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Posts Tagged ‘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.

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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.

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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. 

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An Cailleach is wide awake and busy! We woke to a winter wonderland.  My daughter got that excited, magical look in her eyes, and her chief goal for the day was go go outside and sled.  As for myself, I knew I had to make offerings to An Cailleach and get into the trees.

I had already made an offering of bread yesterday.  My UPG is that the goddess loves homemade bread, and she often demands it.  I thanked her for the upcoming beauty and lessons, and I prayed that she would be gentle to my family this year.

Today, after making some offerings at my altar as part of my daily devotional, I brought some maple whiskey outside and poured an offering to her.  I have a bowl in my garden shrine area.  It was full of snow, so it felt very appropriate. I then brought offerings of birdseed, peanuts, and apple outside for the nature spirits, including something for the deer who are sacred to An Cailleach.

The forest pulled me, so I let my feet carry me onto the ATV trail.  There were fresh tracks, but it was delightfully quiet when I was there – quiet save for the pleasant chirp of birds seeking food and a small, gurgling creek I hadn’t known was there before.  The silence of winter gives us the opportunity to explore forests in ways we can’t, or won’t, in the warmer months when they are filled with thorns, tall grass, ticks, mosquitoes, and such. I’m still getting to know the woods around my new home, and I’m glad I gave in to my wanderlust just a bit.

A gurgling stream created a meditative spot in the woods.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

 

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I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and it’s largely because I’ve been so busy with projects. For one, I’m all about costumes. As a large part my family’s celebration involves dressing up, I put a lot of time and energy into costumes for my daughter and myself. I’ve also needed to finish editing and revising the book I had been working on for about a year. As today is November 1st, NaNoWriMo kicks off, and I’m participating! I wanted to finish the first book before beginning the sequel. It feels very appropriate to start a new spiritual year with a new writing project to feed my soul.  An omen from my Ancestors spoke directly about listening to my inner call, after all.

I also completed refinishing a cabinet that became my altar in our new home. I made it my goal to have it up and ready by Samhain, and it feels good to have accomplished that. It is in our kitchen, the spiritual center of the home. There are still things I want to do to improve the area. I intend to hang my tree tapestry over it, and I would like to install a small shelf or two nearby to act as shrines.  But having it up, painted, and filled with all my tools helps me feel more settled.

Our jack-o-lanterns kept away all the mischievous boogies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We kept our tradition of carving pumpkins. I also carved a turnip for inside and outside our home. I brought one up to the border between us and the cemetery, but I waited until sunrise Samhain morning. Last night, after my sleepy trick-or-treater fell asleep, I went outside to peek at the land under the light of the moon. I could just barely make out the headstones, but something kept me from going up there. They wanted their space, it seemed.  When I placed the turnip at the border, I made sure to also bring offerings of drink and apple for the dead who wish us no ill.  I still need to go for a walk in the cemetery itself.

 

Set up our Ancestor shrine just in time!  Photo by Grey Catsideh, 2017.

Along with my main altar, I also got the Ancestor shrine sorted. I have some photos to hang, but it’s mostly the way it was at the old apartment. My daughter helped me make offerings, both last night and this morning. I made pancakes for breakfast today, and she got a little bowl for all of us to put some in. She also stood with me before the shrine to welcome the beloved dead and thank them for their continued guidance and protection. While she slept, I did divination as is traditional. It looks like a good year is in store for us. I certainly pray that comes to pass!

Our Samhain festivities will continue this weekend when we gather with our grove to celebrate.  It’s always an emotional ritual as we call to the newly deceased.  I think I should add a box of tissues to our supply box…  Still, it will be cathartic.  If we don’t confront death head on, life is unbalanced.  Besides, we have much to celebrate, too!  Our beloved dead come back to us, and we have much to learn from them.

I hope my readers have a blessed Samhain as well!

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The actual Autumn Equinox felt more like Summer’s last gasp.  The leaves were changing, but the heat was intense for September in Upstate NY.  It makes me glad that my grove decided to celebrate a week later.  Yesterday was perfect.  The air was finally cool; the wind had a bite.  The sun shined through flocks of happy clouds.  It was the perfect day to stand around a bonfire surrounded by standing stones.

Before ritual, my daughter had seen me working on offerings throughout the week.  I embroidered a token and an ornament.  I decorated a stone.  She saw me go into a liquor store to get Brighid’s favorite.  She decided she wanted to make offerings, too.  Without any prompting, she started to draw pictures for Brighid and the Nature Spirits.  It was so precious.  She even wanted to roll them up and tie them with pretty yarn.  It made my chest swell with pride to see her so interested in giving back to say thank you for all our blessings.  My husband and I even saw her singing along to some of our chants during ritual.

My friend Cassandra lead the rite.  She did a remarkable job, as always.  I’m so proud of her.  She recently completed her Dedicant Path, and now I have a study buddy for the Initiate Program!

Our ritual honored the Earth Mother and gave thanks for the harvest.  Our magical working was to send healing wherever it was needed, and to keep that light with us so that we could remember ways to help.  With everything happening in the world, I feel like I went to a dark place with my ritual parts. We called to various Indo-European Earth Mothers.  I called to Gaia and Macha – both goddesses who were mistreated by others, be they other gods/Titans, or kings and other men.  Gaia was in an abusive relationship.  Macha was betrayed and forced to hurt herself while pregnant, resulting in a curse on all the men of Ulster.  I spoke of outwitting oppressors, and escaping victim-hood.  I spoke of  the Earth as the ultimate mistress, who will always have the last laugh if we mistreat her.  When I called to the Gods, I felt compelled to talk about how we strive to emulate their better qualities rather than their failings, much as children should do with their own parents.  Clearly, the news is getting to me, but I always see ritual as an important time to reflect on the lore, how it relates to what is happening in the now, and how it all translates to our Druidism.

I see the darkness, but I also see my daughter’s growing involvement.  Like a little candle herself, she gives me strength and hope.

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Time for another edition of the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge!  I’m trying not to go out of my mind while I wait for details on the closing.  I’ve always heard that moving is one of the most stressful ordeals, and I believe it because it’s been that way in the past.  But buying a house on top of moving takes the cake.

Day 7 – Yoga Pose

I enjoy many yoga poses.  Tree pose feels very Druidic, and it’s a great way to impress kids, but my absolute favorite is child’s pose.  It is my go-to for grounding, so I’ve already touched on this a bit.  When sending energy back into the Earth after a devotional or spellwork, it feels essential for me to get right down and rest on the Mother.  I haven’t taken an actual yoga class in months, but my favorite moments are entering this post and sitting there for several minutes.  I swear, if I could stop time, I would just to stay a bit longer…

Day 8 – Meditation

No matter how many guided meditations I experience, I always go back to the Two-Powers / Tree Meditations, and simply visiting my inner grove.  They are basic, foundational meditations, but they are essential to my practice.  I can always tailor them to my needs – whether it’s solo or group work, seasonal, energy work, or moving into a trance.  They are good places to start, and a safe base camp for trance.  If I’m away from my altar, I always have my inner grove.  Everything I need is there, really.

Day 9 – Daily Practices

Much of what I’ve already written about for this challenge encompasses my daily practice.  Unless I’m ill or something has disrupted my routine, I start each day in a similar way.  My devotional consists of sitting before my altar, lighting a candle, and filling a bowl with water.  I wave my hand over the flame and touch the water.  I also touch my wand or another representation of the tree.  I’ll usually do a Two Powers meditation which then moves into shielding through the Druid Egg.  I make offerings to the Three Kindred, and say prayers of gratitude.  I may ask for help in some way.
I will then say a divination prayer before shuffling and pulling my daily card from the Druid Animal Oracle deck.  I will briefly reflect on this, give thanks, and ground.

Day 10 – Herb/Plant/Tree

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Mugwort smudge wand – Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I feel very blessed to have mugwort growing in my garden.  I know many other witches and Druids who would love some (although they all seem to have stashes of nettle or comfrey).  Someone saw fit to introduce me to mugwort, so I am working with her.  I want to get to know her better, and this is the time for it.  She’s grown quite tall, but she has not produced flowers yet.  Once she does, I will harvest some of her for later workings.  I made smudge wands last year, and will likely make more.  According to Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, mugwort is traditionally used on the Isle of Man for purification.  On the practical side, many small, annoying flies dislike it.  I also want to experiment with mugwort tea for dream and trancework.

Day 11 – Write a Spell

I came up with this earlier after my daughter jammed her fingers in her dresser door.  I took her fingers between my hands, visualizing healing powers flowing into her.  Then I chanted, “Booboos be gone.  Ouchies too.  You will feel better the whole day through.”  Short and sweet, but it instantly cheered her up after experiencing one of life’s lesser pains.  Always useful with wee ones.

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