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Posts Tagged ‘baby’

When life gets busy, I tend to feel that my spirituality comes out of focus. Socializing, driving from place to place, and my day job all distract me from my studies. Being a mother and keeping my home is exhausting. So often, I find myself snuggled in a bathrobe, on the couch, watching something on Netflix.  When I log on to the internet, I see others in my tradition discussing the various ADF study programs that they’re working through, and I think of how long it’s taking me…  I’m about ready to give up on trance and magic for now.  I just can’t seem to adhere to a routine with my fussy toddler teething so frequently.  It can be really discouraging…

When I went into the forest to do my devotional on Sunday, I found myself dwelling on everything I wasn’t doing enough of: practicing meditation or trance, magical work, studying Irish, studying herbalism…  My ritual itself felt a little melancholy.  It was such a chilly, overcast day. All the lovely autumn colors from the last couple weeks had blown away. Ravens chuckled in the distance, reminding me at once of An Morrigan and her connection to death.  The veil is thin, Samhain is coming, and the natural world both dies and prepares for slumber.

Once inside, I gradually began to realize all the ways that I am living and growing spiritually.  I am doing my best to maintain a positive relationship with the Kindreds by giving offerings and saying prayers of gratitude.  I practice simple, practical forms of magic – folk magic, kitchen magic, basic shielding and grounding.  I may not be actively studying Irish each day, but I’m learning when I can.  I may not be reading as much as I used to, but I’m fitting that in when I can as well.  I’ve started to journal each Sunday afternoon, and my liturgy journal shows growth and reflection.  Most importantly, I’m sharing the joy of life’s most basic magic with my daughter.  We sing and dance to music, delight in simple stories, and enjoy expressing our creativity with art.  We explore nature together, and her complete awe in everything has awakened something deep inside me.  Lately, a majority of the books I read are my child’s.  We read them together – fiction and non-fiction, verse and prose.   She hears my prayers and sees me make offerings.

My Druidism is growing as fast as an oak, which is okay.  The experience of tending to my little acorn is just part of my journey.  It is teaching me to be patient and nurturing, and to reconnect to the world’s most primal and joyful magic.

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It’s very common for women who are breastfeeding to live menstruation-free for several months after the birth of their babies.  Well, after nearly ten months (the first, after birth, is a bloody business too), my body is getting back to its cycles.  It’s annoying, but the female body menstruates for a reason.  I know that’s not something that resonates with everyone, and I say that with a certain understanding since I’ve never had very regular periods.

This has been an area of intense emotion and pain for me because, for years, it meant great inconvenience, discomfort, and embarrassment.  Right up until I conceived my daughter, I was largely convinced that I might be unable to have children because of it.  But, somehow, life had plans for me, and here she is.  Prior to even having my child, I had come to a certain peace with the inconveniences and pains of menstruation.  Much of that was through the use of medication – something I’m not sure I want to go back to yet.  While trying to conceive, and therefore free of birth control hormones, I started to feel like maybe my body was adopting relatively normal cycles after growing up.  I felt really good – physically and spiritually.  My period became something less painful and I started to learn through it as I attempted to track my fertility.

Now that it’s returned, I am trying to pay attention to it again.  The female body sheds its uterine walls in a mostly monthly cycle as a way of purification.  I don’t know what this will mean for menopause, but for now, I embrace the purification – cramps and all!  It’s a good excuse to further my herbal studies as I experiment with ways to naturally lesson the discomforts.  Having felt successful with cloth diapering, it’s really driven home a realization that I should embrace the same zeal for reusable cloth toiletries for my feminine needs.   It is also a good reminder that we women need to retreat every once in awhile and tend to our own needs.

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Baby Bee's first basket!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Baby Bee’s first basket! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Along with honoring the change of seasons with Northern Rivers Protogrove, my little family and I observed it in our own way.  For dinner, we had some lovely omelets with asparagus.  We also gave Bee a basket of goodies.  I’m still not sure if this is something we’ll do every year or not.  I crocheted her a basket using scrap fabric, thus making it baby-safe.  I filled it with the Spring gnome I made, some purple socks, some organic baby food, a board book all about spring, and a beautiful wooden bowl and spoon set from Nova Natural.  We read the book just about every day, and she enjoys touching the textured images.  I plan to get her the other seasonal books in the series for those high days too.

I got into the spirit by finally placing my seed order.  There are still a few things I’m thinking of buying (like a potato grow bag and a container blueberry plant), but ordering seeds is a start.  I selected some tomato plants, eggplants, zucchini, cucumber, basil, chard, and scarlet runner beans.  I’m really excited to try those last seeds.  They produce beautiful, red flowers!  Oh, do I have plans for my little patio…

We ended the evening with a small family ritual.  My husband held Bee while I lead the rite.  We let her choose a dyed egg to offer the Nature Sprits, which was adorable.  Our omen for the season was the salmon.  Wisdom instantly came to mind upon seeing the card.  Truly, Weretoad and I are gaining a lot as Bee becomes more mobile.  We are growing as parents.  We thought we had childproofed the home a lot but, as soon as she started to properly crawl, we realized how wrong we were.  As a result, I’ve decided that my altar must go upstairs in the bedroom in order to prevent anything from falling onto her little head…

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I recently discovered something that is helping me with the more academic requirements in ADF’s advanced study programs. Bee is capable of eating finger foods so, sometimes, in the evening, I’ll put her in her highchair, give her some organic baby rice cakes, puffs, or fruit, and let her have at it. Meanwhile, I sit at the table next to her with a cup of tea, some reading materials, and notes. Sometimes I even read bits aloud for her which she finds entertaining.

Sure, I only get to read a few pages at a time, but it’s better than nothing! Here I go, as fast as a speeding oak!

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Well 2013, it’s been interesting.  You had some great moments but also some really difficult times.  You were a year of great change and growth.  There was death and birth alike.

January

We started the year  performing a blessing ceremony on our apartment and then enjoying an evening with friends.  The omens were good but I don’t remember what they were now.  I wish I had kept that written somewhere.  This year, I’m making a point to write down the omens I have been taking for the coming year.  Excuse my language, but it seems rather half-assed of me to only look at the omens going in but not reflecting on them coming out!  So, lesson learned!
They say that the way you ring in the new year impacts your energy for the coming year.  If that’s the case, 2013 was one of great friendship!  They certainly helped me get through the difficult times and were there to celebrate the happiness I found.

February

A photo of our Imbolc altar by Weretoad, 2013.

A photo of our Imbolc altar by Weretoad, 2013.

In February, the North Country Druidic Study Group was reborn as Northern Rivers Protogrove, an officially recognized ADF protogrove!  As we approach our one year anniversary, you can be sure I will spend some time reflecting on the successes and learning experiences so far.  For now I will say that I’ve been so blessed to be part of this.  I’ve formed so many wonderful friendships with people from around he world because of Northern Rivers.
March

This month was filled with reflection and joy as spring was reborn!  I spent some time with Muin Mound grovies, meditating on Ériu , and connecting with and relating to the energies of life and rebirth all around me.  With morning sickness truly behind me, spring brought out a joyful period of Pregnancy.  I started to feel like a Goddess myself!
April

A photo featuring my grandfather as an infant.

My grandfather died in April.  It was not a surprise and definitely a mercy as his battle with cancer had taken away his quality of life.  Prior to that, he had lived a long and very blessed life.  I eulogized him here and honored him again at Northern River’s Samhain rite.   The ordeal was very difficult on my family, especially my father, his brothers, and my grandmother who is only just coming to terms with the loss of her mate.  Truly, nothing brings the blessings of life into crystal clear focus like death.

May 

Gifts from a mother blessing. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

This month brought many wonderful things.  Some of my dear friends, including grovies, helped to organize a baby shower for Weretoad and I.  It included a beautiful mother blessing ceremony.  So many beloved people came from near and far to celebrate with us.  We also revealed our baby’s gender which, while annoying to some, was incredibly exciting to us!  This month, I continued to feel like a Goddess as my belly swelled.  It didn’t stop me from dancing around Northern Rivers’ maypole when we celebrated Bealtaine!  Who better to bestow fertility to the land than a mother herself?!  Oh, I will look back at this month with fondness…  So much magic…

June

My little girl. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Oh, June.  This month began with many difficulties.  We had a difficult time moving into a new home to make room for Bee.  Suddenly, I became unwell and then I went into labor early which resulted in a cesarean birth.  June sent me a heap of challenges, but I put my faith in the Kindreds and myself, and I persevered.  The reward was a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  The magic I felt so strongly in May grew and transformed into something even more magnificent.  New life arrived, and my role was elevated to mother.  May Brighid guide me and protect my baby girl!

July

This month brought more change, upheaval, and death of a sort.  After a joyous beginning, the month ended with the revelation that my sister and former brother-in-law were no longer happy together.  This resulted in a divorce that continues to sadden the tribe.  So much had been kept from us for whatever reason that the discord came as a great shock.  It was as if someone died because an illusion shattered and I no longer had a brother.  The important things are that my sister and niece are together and safe, and that my sister is growing into a strong, independent woman. I am so thankful for my husband who, despite his annoying traits (which everyone has), dotes on me and the little one.

August

We celebrated a quiet Lughnasadh  as August opened and we found ourselves reeling from the events at the end of July.  Spending time with grovies, old and new, helped to cheer us.  This month also saw me growing in strength after the cesarean.  I started to exercise again, and enjoyed wonderful walks with my husband and baby.  The month ended with a wonderful surprise – we saw an otter in the St. Lawrence River right in Alexandria Bay!  It’s something I had always hoped to see.  For such a playful creature to grace us with his presence, it felt like the Kindreds were smiling on us and reminding us to find joy in life despite the difficulties.

September

With autumn in the air and so much change in my life, I entered September reflecting on the creative and destructive sides of the Earth Mother.  I returned to work and broke into tears multiple times, but I have remained strong in that regard.  Balancing work, me-time, and time with baby has been difficult, but it’s become easier.  We ended September with a baby saining for Bee.    It was wonderful to celebrate her wee life with the Kindreds and loved ones, including old friends from Muin Mound Grove.

October

October is one of my favorite months of the year.  Samhain is a favorite holiday, so there was that, but Northern Rivers had a burst of activity!  Tara lead a wonderful workshop on gems and crystals and we went for a walk around the new “Area 51” sign which celebrates the supposed vortex in Watertown’s Thompson Park.    We excitedly prepared for the upcoming Samhain ritual which was amazingly successful!

November

Treasure_bascket2

Bee playing with her Druidic treasure basket. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I started to find the balance I needed between my spiritual practices and motherhood.  I know this will evolve as Bee grows, but finding ways to engage in my Druidism while also meeting Bee’s needs has been very important to me.  A lot of it has simply required me looking at typically mundane things in a new light.  Motherhood in itself, with all its ups and downs, is very spiritually transformative.  It has brought me closer to Brighid.  I shared a couple of my (so far) successful attempts to introduce Druidism to babies: “Singing to the Sky” and “Treasure Baskets.”

December

The year ended with ups and downs that we persevered through with the help of loved ones.  I lead a Winter Solstice ritual for Northern Rivers that didn’t go was I had hoped.  I have been fretting and reflecting on it a lot, but my grovies have been really encouraging and understanding.  Rather than throwing in the towel, I’m going back to basics and reading all  I can about ADF’s COoR.  The group will be meeting later this month to discuss ADF liturgy, brainstorm ideas, and plan for Imbolc.  We must take these things as learning experiences!  Rather than becoming entirely consumed by one public ritual, I also threw myself into the 12 Days of Yule lead by fellow ADFers from Three Cranes Grove.  It’s been a very special experience because it helped me bridge my Druidic practices with my Christian family’s, and it became something my husband and baby did every night with me.  It meant so much for my husband, especially, to help me with each little ritual.  He’s even started to say the words with me and doing some minor divination.  I’m really hopeful that we can keep it up with weekly devotionals.

Potion

Potion, our beloved ferret. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 20??.

Right before the Winter Solstice, we lost our dear friend Potion the ferret.  As I recently wrote, it was expected.  That didn’t make it any less difficult.  At the same time, we know she is in a better place and that her suffering in this realm has ended.

And with that, the pain and difficulties I faced in 2013 have ended.  My body has been healing, the dead have been mourned, and the transformations accepted.  More importantly, my family has embraced our blessings and thanked the Kindreds for them.  Now it is time to look ahead to the possibilities of 2014!  May everyone reading this have a wonderful New Year!

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What is a crane bag?

The answer: not hard.

The lovely Aoife was turned into a crane and lived about the seas of Manannan Mac Lir for many hard years.  When she died, the great Sea Lord took her skin and made a magical bag that could hold his most beloved treasures.  It’s said to be bottomless.

Many Druids and Celtic Reconstructionists, especially those who are called by Manannan and the symbolism of the crane, make crane bags to wear on their person.  An individual may place his or her most sacred charms and amulets inside; objects of personal power and significance.

Although my Druidic studies have slowed lately, I’ve noted a growing connection to Manannan.  The more I work with trance and magic, the more I study, he seems to nod approvingly at me.  And of course, Brighid remains an incredibly significant part of my life.  For the last few months, I’ve felt compelled by my relationships with these deities to create a devotional object to have at my labor.  Had I the ability to attempt a home birth, rest assured I would have created an altar to motherhood, my labor, Brighid, the baby, and our spirit guides.  (For some lovely examples, look here and here!)  Although some people have made some beautiful travel-friendly birth altars, making a crane bag – something relevant to my path and my Gods that I could create with a favorite hobby – seemed like the right thing for me to do.  Everything will be secure inside the bag.  I can take one item out to hold, rub, and focus on, or I can hold the entire bag.  It’s made of very soft pink velvet and feels very comforting.  Much of my reading has suggested that women hoping for a natural birth should have some sort of focal point to assist in managing pain.  A crane bag holding many special objects to focus on is just my style!  Not only that –  it’s very discreet.

My finished motherhood crane bag. I reused fabric from an old, velvet blazer and some swirling pink for the lining (not photographed).  The pink is supposed to represent my uterus.  The drawstring method seemed best since the uterus can stretch and contract. On the front, I attached three antique buttons I purchased years ago. I knew I was saving them for something special! They fit the bag perfectly. Not only do they work with the color scheme, but symbolically an open flower is supposed to magically encourage the cervix to open.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Detail of the button I used as the clasp when the bag is tightened. A Celtic knot seemed most appropriate as it connects me to my hearth culture and gives me strength.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Although my crane bag is not bottomless, I’ve been able to fit quite a bit in there! I included the Goddess stone from my friend RavynStar, a yonic dandelion charm (the yoni is demurely facing away from the camera), the mother blessing beads from everyone at my baby shower, a sterling silver ring (now broken but still precious to me) that belonged to my mother when she was younger, a tooth from a doe, a bracelet from my late aunt, an collage of Brighid made by a fellow ADF Druid artisan, and my baby’s first photo! Everything is very significant to me symbolically. They are to remind me of the strong women in my life, my Goddess, the Earth Mother, the creative powers within me, my own strength, my spirit guide, and the ultimate goal – a healthy, happy baby. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I also included these lovely talismans made by fellow flame keeper and Druid, Grey Wren. She completely surprised me with these beauties! The bloodstone with coral is to give me strength during and after labor. The rose quartz is to help with bonding, peace, and love. A friend taught her to associate it with motherhood. The white chalcedony with the pearl is supposed to help with lactation and sleep.  It will also be very appropriate for baby since she is supposed to be born in the sign of Cancer – a water sign! I am thinking about attaching the last to the baby’s mobile since sleep and nutrition are going to be hugely important to her, and we’ll need all the help we can get!  It could also go with some water symbolism. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

A birth and motherhood crane bag is very easy to make.  All you need are some special objects that bring you comfort and courage, and a bag to put them in!  As always, I encourage you to make your own bag as you’ll put your own energy into it.  Red or pink are particularly appropriate symbolically, but choose what fits your own needs.

Have you made a birth altar or crane bag?  I would love to see it!

For More Information on crane bags:

Make Your Own Crane Bag and Discover the Purpose of the Incarnation You are Currently Living” by Elen Sentier.  A good introduction.

The Crane Bag” by Dr. John Gilbert – How one Druidic tradition utilizes this tool.

The Crane Bag” – a poem about its lore and origins from Tairis Tales.  Definitely read this for an understanding of its significance within Celtic lore.

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A fun purple bonnet to protect her from the sun. See? Along with the magical protective charms on the mobile, I’m making very practical, mundane protections too!

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