Posts Tagged ‘altars’

… On the cabin window.

I did my morning meditation and yoga on a dock facing Star Lake. It’s been a relaxing Lughnasadh weekend full of swimming, kayaking, board games, and good company. 

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It’s a hot and humid day, but it’s also overcast with a call for rain. Probably not the best time to visit the beach… The extra shade means it’s more comfortable outside than in, though, so it’s a great day to explore outside but stay close to home in case we need shelter. So Bee and I went for a little nature walk to pick flowers for our family altar and Brighid shrine. While we explored, I introduced my daughter to some flowers such as chicory, Queen Aunne’s lace, St. John’s Wort, and red clover. We found some others that I wasn’t sure about, but that’s part of the fun of exploring! We also checked in on the black berries. No flowers or even buds yet.  It was a fun way to spend time with my daughter and the Nature Spirits.  Of course, we gave offerings before picking, and I told Bee how important it is that we don’t pick too much from one area.


Taller flowers went on our family altar.

Actually walking among Nature, exploring, and learning together, then bringing some back into our home with permission, makes the High Days, and everything in between, come to life.

20160708-145634.jpgSmaller flowers on our Brighid shrine.

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Bealtaine is one of my favorite holidays.  One reason is simply because, unlike the Spring Equinox, Bealtaine truly brings the warmer weather to Northern NY.  Another reason for my fondness is that it’s basically my unofficial Pagan anniversary.  I don’t know exactly when I started the conversion process, but my first experiences with two Pagan groups that shaped my practice occurred on two separate Bealtaines.  I get really excited about the High Day.


A small coven invited me to celebrate with them this weekend, but that didn’t work out for health reasons.  My husband and I contemplated visiting our friends at Muin Mound Grove, but we ultimately decided to stay closer to home and rest.  A marathon Bealtaine would have been fun, and would have taken me back to my college days when such a feat would energize rather than exhaust me.  Nowadays, I’m a little more subdued, and my daughter keeps me so busy that I’m worn out before we even leave the house!  I know many Pagan families with older children who are able to take long trips in order to attend multiple gatherings or festivals – I look forward to doing that again down the road.

So, staying home, I focused on the home.  I cleaned it as best as I could, although I admit it’s never entirely clean.  There’s always something in progress in my kitchen… I’m very hearth-centered, so I suppose that makes sense! I cleaned my altars, which Bee found fascinating as it gave her a chance to look at everything.  We decorated our family altar with symbols of the season.  We even made a little May bush with fallen birch and apple branches.  We each picked colored ribbons to tie to the branches.  It looks very festive!

In addition to making dinner, I made some scones on Bealtaine eve.  We offered some to the Good Folk.  This morning, I made pancakes as my mother told me my grandmother always made pancakes on the first of May.  I love learning about and continuing family traditions, especially when they somehow line up with my High Days!  Of course, an offering of said pancakes was made.

We did a little ritual the night before in which we gave offerings to the Kindreds and the Good Folk.  We jumped over our altar candle for blessings and purification.  Bee thought this was great fun.  She wore the flower circlet I crocheted, a tutu, and her new ballet slippers – she’s quite the performer!  This morning, it’s raining, so I just collected the rain water for purification and healing work.  I made offerings to the only flowers blooming right now – lovely purple ground ivy – and picked a few sprigs to offer to the Good Folk on my doorstep.

Simple and sweet, but certainly inspired by tradition and full of fun and meaning for my family.  Now we will look forward to the big protogrove celebration next weekend!

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.


Although it’s started to feel like Spring in Northern NY, there aren’t any flowers yet. If you’d like to get your little ones excited about the coming season and want to add some color to your altars and nature tables, here’s a craft I came up with.  It will take a few hours or a couple of days depending on how long you let the stems dry, but that lesson in patience can easily relate to waiting for real flowers to sprout and bloom.  It also encourages hand-eye-coordination and practice with colors.  My daughter is almost three, and she really enjoyed this activity.  She loves seeing her art on our family altar!  It makes her feel part of the celebration.


  • popsicle sticks
  • non-toxic green paint
  • brushes
  • lots of rags or paper towels to clean up (inevitable!)
  • a variety of colorful ribbons cut into small strips (older children practicing their cutting skills could help with this part)
  • tacky glue
  • a vase, flower pot, or basket for display


  1. Give your little one a few popsicle sticks, green paint, and a brush.  Encourage him or her to paint them, and talk about stems and their color.  Let these dry for a few hours or overnight.  Discuss patience and what that means.  Maybe use this time to plant some seeds for real flowers!
  2. Once the stems are dry, show your child all the pretty ribbon petals.  Maybe look at some photos of flowers for inspiration, and show how the petals look.
  3. Adults can put a small dot of glue at the top of each stick.  Toddlers can then place a petal.  Keep adding glue and petals until the child feels it’s done.  If your child is anything like mine, they will look a bit wabi-sabi.  That’s okay!
  4. Repeat for each stick and let dry for a few hours.
  5. Display on your altar or nature table, or give as seasonal gifts!

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Offerings to the Peacemakers

An offering of incense at my ancestral altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to make an offering at my ancestral altar and give thanks to my ancestors, of blood, heart, and place, who have worked to make the world a better place for all of humanity.  In particular, I called on the peacemakers who have worked towards equality and love.  May their spirit continue to inspire the living.

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I honor and work with the Three Kindreds: the Nature Spirits, Gods and Goddesses, and the Ancestors.  The later tends to fall to the sidelines all too often in my daily practice, which is very unfortunate.  I pride myself and my tradition for paying better  attention to the beloved dead, but I know I have room for improvement.  And since most cultures who venerate ancestors share the belief that they are more likely to help you than the other spirits due to their vested interest in the tribe, it makes sense to keep that hospitality flowing!

A fellow ADFer really inspired me by posting about having coffee with her ancestors.  I’m not much for coffee, but I could surely share tea!  The only problem was that my ancestor altar had become a tiny corner on my bookshelf which is relegated to a hard to reach corner in our new place.  Boo!

It suddenly occurred to me that I had space over the hutch my father refurbished for me!  What’s more, it is in the dining room where I can enjoy a cup of tea with my ancestors!  And not only that, they can join us for every meal!  (Talk about super convenient for Samhain!)

My ancestral altar, all moved in to the dining room. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

After I moved the altar to its new home, I felt called to make some Irish soda bread.  I never made traditional soda bread before, so I searched for a manageable recipe.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it without raisins or caraway seeds, but it came out wonderfully!  And of course, the first piece went to the ancestors.  Today, as Bee and I enjoyed our breakfast, I shared some tea with my ancestors, invited the beloved dead, and delved into some Celtic studies.  It occurred to me the ancestors were talking to me through the history book…  How appropriate.

My first attempt at baking traditional Irish soda bread! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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My time is limited and, as a result, I haven’t felt pulled to make the very detailed, large dolls I made prior to pregnancy.  Those will come again, but I’ve recently found myself returning to my roots and making dolls with very simple shapes.  Some may view that as backwards, but something Phillip Carr-Gomm said in the latest Druidcast really spoke to me.  He compared the movement of people back to religions inspired by very ancient myths to salmon returning to their spawning ground and taking part in a cycle rebirth.  Not only did it make sense to me in regards to Druidism’s place in the modern world, but it dawned on me that I was experiencing the same thing in my art.  Motherhood has transformed my life in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand.  It is impacting my art.  Everything has to be reborn in this new phase of my life.

You may have seen the Waldorf-inspired gnomes I’ve been making for my daughter.  They are akin to my early exploration of doll making.  Limbs are very complicated and so I’m not bothering with them so much right now.  Recently I’ve been wanting to spend less time on constructing the form and more on adding soul.  I decided to make a new Brighid doll for my altar.  I’ve said this many times, but I’m a proponent of using your talents to make your own ritual tools.  For me, the desire to create representations of deities for my altars is what brought me to doll making in the first place.  I retired my original Brighid doll.  She was very top-heavy and required a metal and wooden stand.  With baby just months away from walking, it seemed like a safety hazard.  Brighid has a new home upon my altar and in a form that matches my evolving understanding of her.  She is more voluptuous, draped in a tartan cloak “pined” with a Celtic knot button to represent her smithcraft and art in general.  Although I did not make limbs in the usual sense, her hand peeks out from her cloak to magically hold her sacred flame, something I needle felted using dyed sheep wool (also very appropriate for this Goddess).

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m rather happy with how she turned out.  As I worked on this Brighid doll, the Goddess sent her inspiration to me and I’ve already started to dream up another doll to represent another Goddess I’ve been working with.  In the meantime, I’m planning to ritually consecrate this doll in Brighid’s name to create a “home away from home” for her, thus facilitating communication.

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