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It’s that time of year again – there’s a major Christian holiday with vast cultural reach in America.  Pagans like me celebrated the Spring Equinox last week, but many of the people in our lives are excited for their religious observations this weekend.  There isn’t a big Jewish population where I live, so the default on everyone’s lips is, “Happy Easter!”

Unless you’re someone like me.  It’s like Christmastime all over again.

I’ve come up with several ways to respond that don’t give away my actual religious identity and lack any antagonism.  Nobody means to be a jerk.  While “Merry Christmas” has definitely become a political statement to some, everyone who wished me a Happy Easter as I left work or kickboxing genuinely meant well.

The most common exchange:

Them: Happy Easter!

Me: Thanks!  Have a good weekend!

Sometimes people ask questions.  Those have required some quick thinking, but I’ve got some stock phrases ready now.  I’ve become skilled at equivocating.

Them: Is your daughter excited for Easter?

Me: She loves anything that involves candy.

*

Them: Is your daughter excited for the Easter bunny?

Me: She loves rabbits.

*

Them: Are you taking your daughter to any egg hunts?

Me: We went to one last weekend.  (They don’t need to know it was part of a Spring Equinox celebration.)

*

Them: Any Easter plans?

Me: Relaxing!  (They usually say something like, “Me too!”)

*

 

I’m not ready to explicitly tell people, “Actually, I don’t celebrate Easter,” especially at work.  I have to really, really trust someone to say that.

Have you given any vague answers related to Easter questions?  I’d love to see them.

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Mysteries

It’s officially spring, but we still have snow on the ground here.  All the same, signs of spring abound if you look!  There are buds on the trees, the chives have sprouted, and several song birds have returned.

Having only lived in this house since the late summer, this is our first spring here.  The process of moving in delayed us from getting acquainted with the local nature spirits as thoroughly as I would have liked.  I’m excited to work more at that this year.

I already started over the weekend.  My daughter and I walked around the backyard to look for signs of spring.  The snow is melting, so we could explore some of the plants.  I was intrigued to discover that what I thought were bushes last year are actually sprouting tree stumps!  My husband and I have been talking about planting trees in the back. There’s one large oak tree on the other side of the fence separating us from the cemetery, but we want more shade and privacy. Turns out, we already had some trees!  I’ll be interested to see the leaves after they appear.  For now, these are little mysteries. I’ve been reading about how to care for them so they grow as strong as possible.  I wonder why they were cut down in the first place?

Warrior Shrine

Many ADF Druids participated in the recent Shrine a Day Challenge facilitated by Rev. Jan Avende. While I did not create a shrine every day, I did participate. I intend to post a gallery of the altars and shrines I submitted, but for now, I want to share one I forgot to upload previously. I’m not sure why I failed to add it to the official #shrineaday album, but here it is now. It’s not very fancy. I actually made it on my bedroom windowsill which has a dark curtain, so it’s a bit difficult to see.

I present my warrior shrine!  It’s actually very significant to me because, for the first time, I actually feel that I’m tapping into warrior energy.  Sometime last year, I started to think about what it would be like to take a martial arts class.  If you’re a longtime reader or friend, you know that I’m very interested in anime.  Some of my favorites involve martial arts, and I even started to cosplay a beloved ninja character last year.  I really admire the character.  In the process of transforming into her physically, I started to think about her personality and how she worked hard to transform herself into someone courageous and able to protect her loved ones.  I realized that I no longer wanted to feel weak and vulnerable myself.

This year I decided to stop wondering what it would be like, and I actually signed up for a martial arts class – Muay Thai kickboxing.

A year ago, if someone had told me I was going to enroll myself in a class full of punching and kicking, I would have laughed at that person.  Now here I am, learning how to block, how to do a roundhouse kick, and conditioning my body to some of the most intense physical activity I’ve ever experienced.  Some days, I don’t want to go to class, but I always feel amazing after.  As Imagine Dragons sing in their song, “‘Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins.”  It’s truly addictive, and I grow in confidence with myself each class.

I try to go into each session with an awareness and gratitude to my body, the Earth, and An Morrighan.  I strive to listen to my body and its needs.  I touch the ground and thank the Earth Mother for supporting me before we warm up.  When I feel my body starting to slow down, I imagine An Morrighan, her wings spread as she flies into battle.  Suddenly, I feel lighter, I feel stronger.

On my shrine, you’ll see a wooden dagger my dad made me when I was younger.  I used to read “Redwall” books, and was always inspired by the Redwall warrior.  The dagger was made in that spirit.  The cards represent An Morrighan, but also qualities of the warrior – an eagle for courage, and a boar for the fighting spirit.  I also included my fighting gloves and focus mitts (the later blend into the curtains).  I built this shrine, meditated on An Morrighan, and blessed them.  It was a meaningful experience, and it has encouraged me to go on.

Cemeteries

I took a walk to the cemetery to watch the mist roll over the headstones. I can’t help but imagine spirits migrating over the land when watching it.

Earlier, I told another Druid that cemeteries inspire me. They’ve been part of my life since childhood as I grew up with two down my road. One accompanied an old, abandoned church. The other is strictly for departed pets. I liked walking to them and through them. As a teenager, I took my boyfriends to them to kiss in the shadows. The dead didn’t mind, though the pet cemetery has since cut down the bushes that offered some privacy.

Now I have a large cemetery behind my home. The dad don’t bother me, though I saw some curious spirits peeking at me when we first moved in. I often go up to say hello.

Time takes on a new meaning where the dead repose. Everyday stress melts like ice soaking into Victorian era graves and oaken roots.

Life goes on. Enjoy it. Find joy even amidst the decay.


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.

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.