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Posts Tagged ‘An Cailleach’

Grateful for Warmth and Light

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Candlelight – photo by M. A. Phillips – 2020

The power came back on a few minutes ago. It’s been out since ten in the morning. Where we live, electricity is pretty cheap, so that’s how we heat our home. Unfortunately, we’re at a disadvantage when the power goes out in the winter.

It didn’t really bother us until a few hours in. Then the house grew noticeably colder. We dressed in multiple layers, found our flashlights, and lit candles. The cats lounged with us under blankets on the couch. It was quite cozy, but I worried about the pipes and everyone’s comfort during bedtime.

There are things I’d like to do to better prepare for such instances. My long term goal is to add an extension to the house and include a wood stove in the plans. Not only is it a reliable, safe source of warmth in these emergencies, it would have allowed us to cook.

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Cheerful winter offerings. Photo by M. A. Phillips – 2020

Brigid and the Winter Crone were in my thoughts today. I made offerings and prayed for warmth, to give thanks for what we have, and for safety. Losing the power during a blizzard for most of the day is an inconvenience for us, but nothing serious. None of us rely on any equipment for our health. We had shelter from the storm. We had plenty to eat, and my husband picked up some warm dinner on his way from work. We had our phones and a robust data plan, but I did stop using mine after a while just in case. We’re remarkably blessed.

Had it gone on more than a day, things could have been bad, especially for the pipes. I’m grateful to Brigid for warmth and light, to An Cailleach for wintry lessons of humility, and to all the people out there working to restore power.

Sometimes it takes annoyances to put everything into perspective.

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Sun shimmering on ice. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

As my path is bound to the land, I continually work to pay attention to the seasons. In Druidry and other polytheistic paths, we tune into the cycles. Tradition emphasizes agricultural shifts, but they are always linked to whatever song the bioregion is singing at the time.

In elementary school, teachers taught us about the four seasons. I don’t doubt that my parents taught me first, but I distinctly remember dividing a circle into four equal parts and filling it with different colored balls of scrunched up tissue paper in a primary classroom. Yellow flowers, green leaves, orange leaves, and white snow. As I grew up and embraced a polytheistic view, everything become more complex. In a good way!

Many of us modern Pagans subscribe to some form of the Wheel of the Year. I’m not here to untangle that cultural knot, but there’s no denying many of us celebrate roughly eight holidays. Some may practice more or less depending on cultural focus. Then there is the emphasis some place on the lunar cycle.

This time of year, where I live, it is still winter. While others around the globe post photos of flowers or spring floods, we have a foot or two of snow on the ground. In my opinion, February is the hardest month. Many of us in Upstate New York are at our limit of tolerance for the white stuff. Even while I strive to find the silver lining and embrace the Winter Crone’s lessons, her teaching is arduous and painful at times. February brings more daylight. The sun melts the snow, but the temperatures drop below zero at night. Each morning, there’s a new layer of ice. The photo above is my driveway. It’s a sheet of hazardous winter glass hungry for broken bones. To get to my car, I’ve started wearing a pair of ice fishing cleats.

Our winter is more nuanced than a picturesque Christmas card. December, January, February, and March each have their own defining characteristics. The Winter Crone performs a different spell for each and alters her teachings. Paying attention to the subtle changes can enrich our daily practice. As we develop a ritual of mindful observation each month or lunar cycle, we should start to notice patterns – seasons within seasons. These will fuel our traditional practices and perhaps inspire new customs.

 

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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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An offering of locally made whiskey for An Cailleach.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We had an unseasonably spring-like Imbolc, but An Cailleach isn’t done with us yet!  Northern NY will experience some seriously frigid temperatures tonight into tomorrow, and we’re experiencing lake effect snow today.  Visibility has been pretty poor around my home.  Many local businesses and offices closed or never opened today, and I was fortunate enough to stay home.  Perhaps that colors my judgement today, but I try to stay positive about the winter weather.

Since I’m an animist and a polytheist, I find it really difficult to moan too much about what Nature does. It just feels seriously disrespectful. Sure, I grumble a bit when I have to brush and scrape the car, then drive in potentially hazardous conditions… but if I want to maintain a healthy relationship with Nature and the spirit realm, I need to find the silver lining and give gratitude for blessings known and unknown.  I need to accept Nature’s rhythms to truly learn and grow in my Druidism.

An Cailleach surely blesses us with snow.  Northern climates need this as it will help with the later harvest.  It helps to control populations of parasites and disease carrying critters.  Many seeds require cold to germinate later.  Furthermore, the snow and cold teachers us humility and patience.  In our modern world, so full of conveniences, few things shake humanity out of the illusion of control like difficult weather!  And really, I feel quite blessed to live in a place that experiences an occasional ice storm or blizzard compared to hurricanes or tsunamis.  Man oh man, it must be hard to find the blessings in that! (I’d be curious if readers in other climates and locations have found blessings and would be willing to share.)

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Snow Day Snowman – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

A snowy day is a great day to get in touch with your inner child, too.  Having a little one forces me to reconnect with the whimsy of winter!  Taking the time to catch snowflakes on our tongues, make snow fairies, and build snowmen is still so much fun!  (Although rolling balls for snowmen really makes me feel my age.  Choose the pain you’d like to experience later – knees or back!)

After making offerings to the Nature Spirits and playing in the snow, it’s so nice to come inside, peel off those wet gloves, and enjoy some hot cocoa.  My husband makes a delicious batch from scratch!  As I hold the mug, I feel Brighid’s warmth flowing into me.  I feel gratitude for the lessons and blessings that come with enjoying An Cailleach’s wintry weather and Brighid’s warm, sheltering hearth.

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The week’s stress comes to a head on Sundays, and the call from the forest is strongest then.  Come dance with the trees!  Come lose yourself in the quiet!  Come heal!  So I listen and go.

It snowed last night.  Not a dusting but a proper, North Country snow.  Everything was melting over the last couple days, but my trek to the forest once more found me knee-deep in cold, white dunes.

The forest welcomed me.  It seems, whenever I reach the hedge and ask permission to enter, a great wind blows and beckons me further in.  There was a stillness, but it was a comfortable stillness.  An anticipation, really; a “let’s hunker down and weather this once more” sort of feeling.  In the distance, returned song birds chirped, promising the green season to come.

An Cailleach has shaken her cloak once more so it felt right to visit an old tree in the woods that I have gone to for several years when I want to speak with her.  There is definitely something of her about it.  It is gnarled and full of holes.  It is the hag tree in the woods.  I made offerings – corn for her deer herds and a big, thick slice of homemade bread for the Goddess herself.  Some UPG I’ve received repeatedly is that she loves homemade bread.  I thanked her for the many lessons of winter.  Once more, she has taught us that we are not in charge.  The seasons shift when the spirits and the Natural World feel it is right.  All we can do is adapt and be patient.

After  giving the offerings, I stood and closed my eyes.  I listened to the sounds of winter.  The wind howling through the branches, the trees creaking…  It’s the voice of An Cailleach.  Soon she will quiet and I will have to wait to hear her whisper and shout again.

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It’s the Spring Equinox and it’s snowing in the North Country.  Go figure.  Of course, if you look, you’ll find signs of spring all over.  Nature just doesn’t throw a switch and say, “Tada!  Spring now!”  The transition between seasons is a gradual process full of growth and decline.

I spent the last couple weekend nature walks seeking signs of spring.  I’ve already remarked about the buds on some of the trees.  There are also small patches in the forest where the snow has melted, leaving  lush puddles to sparkle in the sun (when she decides to show her face).  The sounds of winter – ice falling from branches, red squirrels chattering, morning doves cooing – are starting to find new accompaniment from migrating song birds.  I’ve heard their chant but not seen them yet!

Green! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Closer to home, now that the snow is starting to melt, there are patches of brown and green grass.  There are also patches of other plants, like what I believe are mallows*.  Oh, it makes my heart so happy to see the green…

The last time I left the forest, I stopped at a tree stump that always makes me think of An Cailleach.  I thanked her for the lessons of winter.  We’ve had a long, hard one but it teaches us patience, humility, and togetherness.  These sort of winters also force us to reflect on our level of disaster preparedness.  An Cailleach reminds us that we aren’t as in-control as we’d like to think, and it’s good to be reminded that.  Each season has a way of making the others all that much sweeter as the wheel turns…

May you have a very blessed Spring Equinox!  Go seek out the signs!

* If you’re an experienced forager and would like to chime in on whether or not those are, indeed, mallows that I photographed – I would appreciate your wisdom!

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I hope everyone has been enjoying their Yuletide season!  We just returned from a lovely visit with family.  It is always difficult for me to keep up with rituals when I return home, but I did my best to be mindful of the days.

The Sixth Day of Yule

This day was dedicated to the house spirits which was apt because we prepared to leave home.  I did my best to tidy up a little and made offerings to the house spirits and prayed that they protect everything while we were away.  Upon returning, we gave another offering in thanks for that protection.

The Seventh Day of Yule

My family celebrates Christmas.  Some are Christian and attend mass, while others are agnostic or atheist and embrace it as a secular holiday.  Observing the Twelve Days of Yule has helped me better reintegrate the day into my own practices.  As so many have already said, gift giving is an ancient winter custom and, when you have family who celebrate Christmas, it’s difficult to avoid doing it ont he 25th of December!   This was a day to honor the spirits of generosity and abundance.  For me, that would include the modern amalgamation that is Santa and An Dagda of the Tuatha dé Danann.  While I did not get to make an offering until returning home, the spirits of generosity were very much present.  We received many lovely gifts and I had fun giving my family some handmade items such as this table runner I quilted for my mother.

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

The Eighth Day of Yule

A time to honor the spirits of snow and ice!  Driving home from our visit, lake effect snow started to hit our region.  Big fluffy flakes have been falling upon the land, covering the crusty layer of ice from earlier in the week.  The North Country hasn’t fully thawed out.  The ice still clings to buildings and trees.  Many of the later are still bent over and, in some cases, broken.  I looked out the car window and thought about An Cailleach and all of her power.  The snow and ice is all at once beautiful and destructive.  These weather conditions are good reminders for the many seemingly opposite qualities of magic, myth, and nature.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the snow today, but scheduling, slippery ice, and baby care made that difficult.  We poured offerings for An Cailleach inside and spoke words of praise.  

 

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