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Posts Tagged ‘Autumn Equinox’

The actual Autumn Equinox felt more like Summer’s last gasp.  The leaves were changing, but the heat was intense for September in Upstate NY.  It makes me glad that my grove decided to celebrate a week later.  Yesterday was perfect.  The air was finally cool; the wind had a bite.  The sun shined through flocks of happy clouds.  It was the perfect day to stand around a bonfire surrounded by standing stones.

Before ritual, my daughter had seen me working on offerings throughout the week.  I embroidered a token and an ornament.  I decorated a stone.  She saw me go into a liquor store to get Brighid’s favorite.  She decided she wanted to make offerings, too.  Without any prompting, she started to draw pictures for Brighid and the Nature Spirits.  It was so precious.  She even wanted to roll them up and tie them with pretty yarn.  It made my chest swell with pride to see her so interested in giving back to say thank you for all our blessings.  My husband and I even saw her singing along to some of our chants during ritual.

My friend Cassandra lead the rite.  She did a remarkable job, as always.  I’m so proud of her.  She recently completed her Dedicant Path, and now I have a study buddy for the Initiate Program!

Our ritual honored the Earth Mother and gave thanks for the harvest.  Our magical working was to send healing wherever it was needed, and to keep that light with us so that we could remember ways to help.  With everything happening in the world, I feel like I went to a dark place with my ritual parts. We called to various Indo-European Earth Mothers.  I called to Gaia and Macha – both goddesses who were mistreated by others, be they other gods/Titans, or kings and other men.  Gaia was in an abusive relationship.  Macha was betrayed and forced to hurt herself while pregnant, resulting in a curse on all the men of Ulster.  I spoke of outwitting oppressors, and escaping victim-hood.  I spoke of  the Earth as the ultimate mistress, who will always have the last laugh if we mistreat her.  When I called to the Gods, I felt compelled to talk about how we strive to emulate their better qualities rather than their failings, much as children should do with their own parents.  Clearly, the news is getting to me, but I always see ritual as an important time to reflect on the lore, how it relates to what is happening in the now, and how it all translates to our Druidism.

I see the darkness, but I also see my daughter’s growing involvement.  Like a little candle herself, she gives me strength and hope.

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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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As Lughnasadh starts to turn us towards the Autumn Equinox, and as it is the beginning of the major harvests, I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of our little container garden. Each year, we learn more about our plant allies. Each year, through a mixture of experience and research, we recognize opportunities for growth and improvement.

I harvested several red potatoes this year. This is a better yield compared to last year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I also picked our onions and hung them to dry out a little. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We gave offerings to the local spirits in gratitude for our bounty. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2016.

Not pictured is the basket of tomatoes we gathered, mostly from my husband’s hydroponic buckets. In addition, I also gathered some basil and sage which I hung to dry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our own cupboards. 

I’m also thinking on my metaphorical harvest. I’ve had a fairly productive and joyful summer. My family hasn’t faced as many struggles this season. I have had more opportunities to do things that make my soul sing. I have room to improve, but the harvest is stil good. As we move toward Autumn, I’m already preparing a fall garden. I’m also making new goals – things to sew, books to finish, essays to write… May my next harvest be just as, or more, successful! 

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Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I spent Saturday celebrating early with my lovely protogrove.  We sang, honored the Earth Mother, and feasted on our bounty.  I was honored to lead a friend and grovie’s mother blessing as our magical working.  It was wonderful, and definitely a post for another time.  Today marked the actual Autumn Equinox, and I had a quiet observation with family in the form of dinner – a soup made with homegrown potatoes and locally grown beet greens, a shared bottle of hard cider, and a bit of time outside with my garden.

Many of my plants have gone through their lifecycle, yielding small but enjoyable bounty.  It’s easy to get discouraged by how little I grow in my containers, but I always learn something new, so it’s worth it.  For example, this year I learned a better way to start tomato seeds indoors, had success growing lemon balm from seed, grew a bunch of snap peas (and have started another crop since they’re cold hardy), grew onions from starters, and even had a tiny success experimenting with okra.  Along with a small pile of potatoes, a few tiny cucumbers, a little kale, some small eggplants, five large sunflowers, a surprise pumpkin, and a few pots of herbs, I think I did pretty well for a wee patio garden!

I’m grateful for so much other bounty, though.  My daughter is growing well.  Maybe I can’t grow enough food to feed us all winter on my own, but I’m raising a smart and sassy little girl!  I’ve continued to support my family in many ways, even though times are occasionally difficult.  We pull through together!

Intellectually, I learned how to knit socks, I’m improving my Spanish (yes, my Irish is on hold), growing in my profession, in my understanding of the local ecosystem, and in my understanding of Irish history and lore.  I’m no Morgan Daimler, that’s for sure, but I apparently know enough to have respect in my protogrove*!

Speaking of my protogrove, it’s been a year since Northern Rivers Protogrove experienced a bit of drama in numerous forms.  We persevered and learned from it.  Members who had to take a step back due to health reasons have returned, we’ve gained another new member, and yet another was raised to Folk status after an initiation ceremony.  We are a small group, but we’ve managed to stay active, continually improve our ritual skills, and have become an even closer family.  We’re moving towards full grove status!  Cheer for us!

Spiritually, and related to my role as a grove organizer, I’ve continued to (slowly) work through my various ADF study programs.  I find myself growing in roles that help my community.  Writing and leading rituals has done a lot for my liturgist skills.  My divination skills have been improving too, and one of my protogrove members actually asked me to do a reading for her, which, again, honors me.  I love giving back to my community, and it validates all the hard work I’ve been doing.

While I may not have a cornucopia brimming with tons of homegrown fruits and veggies, I think I’ve done pretty well with this year’s harvest.  What are you thankful for this year?  I hope you take time to count your blessings as you celebrate.

*I seriously admire Morgan Daimler.  I would love to know a quarter of what she does!  Read her books!

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I was up late preparing for my protogrove’s Autumn Equinox celebration, and I woke up earlier than usual on a Saturday to continue my preparations.  I’m not even leading today’s ritual, although I am performing several important parts.  I’m also leading the magical working: a grovemate’s mother blessing/saining ceremony.  There’s a buzz of excitement in the house.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m truly excited.

Remember when you were little and the holidays filled you with so much anticipation?  You could barely contain yourself as the day approached?  For me, I have vivid memories of planning Halloween costumes,  getting up early on Thanksgiving to watch the parade on TV, or impatiently counting down the days to Christmas.  Ah, the magic of childhood…

That never has to go away.  You may celebrate different holidays now, but you can approach them with that exuberance.

It’s hard when you first step on a spiritual path that is different from your family’s, but I think that’s especially so when you’re embracing a minority religion and you are clueless on the community around you.  During my days as a solitary eclectic practitioner, finding my way, I would honor the holidays by myself in my bedroom or, sometimes, in the forest.  The initial buzz of taboo a converted Catholic might feel wore off, and I was left, instead, with a bit of sadness.  Sometimes, it felt too much like an obligation.  Of course, those of us who walk these paths embrace a self-imposed obligation to revive and maintain the old ways, but it shouldn’t be begrudgingly.  We should leave behind the “12 Pains of Christmas” attitude when moving over to the Earth-Centered paths.

Finding community changed everything for me.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone.  I found a spiritual family!  Of course, I’m sure it’s perfectly possible for a solitary practitioner to celebrate the holidays with joy, but for me it didn’t work.  I needed that community.  As a child, I planned Halloween costumes with my parents.  I watched that Thanksgiving parade with my sister.  I counted down the days to Christmas with my family and friends.  Each was followed by celebrating with others, and I crave that community. In my humble opinion, since Druidism is a tribal religion by nature, these very community-centric celebrations are experienced best with others, sharing in the joy.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that, even if my family isn’t Polytheistic or Pagan, we all connect in our appreciation of picking out pumpkins, drinking apple cider, making snowmen, planting in the spring, and that first dip in the river after a seemingly endless winter.  You may not have ritual with your biological family, but you can still celebrate together.

Whether you are part of a grove or not, find your joy and excitement.  Really meditate on what you’re doing and why.  Create an appropriate playlist and fill your home with mirthful sound.  Plan a special, seasonal meal and decorate with plants and harvest to connect with the land.   Plan important magical workings for the day and truly anticipate it.  Embrace the day as a child would.  If you’re like me and you have a child, think about what he or she will remember down the road.  What pleasant nostalgia will fill her heart when she sees the seasons change?

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Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.   The leaves haven’t really changed, but the berries are bright red!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

This is my favorite time of year, so naturally I’m over the moon when it comes to sharing it with my little one.  It’s hard to enjoy traditions, old or new, with an infant, however. This year is a whole new experience!  She’s able to interact with the world around her, so it’s a great time to introduce her to all things autumn.  Here are some of the things we’ve been doing.  Teaching little ones about the cycle of the year, the sacredness of Nature, and our holidays is as easy as seasonal pie!

Autumn Fun with a One Year Old

    • Take nature walks and look at the trees.  Say hello and even give them hugs.  Point out the different colors.
    • Pick apples, clumps of rowan berries, or acorns, and thank the trees for their bounty. In fact, get in the habit of always saying prayers of thanks with your child.
    • Run through piles of crinkly leaves.  (I’d love to make a labyrinth like these people did!)
    • Show your toddler how dried leaves turn into dust when you crinkle them in your fingers.
    • Visit a local apple cider press.  Learn how apple cider is made (Bee was scared of the noisy machines), or at least smell that intoxicating aroma!  Give your little one a tiny taste of an apple cider donut.  Just a tiny one.
    • Visit your local pumpkin patch and let your tot pick out her own pumpkin.  Show her how varied pumpkins can be.  The warty ones are especially fun to touch!
    • We haven’t done this yet, but my plan is let Bee decorate her own pumpkin via finger painting.  (There are some lovely toddler pumpkin ideas here.)
    • Sing fun songs about the season.  An easy one, which goes to the tune of “10 Little Indians,” goes like this:
      One little, two little, three little pumpkins.
      Four little, five little, six little pumpkins.
      Seven little, eight little, nine little pumpkins.
      Ten little pumpkin pals!
    • Find milkweed seeds and make wishes together when you blow them away.
    • Pick the last of the harvest together.  Let your little one eat a few goodies fresh from the vines.  Bee loves cherry tomatoes.
    • Wave goodbye to the Canada geese as they fly south.
    • Make a Samhain playlist and dance to it together.
    • Last year, I chose what my child was wearing for Samhain.  This year, although Bee can’t exactly articulate what she wants to dress as herself, I decided to make a costume based on something she really loves – cats!  Sure, I could dress her up as a favorite fantasy character, but I would rather she recognize what she’s pretending to be.
    • Read interactive books about the season together.  I just gave her I Love You, Little Pumpkin, and she adores it.  It introduces the idea of dressing up, which is one of the most easily accessible childhood traditions.  She especially likes the little mirror at the end of the book.
    • If you haven’t already, make an ancestral altar.  Visit it often as a family.  If possible, take a trip to a family grave. Pray to the Ancestors together, and make offerings.
    • Make some delicious applesauce and enjoy it together.
    • When you wake up to morning frost, tell your toddler a simple story about An Cailleach.  They may not understand everything, but it builds a foundation.  I simply say, “Oooh, An Cailleach is waking up!  Soon, she’ll bring winter back!”

What are some of your favorite ways to share Autumn and Samhain traditions with your little one?  I can’t wait to add to my list and do even more sophisticated things with Bee next year!

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Apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land.  When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!

While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking.  Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.

It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.  Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it.  Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up.  While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!

Homemade goodness. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust.  All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season.  The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling.  Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me.  Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort.  As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.

Drying apple head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls.  As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.  Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.

I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring!   May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!

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