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Posts Tagged ‘ancestors’

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Daniel’s Memorial Dragon Garden – Photo by John Crump, 2017.

The transition from winter to spring was marked by a tragedy within my own community and grove. A friend, someone I started studying Paganism with back when I was in college, suddenly passed away.  It was very sudden and heartbreaking, especially as he left my friend (his wife), and their daughter on the corporeal realm.  After discussing his wife and daughter’s wishes, the grove (of which he was a member) came up with the idea to create a memorial dragon garden in his memory.  The Yoga Center, where we have most of our rituals, allowed us to keep it on their land near the fairy gardens.

We gathered for the Spring Equinox and created it as a magical working.  It was part to memorialize our friend, part to heal our hearts, and part to strengthen our bonds.  In addition to studying Wicca with him when I was in Utica, he attended Muin Mound Grove for many years, then joined Northern Rivers Grove last year.  The two groves came together to honor him in our working.  It was probably the hardest ritual I ever lead.    As we took turns placing stones or figurines in the garden, we shared memories.  There were many tears and hugs.

I spotted these daffodils growing in the hedge.  I wonder if someone tossed a potted plant and now they’ve gone feral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We focus so much on rebirth at this time of year. The death of a friend and grovemate has had me focusing on the death part that is so necessary for the cycle to renew. We get caught up with the flowers in the spring that we can forget the decaying leaves that nourish the plants. Honestly, thinking about how I will go back to the Earth and contribute to that gives me a strange comfort. All the same, it doesn’t make these partings any easier.

No buds, but the wildflowers were growing in late April.  I need to go back and visit…  Red trilliums are such a beauty to behold.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I collected big, heavy bag of trash in the woods for Earth Day.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I went into the woods around Earth Day to keep with my tradition of picking up some trash that time of year. I usually try to pick up some trash whenever I go into the woods, but I put in extra effort around Earth Day. The effort is my offering to the local spirits. I wondered if any of the Dead lingered in the woods, watching me remove the garbage…

We celebrated Bealtaine with laughter and joy. We danced around a Maypole and we jumped the embers for cleansing and good luck. We missed old friends, those who moved away, and our friend who passed beyond the veil. We called on the fertility of the land, and I contemplated the role our Ancestors have in abundance.

Shortly after Bealtaine, I took part in my friend’s very small and private funeral. We met up with his family, another grovie, and a friend from the eclectic circle in Utica. There were elderly people and babies gathered in a small circle of mud boots and umbrellas.  We were surrounded by trees that held great significance to my departed grovemate and the most magical balancing stones. The sky cried buckets.  While others moved soil, everyone chanted:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
And fire my spirit…

I thought of all the Dead around us, mingling with the soil, the waters, the air, and in our own spirits…  It was a sublime moment.  One that will stay with me forever.

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I posted this on my private FB feed today, but I decided that I wanted to share it here too.  If you are a friend or you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been very supportive of the Water Protectors in North Dakota.  You know I’ve been sharing news stories that, otherwise, many may not be exposed to on television.  I have not done anything on my blog, so I wanted to share this because, every year, I seem to do an annual grumble about Thanksgiving.  So ’tis the season!  Seriously, though, I feel very strongly about this.  It feels hypocritical.

I shared this link to “The Women of Standing Rock are Midwifing a Global Movement” and said this on it:

“A nation isn’t defeated until the hearts of their women are on the ground.” Powerful words. Watch the videos in the link.

Going into the month of November, ideas swirl in my mind. I think of Thanksgiving, something that has, symbolically, become more unsavory as I grow and learn. Autumn Equinox is when my immediate family and my people get together to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest – literal and metaphorical. This other day of gratitude in November is so tied up with the dominant culture’s damaging lies, perpetuating the idea that everyone got together and it’s all okay. I don’t think I can do that this year, not anymore, not even as a facade to make family happy, when this is happening. Even if it only gets my family to think about it more… but imagine if more of us said no. We didn’t go to or tune into Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; we didn’t buy all those turkeys and canned sweet potatoes; we didn’t fuel the greed machine by participating in Black Friday. Imagine the message that would send… I think that’s something I need to consider doing and sticking to this year. If not now, when?

Know that I will not judge those of you who still want to gather with your family. Being with family is always a good thing. Giving thanks is always a good thing. Do use the time to discuss and meditate on the cultural symbolism of the day, though. You cannot ignore that, especially with everything going on. I can’t leave my home, my family, and my job to join the protest – even somewhat local gatherings.  I have responsibilities in the form of loans and rent to pay.  I keep lamenting that I don’t have enough money to send the Water Protectors to help them maintain their camps and pay their legal fees, but what if we didn’t spend some money on factory farmed turkeys (or Tofurkeys in my case) and, instead, sent that to the camp?  What if we all did that act?

Either way, if you support the Water Protectors like I do, let’s send a strong message this November and show our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters that our love of the Earth, the Nature Spirits, and Ancestors of Place is not just lip service.

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Fun Find

With Samhain right around the corner, stores are full of decor that makes many of us excited. While I usually prefer supporting artisans or making my own tools, I saw this ceramic cauldron at Target and it was exactly what I wanted for my Ancestor shrine. I like to give offerings of beverages, usually tea, and I’ve often felt that their shrine deserved a special cup or bowl. Well there we are – the cauldron of rebirth. I do intend to commission a friend who does ceramics when she is ready and when I can afford it, but this will do for now. 

My Ancestor Shrine – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

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As one last hurrah before our summer vacation ends, my family took a day-trip to Oswego, NY, to see the Draken Harald Hårfagre.  It’s a modern viking ship that traveled from Norway, down the St. Lawrence River, through some of the Great Lakes, and is now going to move through the Erie Canal, heading to New York City. The crew stressed that it’s a modern viking ship, based on historical evidence and craftsmanship, but also equipped with modern navigation technology, bathrooms, and diesel engines.  Its 21st century conveniences don’t detract from its magnificence, and the people on board have weathered Atlantic storms and maneuvered around icebergs.  They have a lot of respect for their Viking Age predecessors.  We’ve been following their voyage via Facebook and their website with great interest.  My husband has been especially interested in it since he has Norwegian ancestry and has always been drawn to Norse culture.

Of course, the front of the ship had a remarkable dragon head! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

The red sails were down, but the mast was still impressive! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

The ship was obviously built by skilled craftsmen. A lot of detail, inspired by Viking culture, covered the skip. These beautiful carvings were on the front of the ship leading up to the dragon head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens - Odin's ravens - near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God's corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens – Odin’s ravens – near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God’s corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

 

If you live in NY State and want to see the Draken, she’ll be stopping in Little Falls soon before making her way to New York City. It’s $10 per adult to board, and the short tour is worth it, in my opinion. You’ll be able to get up close and look at all the craftsmanship, smell the pine pitch covering the ropes, see the effort and passion that’s gone into the voyage, and meet with Odin’s ravens. A truly powerful experience.

 

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The entrance of the exhibit challenges you to put aside what you think you know about Vikings.

At the end of February, I got a chance to visit the temporary  Vikings exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History.  It was a wonderful experience, and well worth traveling to if you’re in the region.  There are many permanent exhibits to check out when you’re done learning about Vikings, including a museum just for children and the iMax theater.

The Viking exhibit’s goal was to accurately portray this group of people and attempt to correct centuries old misconceptions.  Entering the dim room, you’re greeted by beautiful maps and photos of the land where the Vikings lived – the origin of the artifacts housed within.  Speakers softly played a very natural soundtrack – birdsong and trickling water.  While the purpose may have been to transport visitors to another time, the dim room also made it feel as if I were walking into a sacred space.

Glass cases housed numerous archaeological finds, and a few reconstructions.  As a parent, I greatly appreciated that they were low enough for my daughter to look into as well.  I didn’t expect her to be as fascinated as she was, and her interest truly delighted me!  Adding to the sense of reverence, one case held bones.  My daughter stared in awe at the skull.  My husband and I told her that that person may even be one of our ancestors.  We looked at a variety of weapons, yes, but of greater interest to me were the women’s artifacts – beads, pins, parts of drop spindles, and key talismans.  I hadn’t ever heard of the later before.  When I first saw one at the museum, I noticed that it looked like a skeleton key, but I couldn’t imagine it functioning!  Indeed, the descriptions described them as possible magical objects, offering protection and power.  They’re believed to have been carried by women of high status – those who ran the homes.  In other words, they may have been a symbol of power among women.  Since seeing them, I’ve been seeing keys, and dealing with interesting key-related scenarios, all over.  I’m still trying to sort through what this might mean to me…

There were various interactive elements in the exhibit.  A feasting table with a “true or false” game built in created an interesting communal area where young and old could learn more together and reflect on changing perceptions.  My daughter enjoyed learning about Viking clothing by pushing buttons to light up different articles and then dressing virtual dolls via a computer game.  Another computer game taught visitors how to play a favoriting Viking board game – Hnefatafl.  My husband and I attempted to play, but Bee insisted on moving all our pieces, much to our amusement!  It reminded me of the Japanese game, go, and I would like to try playing it again.

Other favorite areas in the exhibit highlighted the skilled artisans and craftsmen of the Viking age.  Once more, speakers added to the atmosphere by playing the sound of a hammer shaping a sword.  I got shivers looking at some of the metal deity figures.  Bee really enjoyed touching yarn, wool, and cow hide.  She moved puzzle pieces to see the colors created by different herbs in the dying process – an interesting interactive element that I hadn’t ever seen before in a museum.

Although a small exhibit, and only able to hold a toddler’s interest for so long, I enjoyed learning more about my Viking ancestors.  In particular, I feel that I have a better understanding of the women.  The key charms continue to haunt me, and we’ll see what that means for me in the future.

 

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A friend asked me what my favorite Pagan movies are.  I asked whether he meant documentaries about Paganism, or fictional movies about content that would inspire Pagans.  He said both, so I decided to make a list and share it on my blog!  There are some movies that didn’t quite make my list because they either didn’t feel Pagan/animistic/Earth-Centered enough, because they cast such characters or religions as evil, or because the elements were not developed enough to be meaningful.  There are probably many more films I could have included, but I simply haven’t seem them yet!  I’m sure I’ll need to do a part 2 down the road.  I’m already plotting a list of favorite Pagan and Pagan-inspired television shows!

Documentaries

American Mystic – Focusing on a variety of minority spiritual practices in the US, “American Mystic” examines how individuals in the modern US explore, maintain, and strengthen bonds with the spirit realm.  Included is Morpheus Ravenna, a well-known practitioner of witchcraft and founder of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood, which is dedicated to An Morrigan and her sisters.  Currently, you can stream this movie via Amazon Prime.

Glenafooka – If you’re interested in the living spiritual tradition of Ireland and authentic Irish folk belief in fairies, definitely watch this film!  Included are interviews with people of various ages as they discuss their experiences and traditions.  Click the name of the film, and the link will allow you to stream on your computer.

I Am – This documentary follows one person’s search for the purpose of life despite all the suffering and hardships.  I chose this because, in light of the various environmental problems we face, this film advocates taking responsibility and embracing optimism in doing so. It felt very spiritual without being religious, and could be part of a bridge building, inter-religious workshop or discussion group. “I Am” is available to stream on Netflix.

Modern Druids – Since I’m listing documentaries, I might as well include this 20-minute introduction to ADF Druidism.  Made by Buccaneer Pictures, it explains some of the history and practice of my Druidic tradition.  It’s really a must for anyone interested in exploring ADF and modern Druidism.  If you click the title, it will take you right to youtube!

When the Iron Bird Flies – I’ve talked about this documentary before, and I highly recommend it if you are interested in Buddhism as well as Paganism.  While the focus is entirely on Tibetan Buddhism in the West, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between my spirituality and theirs, particularly the emphasis on respecting nature and study.  It gave me much to contemplate.

Entertainment

Agora – Based on real events, this film depicts the famous female astronomer Hypatia in Roman-ruled Egypt.  In particular, it shows the conflict between Christianity and the older beliefs.  It can be hard to watch at times, but history isn’t always pretty.  Best save this for when the kids visit the grandparents! If you’re like me and will cry at what was lost, keep the tissues handy.  Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

A Letter to MomoI reviewed this film before, so check that out for a more detailed description.  This is an anime and the focus is on Shintoism and how the spirit world interacts with the human realm.  In particular, it explores how we can commune with the beloved dead.  Although there are cultural differences, I’ve noticed many similarities between my modern Druidic practices and Shinto beliefs.  Films like this inspire me.  Set in modern Japan, I can’t help but imagine what Western countries would be like if Paganism hadn’t been so interrupted by Christianity.  You can stream this through Amazon Prime.  A great film for the whole family!

Avatar -Yes, I’m talking about James Cameron’s science fiction movie with blue cat people.  Although many chuckle about it now, when I first saw it, portions of the movie had me in tears because it just captured the deep adoration many of us have for nature, right down to communing with a sacred tree.

Brave – Although this Pixar animation doesn’t delve deeply into Scottish lore, it is a child-appropriate introduction to magical ethics as well as transformation stories which appear in many cultural myths.  Also – will-of-the-wisps!

Labyrinth -Classic Jim Henson, a deliciously whimsical David Bowie, and goblins inspired by Froud – this movie was an influential part of my childhood.  It was probably my first exposure to traditional fairy tale elements such as helpful and trickster spirits, a journey through the underworld/fairy realm that symbolizes growth, overcoming the goblin/fairy ruler, confronting our shadow selves, etc.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and fix that!  Although it can be a little scary, it’s a muppet picture most can enjoy!

Pan’s Labyrinth – Directed by the talented Guillermo del Toro, this modern fairy tail embraces the darkness so often abandoned by other contemporary works inspired by older tales.  A girl must confront a shadowy realm to save her mother and herself.  Pan is a difficult teacher, and the lessons are hard, but such is life!  Malevolent and helpful spirits, screaming mandrakes, and spectacular visuals will surely inspire but have you looking over your shoulder the next time you pray at night.  Unlike the previously discussed “Labyrinth,” this is definitely not a family film due to some gore and violence.

The Lion King King – Another childhood favorite, it would take me several years to realize how deeply this movie influenced my belief system in regards to revering our ancestors.  It’s an excellent introduction for little ones.

My Neighbor Totoro – A must-see for little ones in a Pagan family as well as anime nerds!  Studio Ghibli’s “Totoro” is a heartfelt exploration of how the magic of nature can help people weather life’s difficulties.  More Shinto and Japanese mythology will delight you and warm your heart as soot spirits float through the air and Totoros make trees grow in our hearts and minds.

Practical Magic – Sure, this isn’t an entirely accurate portrayal of witchcraft, but I feel like Hollywood got really close here.  A lot of the philosophy behind what the aunts teach their nieces will be recognizable to most Pagans.  Unlike many films that show witches and folk magic in a more negative light (like “Wicker Man” which, despite the amazing music, I really don’t like very much), it depicts a town accepting their hometown witches.

Princess Mononoke – Another anime and another classic Studio Ghibli film – this is among one of my favorite movies ever.  Once more, it is greatly influenced by Shinto beliefs and the intersection between the human and spirit realms.  Of interest to many who follow an Earth-centered path, “Princess Mononoke” explores what happens when humans throw off the balance of the natural world.  Tree spirits, talking wolves, a heroic wild woman, and a honored guardian of the forest -what’s not to love?

Song of the Sea – Made by an Irish animation studio, this beautiful, moving family film incorporates many themes and spirits that adult Pagans who follow Irish-inspired traditions will recognize.  It’s a story about siblings, love, and selkies.  It’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Do you have any suggestions?  What should I watch and consider for a future list?

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Homemade Pan Boxty – Photo by Grey Catsidhe

It’s been awhile since I tried anything new from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  I made boxty pancakes before, but I decided to try making pan boxty today.  Unlike the former, pan boxty only utilizes fresh grated potatoes.  I didn’t have any mashed potatoes sitting around.

According to Allen, this dish came about in response to famine and poverty.  By grating and then squeezing the moisture out of the potatoes, our Irish ancestors were able to use potentially rotten spuds that wouldn’t work in other dishes.  Pan boxty is dense, crispy, and filling.

The traditional recipe she shared called for six “medium” potatoes.  I think the recipe was for one boxty that could be quartered…  but I was able to make three!  It didn’t specify what size of cast iron pot one should use, so you have some wiggle room when it comes to portions!  (Heck, in a recipe that calls for a “handful” of flour, you can play around…)

Despite its simplicity, boxty is not a quick meal.  You have to grate the potatoes, squeeze the moisture out, and wait for the starch and water to separate.  Each boxty cake takes about thirty minutes to cook, so if you make more than one with a small pan… be prepared to wait around a lot.

If you have the time and energy, making boxty is worth the effort!  They are very delicious, especially with some ketchup (is my mutt American upbringing showing?). The effort they take will keep us from overindulging in these thick, buttery, crispy, potato treats, but I see myself making them whenever I have more potatoes than I know what to do with!

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