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Posts Tagged ‘altars’

Forest memories.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We’re in the process of buying a home!  We’ve been looking for a few months, and it seemed like we weren’t going to find anything for awhile.  I had a vision of what I wanted, and many homes just didn’t have the right layout (or a dry basement).  One property seemed to have what I wanted, but closer examination hinted at serious foundation issues.  I reached out to trusted seers for insight in addition to my own divination (gratitude to Lady Althaea for the bone readings, and to Melstery   for the runic spread.  I highly recommend them!)  Everything indicated a need for patience.  One reading advised me not to be blinded by an ideal vision, and to be open to other possibilities – while also sticking firm to what I knew I wanted.  That was so on the mark.

The home we are hoping to obtain has a lovely yard with raised beds.  There’s a peaceful shaded area with happy trees, and a stately oak in the back.  The current owners have done no landscaping, so it’s a blank canvas for me to populate with all sorts of magical allies.  There’s a wooded trail across  the street to fulfill my need to wander around green areas.  While the forest may not be “mine,” and the home is smaller than we initially sought, it checks all the boxes.

Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes according to plan with the closing, etc.  The inspection was fantastic (very grateful for my friend’s recommendation).  I cannot wait to move out of my apartment and have more control about what happens around me.  Obviously, it will entail more responsibility – but it will be “mine.”  No maintenance crew coming in to inspect; no unwanted contractors hacking the plants around me; no obnoxious people sharing the same backyard; no more ridiculously high rent.  I can build a permanent shrine outside and form a deeper relationship with the land!

I will miss the forest near my apartment. A proper farewell ritual is in the future, for sure.  I’ve been working with this land for nearly a decade.  I experienced some of the most profound growth of my life among these trees.  I was able to watch more wildlife here than my childhood home.  The land gifted me with many stones, feathers, acorns, and bones.  I saw spirits in my periphery a few times.  Many little treasures have made their way to my altars and shrines.  The forest will always be with me in these memories and gifts.  I look forward to new lessons and experiences as I turn to a new chapter and a new home.

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Cleaning Altars

My clean altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is all about catching up with housework and relaxing before a busy week. As part of that, I decided our main altars were in some serious need of cleaning. It’s the less glamorous side of my Druid practice, but a necessary chore. The altar gets very dirty from burning incense. The cats sometimes go up there to say hello and have a sip of holy water (sigh). And of course, the usual dust accumulates over time.

My daughter was curious about my activity, so I took the opportunity to explain that our altars are like special chairs and tables for our spirit friends.  It’s a place where we can get together and talk easily.  It’s where we put their food, drink, and other gifts.  Just like we have to clean up after our own meals, we need to clean up the altar so the spirits have a nice space to visit.  Even if such earthly concerns are ultimately of little consequence to them, cleaning shows respect and is part of our reciprocity.  It helps us maintain our relationships and our discipline.

I should probably clean the altars and shrines more often…

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… 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.

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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.

Materials:

  • 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

Process:

  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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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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