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Posts Tagged ‘An Cailleach’

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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Offering_to_Cailleach

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.)

2016_SnowMan

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.

Photo Dec 25, 1 55 46 PM

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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YuleAlongDay1

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

If you read my post from yesterday about getting ready for the Winter Solstice, you’ll remember that I’m (virtually) joining with the Three Cranes Grove to take part in their annual Yule Along.  Today is the day to begin and welcome the winter wanderer.  Since a day to celebrate winter and snow comes later, I felt that, although An Cailleach fits the role of winter wanderer, she is better suited to the later.  Instead, my family gave offerings to Manannán mac Lir.  As a gatekeeper deity, it seemed fitting to honor him as we start our winter festivities.  We prayed that he help us focus on the Kindreds and the truly important aspects of the season rather than becoming distracted by anything that would close the doors on our spiritual connections – gift anxiety, family drama, baking stress…

We also decided to adopt a tradition our German grovie Holda taught us.  Each day of the Yule Along (essentially the “Twelve Days” everyone sings about), we’ll draw a card that corresponds to one month of the coming year.  Tonight we drew a card for January 2014.  The boar brings tidings of challenges but also the warrior spirit, indicating that we have what it takes to survive.

You’ll notice I haven’t had a chance to decorate my altar yet.  By the time we finished dinner, it was dark out and we needed to get groceries for our feasting! Thankfully, my other grovie Tara gave each of us a rock painted with mistletoe!  That is on my altar and standing in for all the beautiful greenery I’ve yet to collect.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.  It is “Mother’s Night” and I’m going to honor my own mother, my ancestral mothers, prepare the home and, somehow, make some time for myself.

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I’ve decided to try and reinvigorate my spiritual practice by joining the Three Cranes Grove and their “Yule Along”.  They came up with a Norse-inspired schedule but have invited others to experiment with their own hearth cultures.  So as I prepare for my normal Winter Solstice celebration, I’m also preparing for several days worth of spiritual work.  It will likely consist of a lot of offerings and prayers.  If possible, I will meditate.  My plan is to work with my husband to set aside some time each night for quiet contemplation and togetherness.  No tv, no video games, no movies, no social networking.  Thankfully, this falls during my holiday vacation so I will have more free time throughout the day!

As I gear up, I am going to make sure I have enough offerings.  I’m also going to add some seasonal decor to my altar in the form of evergreen boughs.  Finally, I am planning my family Solstice meal.  This year, I’m preparing to make a quiche.  Weretoad has expressed an interest in making pecan pie – one of my favorites!  I also want to start some new Solstice traditions that Bee can enjoy for years to come – family games, story telling, and maybe some singing.

Here is the rough draft of my schedule:

12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer – I am going to make offerings to Manannán mac Lir as the gatekeeper, tidy up the home, and mentally prepare myself

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil (which I can totally do because it happens on a WEEKEND!) – Call my mother, make offerings to my ancestors, especially my ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and get ready for vigil

12/21 Solstice Day – family gathering with feasting and honoring Angus

12/22 Nature Spirits – take a walk outside and give offerings

12/23 Feast of Fools – not sure what to do here yet…  Thoughts from fellow ADFers who have done the Yule Along before?

12/24 House spirits – offerings and tidying up

12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – offerings to An Dagda and time with family

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – another walk outside and offerings made to An Cailleach

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – special offerings to the evergreen trees

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – offerings made at her shrine in my kitchen, meditation if possible

12/29 Shining ones – offerings at the main altar

12/30 Bringing in the boar (Lugh – deities/spirits concerning oaths) – offerings made

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – a celebration with friends

1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time, putting evergreens back outside, cleaning the home, and thanking the gatekeeper

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