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I fell behind. Workdays exhaust me, and this was a particularly demanding one since I had to stay very late one of them. I’m not giving up on this challenge, though! It may take me longer than 21 days, but it’s so good and worthwhile, I must not abandon it.

Today I read through some of Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann (The Fate of the Children of Tuireann). Lora O’Brien makes a point to discuss the importance of reading the intact lore rather than just retellings, or else one will miss important or interesting details. Many of the complex, sometimes convoluted, stories have been watered down to increase understanding, and I’m certainly appreciative of that to a point. Irish lore was overwhelming enough to me as a newcomer several years ago. Yet some authors, particularly the Victorian-era English in all their colonial wisdom, removed information that they didn’t like or felt would be difficult for an English-speaking audience to understand. Now that I’ve got a foundation, I’m ready for more. I want to improve and deepen my understanding of my Irish ancestors and the Tuatha de Danann.

Part of why I started this class was to familiarize myself with the recorded lore, as close to the original tellings as possible, and to learn about where I can find these resources. I’ve already learned so much. I had read some truncated versions of “The Fate of the Children of Tuireann,” as well as lore about Miach and Nuada, but, as O’Brien explains, some of the stories are actually mixtures of two or more texts. You have to read them all to truly comprehend the context.

Sure enough, as we delved into Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann, I was immediately exposed to new stories I hadn’t heard before, like the cat-eyed doorman. Fascinating!

In the story, Miach and another healer I hadn’t heard of, Oirmiach, enter Tara and help the king, Nuada, with an ailment. A beetle jumps out of his arm and is killed by those present. Vermin who cause illness is apparently a common motif in Irish lore – one I didn’t notice until O’Brien pointed it out. Were these details overlooked in modern retellings? Did I simply gloss over them without thinking? I don’t know.

The beetle represents illness, an impurity, and it is only recognized and located by the keen eye of the healers. Miach and Oirmiach prove themselves and their worth, much as Lugh has to do when he comes to Tara. The disease must be removed before the healers can replace Nuada’s silver arm with one of flesh. Perhaps the disease is linked to the disfigurement of the king, and the healing was necessary in order for him to truly take his place at the helm of the Tuatha de Dannan.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and reading more of the story. Once more, I encourage you to start the challenge found at The Irish Pagan School.

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Revisions

Some of you know I’m writing a book. I don’t often talk about it here. I haven’t blogged as much recently in part because I spend so much free time working on my story!

My novel features contemporary Pagans. There’s a scene at a Bealtaine celebration between two consenting adult characters. That said, I’ve gone back to this part again and again because of controversies in my religious community. I don’t want to add to the problem. I don’t want predators to think they’ve got an automatic in at Bealtaine, or at any time, with a group of Pagans. I think I’ve finally found a balance between celebrating the sex-positive nature of our community, while also showing a group that values everyone’s safety and comfort. I’ve also revised the book quite a bit to point out that this holiday is not all about sex. The ritual depicted focuses on cleansing after winter, and the intimate scene is afterward in the privacy of the characters’ tent. They certainly are tapping into the more flirtatious energy of Bealtaine, but there is no coercion. The purpose of the scene is to demonstrate just how deeply the characters care for and trust one another, and the growth promoted by Bealtaine is a perfect symbolic backdrop for it.

I’m really proud of how it’s turning out. The grove depicted in my book is very much inspired by Northern Rivers and Muin Mound Grove. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I feel blessed to have found such positive, safe places. If others eventually read my novel, may it serve as a model of what can be.

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My work through the Initiate Path of ADF has been slow but steady this past year. I may not always be “studying” in the traditional sense, and I may not be as prolific as others in ADF, but I’m always doing something. Writing prayers for my practice is one such something.

The very practical prayers preserved in the Carmina Gadelica inspired me since I first read them.  There are prayers and songs for all manner of mundane but very important activities such as herding cattle and weaving.  These chores become imbued with sacred purpose when you add that extra focus and energy. Song and prayer is also an excellent offering.  I’ve been working to infuse my own life with small acts of magic, blessing, and thanksgiving.  Not only does it keep me connected to my tradition, the land, and the spirits, but it buoys me up during difficult times, helping me feel part of something greater, even when life becomes overwhelming.  (And believe me… September has found me feeling detached at times…)

On this Autumn Equinox, I share with you a prayer I started around the Summer Solstice, and tweaked throughout the season.  I now say it while tending my garden, or harvesting food and herbs as I did today.  I usually sing it to the tune of “Now the Rite is at an End.”  It just fits!

 

The image includes a photo of some herbs I collected today while singing the above.  My hands smell like the mugwort, calendula, and sage I harvested.  Here’s text for those who’d like it:

Spirits of this plant, I pray
And give thanks for this great crop.
May you heal and nourish us,
And the cycle never stop.

– by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

May your harvest be bountiful, and I hope you get outside to enjoy the seasonal changes.  As for my family, we are joining with our grovemates to celebrate!  Feel free to utilize the prayer in your own celebrations and gardening work.  Or, even better, perhaps it will inspire you to write your own!

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It’s interesting to look back to last summer. At this time, we were preparing to make an offer on our home. We were heading into new territory and some of the worst stress I remember experiencing. It was a lesson on patience and austerity, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Here we are, a year later, transforming our yard into beautiful gardens, shrines, and pollinator habitats. (And a few play areas for the little one!) Last summer was all boxes and uncertainty. This summer, as I stand on my porch to gaze at the small batch of abundance I’ve been cultivating, I feel a sense of peace. I feel that I’m  rediscovering my niche after a long period of stress and flailing.

My nasturtiums are very happy in their herb spiral garden home.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Having the freedom to garden as I desire has been wonderful. Even when I returned home from work riddled with stress and fatigue, a little time in the garden always restored my connection to the Kindred and my own sense of self. Working to form a lasting relationship with this new land has been rejuvenating. It’s reawakened my love of herbalism, and I’m throwing myself back into my casual studies with gusto!  Just a couple months ago, it seemed summer was a distant dream.

I inherited my late grandfather’s map of Ireland and related books.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I’m looking forward to furthering my Druid studies this summer. When I visited my family in the Utica area, these heirlooms from my late grandfather seemed to further point me toward that. He worked tirelessly on my family’s genealogy, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older and started to honor my ancestors. My sister told me she felt my taking these would make him happy, and as I walked around the hallow home where he lived and died, I spoke to him of my intentions, and I got a strong sense of approval.

In addition to the map and books, I also picked up some old artwork for my home, and was given permission to transplant some plants in my garden. I brought some of my grandmother’s lily of the valley for the shade garden, and some comfrey for my herb garden. The lilies seem to be taking well. The comfrey looks a tad wilted with the stress of the move. I’ve not lost hope, though. I’ve read they are quite prolific, and even a little section of root can grow. This particular plant is one of the first that my grandmother, an herbal enthusiast herself, taught me about, so if I can establish a patch from her own garden, it would be very meaningful to me.

Burning grove offerings in my backyard fire pit.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Speaking of Druid studies, my grove is growing strong! My friend and grovie, Cassandra, lead our Summer Solstice ritual. We honored Manannan, and asked him to help us as we reestablished our open doors to communities who need safe places, such as the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. It was a moving ceremony, but also one with much joy and laughter. Some of our members identify as part of the former community, including one of our elders who proudly told us about some of the first Gay Pride marches he attended.

It was a rainy day, so we held the ritual indoors. I brought many offerings meant for the fire to my home, and I made sure they got to their intended destination last night under the light of a waxing moon. I poured a libation to Brighd to help me with the work – the work of a Senior Druid. Hearing the way Northern Rivers Grove has positively impacted people gives me so much hope. I’m working to improve my practice so that I can serve my community.

As I reflect on where I was at this time last year, I feel excited for the relative peace this summer promises.  I will continue to work with my new plant allies and the land spirits.  I will throw myself further into my Initiate Studies with ADF.  Right now, I’m working on Trance 1 and Divination 2, but I know I will have to augment some of the previously completed courses as the whole study program is undergoing change.  It’s all good, though.  It will all help me become a better Druid and a better person in general!

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Persevering

My spiritual community was recently rocked with news on allegations of sexual misconduct by our late founder, Isaac Bonewits.  While the initial accusations occurred before ADF was founded, others have come forth with more experiences.  Like others in ADF, I’ve felt a mixed bag of emotions.  Mostly, disappointment, sadness for the victims, confusion, listlessness, and even anger.

Despite it all, I continued to drag myself to my altar in the mornings to perform my daily devotionals.  The first time was difficult.  I hesitated as I called to the ancestors.  I had to consider my words carefully.

I never met Bonewits, but his ideas have had a major influence on my life.  One of my dear friends lent me his classic Essential Guide to Druidism.  I eagerly read about, then joined, ADF.  It clicked with me, and the community was already widespread and active compared to the still small and fragmented Celtic Recon community that also interests me.  As I worked my way through study programs, I found myself learning more from his other works, especially NeoPagan Rites.  He inspired me.

I remembered hearing a story about Bonewits bringing a bag full of condoms to a festival, but I didn’t really think much of it at the time.  It made me chuckle.  It reveals my naivety about sexual relations in the past.  I’ve been lucky that my sexual experiences have all been consensual.  Back then, my idea of rape was that it was always forced, either through violence or the imposition of mind altering substances.  My mother taught me to fight – kick, bite, scratch, and do anything necessary to get away.  Reading about other peoples’ experiences would later teach me that it wasn’t always violent.  It could simply involve fear, an imbalance in power, coercion, etc.  I hadn’t thought of the condom story for years, but I recalled it with each new allegation, and it was no longer amusing.

Like many in my community, I’m still processing everything.  I’ve read reactions from people who have been friends with Bonewits, victims of sexual harassment and abuse, people who worry about due process, and people who work with convicted sex offenders.   We are experiencing something that the rest of my country is also grappling with.  Change is afoot, and transformation is often messy.  Mistakes will be made, but hopefully, lessons will be learned.  My hope is that ADF, like the rest of the country, can move towards something better for the next generation.

I want to help make the world a better place for my own child.  I’m pleased with the Mother Grove’s responses to this, and the work they’re doing to strengthen our sexual misconduct policy with training on creating a culture of consent.  As a senior druid, I look forward to future training and bringing it back to my own grove.

As others have said, I believe that ADF is more than Bonewits.  We cannot ignore or hide our past, but our roots go even deeper than our founder.  The ideas that he organized were inspired by older teachings.   He stood on the shoulders of others, just as we all do.  We each contribute but none of us represents the whole picture.  And beyond it all, the gods and goddesses themselves stir the cauldron of wisdom and ignite the flames of inspiration.  We have more to draw on than the work of one man.    My brothers, sisters, and teachers at Muin Mound Grove shared their hospitality with me for years, helping me grow on the path.  My dear friend in Ithaca who is now starting her own grove continues to grow with me.  All the fellow Dedicants I’ve worked with as a reviewer have shared their own perspectives with me.  The priests, priestesses, initiates, solitaries, bards, artisans, warriors, flamekeepers, and many, many others who have played a part in my own spiritual journey.  And, of course, my own grovemates who are a spiritual family to me.  I’m so proud of the work we have done to grow, not only in developing our liturgical style and traditions, but in creating a safe, family-friendly atmosphere.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s been more rewarding than not.  I intend to keep up the work, not for the sake of our flawed founder, but for the sake of my community, and the spirits who called me to do the work, to persevere.

May Brighid wrap her healing mantle around the victims.  

May she bless us with the warmth of compassion.

May Lugh bring justice as it is deserved.

May he teach us the skills we need to improve and build.

May Morrighan wake our inner warriors with her mighty call.

May she grant us the courage to continue the hard work ahead.

– Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

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The book on my altar near my Brighid candle and doll.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

This post has been on my to-do list forever.  Those who have followed me for awhile know that I haven’t been updating as regularly.  Blame motherhood.  Thank goodness for spring break!

First, a disclaimer – I did not buy this book.  I won this directly from the author as part of a publication giveaway!  I was very excited because I so rarely win anything, but Brighid has a way of making good things happen in my life.  A Pagan Twitter friend pointed me towards Courtney Weber and I’m so glad she did.  The author is a delightful person full of passion.  She offers several workshops and classes on Brighid as well as tarot.

This is the third book I’ve read specifically focused on Brighid.  I am devoted to her, so I really enjoy delving into such material.  The first was The Rites of Brigid: Goddess and Saint by Sean O Duinn, and the second was Tending Brigid’s Flame by Lunaea Weatherstone.  In addition to those, I have read several more general books on religion and mythology in Ireland and a bit in Scotland.  I think Weber’s book is excellent for newcomers; there’s so much information there, but she presents it in a warm, narrative style.  Her enthusiasm is infectious.  The lore is accessible, in part because she included her own retellings and interpretations.  While reading those once and claiming to understand everything would be misguided, I’ve found that retellings act as a scaffold when I later read closer translations of Irish mythology.  (Similar to how an easy English text can assist English language learners grasp more complex novels.)

Some information should be taken with a grain of salt.  Weber is one who believes that An Morrigan could be Brighid’s mother.  She also spent a tiny bit of time talking about Maman Brigitte – a Voudon figure I was unfamiliar with.  I’m open-minded, and it’s important to be aware of these possible connections, but also recognize that Weber is sharing her own UPG.  It may very well inspire and inform your practice!  (I was excited to see that Weber also feels Brighid appreciates cinnamon – something I’ve intuited for years.)

Inspiration was my biggest takeaway from the book.  If you have read a decent amount on Irish mythology and folk practice, most of the information will be review.  However, I found Weber’s personal story to be reinvigorating.  The book exists because the goddess demanded it.  Writing and researching was part healing process, part devotional, and part pilgrimage for the author. Oaths are very important in Celtic-inspired faiths, so it was fascinating for me as a Druidess and writer/artisan to see into what is often an intimate process.  I also enjoyed some of the spellwork Weber suggested to grow closer to Brighid.  Much of it was definitely inspired by Wiccan practice (calling the quarters), but the prayers and ideas could be adapted into ADF or reconstructionist ritual as well as she was inspired by Celtic lore and practice initially.  There are many other ideas that individuals or groups could try if their Imbolc or flame keeping rituals and routines have become stale.  The pictures are wonderful.  I always enjoy seeing photos of other peoples’ altars, and there’s a great step-by-step guide to weaving a Brighid cross for those new to the process.

One other noteworthy aspect of the book is the emphasis on giving back to the community.  Weber spends some time discussing the saint’s charity work, and exploring Brighid as a warrior and champion of women and children.  As I read, I felt a strong push to help those in need.  This has been reiterated in my trance and meditation work, and my grove has been talking about taking up collections for a local women’s shelter in the near future.  It’s a start, and it’s partly because of this book!

If you work with Brighid, I recommend this title.  If the goddess is new in your life, this will serve as a great introduction.  If you’ve been Brighid’s priestess for a few years, this may reinvigorate your practice.  You can order Weber’s book on Amazon  or directly from the author.

Next on my Brighid reading list – Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well by Morgan Daimler.

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