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Posts Tagged ‘Clayton NY’

Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

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One of the many benches at the Zenda Farm Trail. This one happens to have a great amount of shade in the late afternoon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

In an effort to exercise more, as well as easily and safely enjoy nature with our toddler, we took another nature walk on a local trail. If you’re spending time in Clayton, NY, be sure to stop by the Thousand Island Land Trust’s Zenda Farm Trail.  (Officially, I guess the trail is called the LoisJean and John MacFarlane Trail, but that’s a mouthful.)    It’s called a farm trail because it literally was a farm.  The well-maintained gravel walking path loops around a pasture that has returned to a vibrant, ecologically diverse meadow, an excellent habitat for a variety of song birds and insects.

We went in the late afternoon/early evening.  Since it’s summer, the sun was still out.  It was quite warm and wasn’t much for shade on this trail.  Definitely dress appropriately and bring plenty of water.  Even though it’s short, you’ll want it!  There are plenty of benches around the trail, but, unfortunately, most were out in the sun, so sitting in them at the time we went was completely undesirable.  I imagine they would be more comfortable places to take in the scenery and relax when it’s cooler out.  Perhaps an autumn walk, when you want the sun’s warmth?

There was a bench near the heavily forested section, and that was perfectly shaded when we were walking.  We stopped there for a bit so that I could meditate.  I only did some breathing because, with a toddler along for the ride, I’m very likely to get interrupted.  So I just focused on my breath and let the smells and sounds of nature fill me.  It was really relaxing.  I imagine it would be a great place to do deeper meditation provided you didn’t mind the possibility of other people staring at you.  (There were a couple women also walking the trail with us.)  I don’t see myself doing any rituals here, but I could see basic prayer and energy work done on my own or with a few people – nothing that involves a lot of obvious tools.  Something about the trail strikes me as a very quiet, and open place.  I like some privacy.

One thing that really struck me was the sky energy there.  Because the trail loops around an open field, the sky is very prominent.  Song birds, dragonflies, bees, and other winged creatures arched through the air from one end to the other.  It is a great place to contemplate that energy.

Nearby, there’s the Zenda community garden and a play area for kids featuring natural wooden stumps to climb and balance on.  This is a shaded area.  If you bring a blanket, it would be great for a family or group picnic after a nature walk.

For mor information about the Zenda Farm Trail and Preserve, check out this pamphlet.

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When I first started this blog five years ago, it was originally called “North Country Pagan” because I wanted it to reflect my experiences finding things relevant to Paganism and Pagan culture in Northern NY.  My blog title eventually changed because I wanted to narrow my focus more on my spiritual path of choice, but I’d like to revamp and revive it as a subtopic within my blog.  As the Druidic community here grows, I thought it would be nice to discuss different events that are not organized by Northern Rivers Protogrove but, nevertheless, relate to, nourish, or engage us as Druids in training.  Much of what I discuss will likely be relevant to other Pagan paths as well.

Like many good little Druids in the modern era, I was called to my path out of a deep love and reverence for Nature.  I’m naturally drawn to organizations and activities that also embody that love and respect, regardless of religion.  The Thousand Islands Land Trust is such a group.  They work hard to put aside and preserve land along the Thousand Islands, build and maintain trails, plant trees, and install nesting grids for common terns.  They have also organized hikes and kayaking excursions.  Over the last few years, they have expanded their selection of community activities to involve people who may not be willing or able to engage in such physically demanding activities but still want to learn and engage with the local environment.  They now offer children’s programing, a community garden, yoga for all levels along the river, and now – “green movie nights!”

The first featured film was called “Chasing Ice.”  Part of the synopsis reads:

In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

 

The film was exciting as it sounds and did not dissapoint. It was emotionally moving, intellectually stimulating, and visually spectacular.  The icy, glacial landscapes he and his team visited were as magical as they were distant to me.  It’s amazing how the glaciers are all at once mighty and fragile in our changing world.  Even if you are already convinced of global warming and of the urgency for us to make changes in our lives, the film is still worth seeing as it demonstrates the possibility for skeptics to change their mind which is uplifting.  If you consider the Earth your mother, you won’t want to miss seeing a side of her most of us take for granted.

I hope the Thousand Islands Land Trust hosts more green movie nights, and I hope that more Pagans in the area take advantage of them to expand their knowledge and awareness.  After all, our devotion to the Earth Mother shouldn’t stop with ritual.  We must remain educated on environmental issues and make practical changes in non-ritual contexts.

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If you’re ever in the 1000 Islands, visit the Thousand Islands Art Center in Clayton, NY. They have exhibits and offer a variety of classes. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

Last Sunday, I was called on by a friend in my community and protogrove to sain her workspace – the pottery studio at the Thousand Islands Art Center.  It was a wonderful experience for both of us, and I learned a lot!

I was extremely humbled when she asked me to perform this ritual.  She told me she felt I had the experience and that she trusted me.  Not only did this make me feel good about myself and the rituals I’ve been leading in the area, but it reminded me of why I started Northern Rivers Protogrove.  It’s always been for community.  Not only is gathering with like-minded people to celebrate the seasonal changes and honor the Kindreds deeply fulfilling to me, but it is to others as well.  When I started the study group that would evolve into Northern Rivers, the growing interest and feedback I received clearly showed that there was something lacking in the area.  I returned to my Initiate Letter of Intent in thinking about this because I remember writing a lot about community.  I wanted to continue within my tradition’s study programs to grow in my spirituality and to give back to others.  Agreeing to help my friend really reawakened that awareness of “calling” in me.  It takes a lot of work and preparation to serve the community, and there are challenges as I need to balance it with the needs of my other career and my family, but it’s still very important and deeply gratifying.

Before I agreed to help, I first asked why she wanted the saining.  I wanted to know if she desired a general blessing because of new beginnings and old, negative energy, or if she felt there was something darker there – an angry ghost, perhaps.  I very honestly told her that I have very little experience with such things and do not currently feel comfortably taking that on.  We have mutual trust and she also honestly told me that it wasn’t anything of the sort.  Because I never want to put my own sanity or my family’s safety in harm’s way, I don’t see myself performing sainings for anyone I haven’t known for a little while.  That trust is important.  Maybe, down the road, I’ll feel more comfortable helping strangers, but I just lack the experience right now.  It’s important to know your limits and establish your own boundaries based on what you honestly feel are your current skills.  Having done a yearly saining of my own home around the New Years (both secular and religious), I felt confident in my abilities, and my relationship with the Kindreds, for her needs.

Like I said, this was a positive experience for both of us.  She felt that the space was on the mend, and I felt myself putting my magical training to good use for a wonderful person. It can be intimidating to do magic and ritual for others, but leading seasonal rites for Northern Rivers has taught me that the best rituals are when I do what feels best in my heart and listen to my intuition.  That’s exactly what I did.  As soon as I allowed for that to happen, symbols started to jump out at me from the environment.  In our discussion after the ritual, it was revealed that many of my feelings had a real basis in what my friend was experiencing.  The omen, as well, was also very telling to both of us.  When that happens, it feels damn good!

Now I did learn some things to help me improve for the future.  Next time, I should tour the entire space beforehand.  I thought we would sain the studio only, but in reality she also wanted to attend to another storage area that belongs to the studio but was across the hallway.  I felt a bit clumsy and annoyed with myself when she revealed this mid-ritual, but it was easy to fix and incorporate into the rite.  As I always tell my grovies, we have to be able to think on-the-fly in ritual when necessary.  I also forgot to bring a separate bowl for offerings.  Thankfully, I set up a working altar right by a door so we were able to pour offerings in the garden nearby.

Gifts from a friend.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Gifts from a friend. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Let me point out that, regardless of my belief that our clergy and elders should be compensated for their work, I didn’t go about this for any other reasons than to help a friend and hone my skills.  She surprised me after it all by gifting me with some of her favorite (locally made) incense and a dish that she made in the studio.  I was absolutely giddy with her gifts since they are things I can use in future magical workings!   These gifts are precious to me and will remind me of how good and fulfilling it is to give mack to my community.  Furthermore, this whole experience will help me complete some of my advanced Druidic studies within ADF!  Like Magic 2!  Go me!

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Three Cranes Grove, ADF, did an “Earth-Along” last weekend with people all over the world.  You didn’t need to  be part of Three Cranes, or even ADF, to participate.  The first day was of service to the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits.  As I said recently, I take a bag into the woods with me every year right after the snow has fully melted.  It tends to come around Earth Day.  What perfect timing!  So I joined my brother and sister Druids around the world and went into the forest to do what I could.  A bit of styrofoam here, a broken toy there, a stray decoration here, a plastic bag there…  The hardest part is saying, “enough.”  There’s still more, but I can’t do it all by myself.  Whenever I visit the woods, I make a point to take three things back with me for the trash or recycling bin, yet rubbish continues to find its way in…

Yesterday, a few of us from Northern Rivers Protogrove  attended The Thousand Islands Land Trust’s Arbor Day Celebration in Clayton, NY.  It was a lovely time and gets better each year!  Kudos to my friend, C, for organizing so much!  I led several children in an active meditation in which we used our imaginations to become trees.  It was basically the Two Powers for children but much more secular.  It was a hit and I will definitely do it again next year!  There were many other family activities such as making peanut butter and birdseed pinecones, leaf rubbings, and visiting animals from a local organic farm. One of our grovies helped children write environmental goals on a mural, and a few others helped to plant some trees.  After that was lunch and chatting along the majestic St. Lawrence River.

Today, my husband, my daughter, and I joined with others in Thompson Park in Watertown, NY for an “Earth Week Celebration.”  First was a discussion on sustainability lead by  Mr.Juczak, founder of Woodhenge in Adams, NY.  Then we broke into groups to clean up the park.  My family found so much litter!  It was hard to help with a baby in a carrier, but I pulled my own weight.  It felt great to give back to Nature and the community.  For many of my urban friends in the area, Thompson Park remains one of the most accessible natural locations so it’s important to keep it clean.

As I explained to one of my fellow cleaners today, as someone who reveres the Earth, it’s important for me to truly practice what I preach.  It isn’t enough to send out healing energy and give offerings of seed and herbs.  You have to embrace sustainability as a lifestyle.  That can mean many different things to different people, and the important thing is that you start to take baby steps to live in better harmony with the Earth and Nature Spirits every day.  With that in mind, I remind all of my readers that we shouldn’t leave service to the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits to Earth Hour, Earth Day, Arbor Day, or Earth Week.  We need to live and breath it!

May we honor the Earth Mother in all we think, say, and do!  So be it.

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