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Posts Tagged ‘2015’

Despite how sick I was feeling last week, I decided we ought to decorate our tree. We bought a potted tree this year, with the intent to keep her around. My husband brought our box of decorations out, and we hung all our memories. This is the first year that my daughter was visibly excited and able to participate. I put my Winter Solstice playlist on and really enjoyed myself, heavy cough and all.

Somewhere between the felt stars a grovie made and the stained glass Santa my late aunt painted, I realized that my family only really comes together to decorate a centerpiece for the Winter Solstice. My husband and I have always carved pumpkins for Samhain, but those go outside. We’ve almost always dyed eggs for the Spring Equinox, but not for decoration.

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Decorating our potted tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Many people share photos of their altars decked for the upcoming High Day. Outside of the Winter Solstice, and temporary altars my protogrove sets up, I don’t do a lot of seasonal decorating for the holidays. I sometimes put a couple things out on my own, but it’s not really a family affair.  Hanging memories on the boughs of an evergreen is symbolic and so very appropriate for a holiday that has come to symbolize light, family, and togetherness in the darkest times. Decorating with loved ones helps to focus our mental energy on the power and significance of each festival. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive, mass produced knickknacks either! Any holiday is a good time to embrace handmade heirlooms, traditional crafts, and what is naturally available outside.

I recently looked back at my spiritual accomplishments the previous year. Now for a resolution! In the hopes of furthering my own understanding and appreciation of all the holidays I celebrate, and to help engage my family, I am going to make a point to decorate our hearth altar for each season and occasion. I’m sure my toddler will love it!  Yes, this may mean yet more “altar porn” on the internet, but really, what Pagan doesn’t love it?

 

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An "Ancestor Gnome" I sewed for Bee - Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An “Ancestor Gnome” I sewed for Bee – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Another Samhain has come and gone in my household and protogrove. Some, like myself, observed it from October 31st-November 1st (sundown to sundown). Many celebrated this weekend, for reasons of convenience or celestial precision. I know of some people who honor it all month long, which is totally fine, as the veil between this world and the other seems to gradually “thicken” and “thin.”  As for myself and my tribe, 2015 Samhain has ended (though we may sense our ancestors from time to time).

I’m always a little sad when Samhain ends, being an adult who has regular conversations with her inner child.  I love the magic, the mystery, and the socially acceptable guising.  I also need, as most do, the emotional release that comes with meditating on and facing mortality.  I had a bit of a health scare at the beginning of October.  Everything turned out well, but it was enough to make me pause and prioritize!  The fact that a high school acquaintance died in his battle with cancer a few months before really added to my sense of how delicate and precious our time is.

Regardless of what we may or may not believe about an afterlife, the truth remains a mystery to the living.  The here and now, and our time in these particular bodies, is such a gift that should not be taken for granted.  Even when so many of us in the polytheist and Pagan communities believe in some sort of continuation after life, we miss our beloved dead.  Personally, I accept the ambiguity of what happens to our energy.  The fact that our physical remains will go back into the cycle of creation and destruction, and that our bodies will mingle and always be together in some way, is profoundly beautiful to me.  I take comfort in that, and I’m sure many in my protogrove do as well, yet we still mourn our dead.

Northern Rivers’ Samhain Bonfire – photo by Annette P.

Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF, gathered on October 31st at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center to celebrate Samhain.  Despite the biting cold, we had our ritual at their stone circle.  That in itself was an exciting homecoming, and with the added psychic and emotional intensity of Samhain, it meant for a moving ritual.  Many of us were already tearing up as we gave praise offerings to the Ancestors.  When we got to our traditional apple rite, something passed on to us from Muin Mound Grove, some of us actually had to leave the circle for a bit to calm our nerves.  As we passed the apple, a potent symbol for the Otherworld, we named those who had passed since last Samhain.  As we named them, we pushed a clove into the apple.  The group then intoned, “come to the light” to the accompaniment of a chime.  We called the “Young Ancestors” to our firelight to gather with the “Elder Ancestors” who know the ways back to the Otherworld.  Samhain always makes for a long yet intense ritual.

Today I decided to take my household Samhain decorations down.  As you can imagine, there’s always a little sadness as you remove the relics of festivity.  As I packed the skeletons and ghosts away, it felt like the veil closing on the dead. Yet, I reflected, the Ancestors are always there.  I can always call to them beyond the veil, and there’s a chance that they may hear me with the assistance of messenger spirits, strong bonds, or intense emotions.  The spirit world can be a strange thing in that way.  And just as the paper, metal, and wooden skeletons will reappear in my home again, Samhain will also be reborn next year.

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My Ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My ancestor shrine, complete with some Samhain ghosts made by Bee and me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My sister recently lost one of her kitties to old age and disease.  The elderly cat, named “Carmel”, had reached the crazy age of 17 or 18, which is ancient for a cat.  Her hearing was mostly gone, and her eyes were riddled with cataracts.  Her hips and legs were starting to give out on her, and she would randomly fall.  The vet determined she had a lot of issues and was suffering, so my sister made the difficult choice that so many of us who love our furry allies have to face from time to time.

If you look closely at the recent photo of my ancestral shrine, you’ll see a few photos or reminders of furry friends past.  I didn’t have a photo of Carmel, so I just offered some cat food.  I will honor her again at my Samhain ritual.

Some people do not view deceased pets as ancestors, and indeed they do not share our blood… but we can honor ancestors of blood, place, and heart – the later referring to those outside of our families who inspired or guided us.  Yes, our pets are literally nature spirits, but I’ve found that the Three Kindreds are not black and white categories.  For example there are many Gods who take on the appearance of animals or plants.  There are also ancestors who have been deified.  Finally, there are stories in IE myth suggesting that different groups of people can claim plants or animals as ancestors.  While I will never tell someone that they are wrong for not including their dead furry companions in their ancestral workings, it certainly feels appropriate to me.  When Samhain comes, I always invite members of my protogrove to bring mementos of those who have died since the previous Samhain – and I make sure to remind them that representations of fallen pets are welcomed.

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Some plantain leaf and heal-all I harvested. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

I’ve noticed a significant decrease in temperature recently. There have been reports of frost in the Adirondacks, and the chilly nights have already started to impact my garden. Some of the less cold-tolerant plants are starting to wilt or die back. An Cailleach is waking up, and as much as I love autumn, it means that many of our Nature Spirit allies who bless us with food, healing, and other creature comforts are going to go back into the Earth Mother for awhile.

Each year I say I’m going to prepare more than the year before, and I never do quite as much as I hope.  I always have grand plans of stuffing my cupboards with canned or dehydrated veggies and fruit.  One of these days, that will happen, but it won’t be this year.  However, just as I learn more about gardening each year, I also learn something new when it comes to preserving the harvest and preparing for the cold season.

This autumn, I’m trying to save a few little things here and there. For example, I forage for useful herbs as I play with Bee around the house.  As I do this, she is also learning about the world around her.  And even though I just haven’t had the time to can lots of fruits and veggies, I may make bigger batches while preparing our daily meals, then freeze some for later.  Today I made apple pie and prepared twice as much filling as I needed.  Just a little extra effort will make for a sweet reward on a cold, winter day.

Fresh apple pie. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I prepare for the winter in these small ways, I reflect on my gratitude for the blessings of the Three Kindreds.  The Nature Spirits have given me so much in the form of food, shelter, and healing herbs throughout the green season.  In gardening, foraging, and preserving, I am calling on age-old knowledge passed down from my Ancestors.  I give gratitude to Airmed for herbs in my garden and to Brighid for the transformative power of the hearth fire as I cook and preserve.  I thank An Dagda for the abundance we have.  I suppose I could even thank An Cailleach for the chill in my freezer!  (Hmmm… never thought of that before…)

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Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I spent Saturday celebrating early with my lovely protogrove.  We sang, honored the Earth Mother, and feasted on our bounty.  I was honored to lead a friend and grovie’s mother blessing as our magical working.  It was wonderful, and definitely a post for another time.  Today marked the actual Autumn Equinox, and I had a quiet observation with family in the form of dinner – a soup made with homegrown potatoes and locally grown beet greens, a shared bottle of hard cider, and a bit of time outside with my garden.

Many of my plants have gone through their lifecycle, yielding small but enjoyable bounty.  It’s easy to get discouraged by how little I grow in my containers, but I always learn something new, so it’s worth it.  For example, this year I learned a better way to start tomato seeds indoors, had success growing lemon balm from seed, grew a bunch of snap peas (and have started another crop since they’re cold hardy), grew onions from starters, and even had a tiny success experimenting with okra.  Along with a small pile of potatoes, a few tiny cucumbers, a little kale, some small eggplants, five large sunflowers, a surprise pumpkin, and a few pots of herbs, I think I did pretty well for a wee patio garden!

I’m grateful for so much other bounty, though.  My daughter is growing well.  Maybe I can’t grow enough food to feed us all winter on my own, but I’m raising a smart and sassy little girl!  I’ve continued to support my family in many ways, even though times are occasionally difficult.  We pull through together!

Intellectually, I learned how to knit socks, I’m improving my Spanish (yes, my Irish is on hold), growing in my profession, in my understanding of the local ecosystem, and in my understanding of Irish history and lore.  I’m no Morgan Daimler, that’s for sure, but I apparently know enough to have respect in my protogrove*!

Speaking of my protogrove, it’s been a year since Northern Rivers Protogrove experienced a bit of drama in numerous forms.  We persevered and learned from it.  Members who had to take a step back due to health reasons have returned, we’ve gained another new member, and yet another was raised to Folk status after an initiation ceremony.  We are a small group, but we’ve managed to stay active, continually improve our ritual skills, and have become an even closer family.  We’re moving towards full grove status!  Cheer for us!

Spiritually, and related to my role as a grove organizer, I’ve continued to (slowly) work through my various ADF study programs.  I find myself growing in roles that help my community.  Writing and leading rituals has done a lot for my liturgist skills.  My divination skills have been improving too, and one of my protogrove members actually asked me to do a reading for her, which, again, honors me.  I love giving back to my community, and it validates all the hard work I’ve been doing.

While I may not have a cornucopia brimming with tons of homegrown fruits and veggies, I think I’ve done pretty well with this year’s harvest.  What are you thankful for this year?  I hope you take time to count your blessings as you celebrate.

*I seriously admire Morgan Daimler.  I would love to know a quarter of what she does!  Read her books!

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Photo Jul 05, 11 43 06 AM

Our kayaks on the shore of Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Earlier this year, I took to doing weekly omen drawings to gain insight into what would come my way. I recently started to do daily draws for similar purposes, but I use the ogham for that so that I can better learn that system. My weekly drawings utilize my main method of divination: the Druid Animal Oracle. I still love that deck, and I grow more adept at it as I delve further down my Druidic path.

Last week, I drew the bear.  To me, the bear means personal sovereignty.  There is the connection between King Arthur and bears, of course, as well as the connection to the Gualish Goddess Artio (and we know many Goddesses are associated with sovereignty). In addition, bears are quite literally very territorial.  They take what they want, and woe to any human who gets in their way!  I also associate the bear card with hibernation, or rest.

That made a lot of sense to me.  It was my first week of summer vacation, and I truly embraced my inner bear.  I allowed myself to reclaim some of my personal time and energy.  Yes, I attended to basic housework and, of course, ran all over creation to entertain my little one, but I also sat on my butt to read, watch anime, meditate, and just chill.  I really got to wallow in my bear-self over the weekend, when I went with family to a camp on Star Lake in the lovely Adirondacks.

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A loon on Star Lake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I enjoyed lounging in and by the lake.  Summer hibernation, Grey style!  I could get used to a view like that.  I think I could handle getting out of bed to greet the sun shining on the water, then meditate on the dock each day in the green half of the year.  And what better place to be a bear than surrounded by pine trees?  I’m truly grateful for that opportunity.  I hope that one day, I am lucky enough to really drawn on bear’s sovereignty, and have my own home or camp on a lake or river.

What a blessing that would be!  After I’m done being a bear, I’ll have to get back to work with my eye on the prize!

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Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

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