow, as I do that, I need to involve my daughter so that she feels included and sleeps better herself.  Then I can have more quiet me-time when I need it.

Ah, the difficulties of motherhood…

It’s difficult not to think of 2017 and the greater challenges our society faces. There are many shadows that will stretch into the new year. Many are too large for us to tackle individually. As I prepare my home and family for another year, I think about what I can do to make a difference. Just as I contemplate spring’s garden, I will plant seeds to make the world a better place in my little corner. Each of us has some power, some influence. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, a teacher, a writer, a sewist, a Druid – a person – may I be better, make better, and do better in 2018.

Even though I had to work during the Winter Solstice, I made the most of it by greeting the sun from my darkened office.  I put on “Here Comes the Sun” and sang along.  It was an offering and a devotional. When the song ended, I stood in quiet contemplation at the blue sky streaked with yellow and blush.  Later, I poured wine, gave bread, lit candles, and had a lovely feast with my family before opening gifts.

Today, I once more thought of the sun as I rose for work.  Today, he was hiding behind gray clouds.  I was reluctant to go in since it was snowing a lot and the roads were dangerous.  When I reached work, I was distracted by prayers of gratitude for making it in safely.

In keeping with our 12 Days of Solstice, we’re honoring the Nature Spirits today at my home. It’s hard to ignore the beings of the season when they’re literally smacking you in the face and piling up in front of your home.  The spirits simultaneously threaten our lives with ice and kiss our cheeks with cold.  Now that I’m home safe and off the roads, I look forward to taking a walk  in the woods later.  There’s something calming about the frosted, still trees in such weather.

When I returned home yesterday, I saw a deer at the entrance of the trail.  She was eating a pumpkin left there.  I immediately knew where I would later make offerings to An Cailleach.  This morning, I left my home to hear the call of an owl before I headed out into her storm.  The Winter Crone is definitely all around us. She is on my mind quite a bit this time of year.  She calls, as she does each wintertime, demanding my attention.  She teaches humility.

Winter Solstice Eve

Last year, I took a personal day on the Winter Solstice. This year, I used one for Samhain and don’t feel right asking for tomorrow given various things happening at work. I’m mildly resentful tonight as I work myself exhausted trying to make tomorrow a fun and memorable day for my family. I still have things to do for family and friends who celebrate Christmas instead, but I’m ready for our family celebration. I even have dinner ready to cook in the crock when I get up. That way, I can return from work and just relax (while sewing and crocheting some gifts). 

Working tomorrow means no attempt at a vigil tonight, but we did continue with some new traditions from last year. We made sun and snow sugar cookies. I read Bee a Solstice book before bed, then sang her the Pagan “Silent Night.” We made an offering of a cookie to our Ancestral Morhers, turned off all the lights, and thought about the longest night, darkness, the sun, and rebirth. 

I’m exhausted, but it’s worth the effort. Enjoy your longest night! Whether you stay up or rise early to greet the reborn sun, may you take a moment to give thanks for the miracle that is the sun and our very existence as we loop around him each year. 

Three Cranes Grove is doing their annual 12 Days of Solstice-Along starting tomorrow!  Like other ADF Druids, I try to follow along in some capacity each year.  Now that my daughter is a little older and more aware, I wanted to do something different to make it very kid-friendly and also help us keep track of the days.  Browsing the internet, I saw that several people make paper chain advent calendars, so I thought – why not!?  It’s something the two of us made together using some of her construction paper.

It was also a fun way to review numbers with her. I wrote a number (1-12) on each strip of paper. She added decorations of suns, snowflakes, and happy faces. Inside each loop, there is a very short description for the day’s focus. I basically followed past “Solstice Alongs,” but I changed the 11th night from “Bringing in the Boar” (which I always struggled with) to a night to honor the Ancestors.

Here’s my plan this year:

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil – Call my mother, make offerings to ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and make a point to discuss darkness when we turn off all the lights before bed. Vigil? On a work night? Haa…. I wish.  Maybe we’ll make some paper suns tonight.

12/21 Solstice Day – I will rise and get ready for work, but take some time to greet the sun with prayers and offerings.  We’ll later have my family gathering with feasting. I told my daughter we will celebrate the sun’s birthday today. We will exchange gifts.

12/22 Nature Spirits – We’ll take a walk outside and give offerings to the spirits.  Perhaps we will wassail the trees?

12/23 Feast of Fools –  I think we’ll emphasize doing fun, goofy things, and in the spirit of Saturnalia, we’ll let our daughter make some big decisions. Oh boy…

12/24 House spirits – We’ll make offerings to the house spirit (first time here!) and tidy up a bit.  We’ll also give an offering to the spirit of generosity in the form of Santa Clause.

12/25 Sun Child – I read that the original creator of the Solstice Along tweaked this day to honor the sun child. We will make offerings to Angus this day and visit family for their other celebrations.

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – We’ll plan to take another walk outside and make offerings to An Cailleach.

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – We’ll make special offerings to the trees. If we didn’t wassail earlier, we’ll do it today for sure!

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – We’ll honor Brighid and thank her for keeping our home warm.

12/29 Shining ones – We’ll honor the gods and goddesses our tribe honors at the main altar.

12/30 Honor Ancestors – This was the “bringing in the boar” day, but I’ve decided to make this an occasion to honor all my ancestors.

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, and saining the home.

I hope that making the chain will help my daughter feel more involved.  I’ll share some reflections later!  Best of luck as you prepare for your own celebrations.