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Posts Tagged ‘Earth Mother’

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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It’s “Small Business Saturday,” so I went to one of my favorite villages to support the local shops as I prepare for Winter Solstice giving. Supporting local businesses is so important when it comes to living more sustainably. Making such efforts is important to me on my path.  If you’re going to spend money on material goods, why not keep it in your local economies and help regional artisans, farmers, herbalists, etc?  If at all possible, help talented local Pagans!

As I browsed, I thought about the many times new Pagans ask where one can get “supplies.”  Usually, they’re looking for metaphysical shops.  Yes, they can be great places to start, but what if they’re gone?  Many communities have lost brick and mortar Pagan shops due to the poor economy.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have one or two, they may not be in convenient locations.  Or perhaps they carry some items but not others, or they just aren’t up to your ethical standards.  We all know the places I’m talking about: mass produced statues made in China, cheap incense that makes you gag, paraffin candles, gem stones of dubious origin that were probably raped from the Earth Mother…  Get the picture? So what’s a tree-hugging dirt worshiper to do?

My suggestion is always to look at three categories of local shops: artisan co-ops, heath food stores, and local food producers.  Let’s take a look at each category.

Artisan Co-Ops

These are places in which artisans from around the region each pay an entrance fee and cooperatively work together to sell their goods in one location.  There are usually a variety of mediums represented.  There are a few in the Northern NY region around the 1000 Islands area, and I know they exist in other places.  They’re often the most impressive shops in otherwise touristy areas.  (Who really needs another plastic snow globe?) What would interest a visiting Pagan?  The shop I was in earlier had a plethora of hand dipped candles (including black, believe it or not), wooden and clay bowls, incense holders, blended oils, soaps (think purification), tea, and my favorite handmade incense. Heck, you could even buy a woven or dyed scarf and use it as an altar cloth if you want!  Don’t see exactly what you want?  Chances are, there’s an artist there who could make it for a commission.  Sure, things are a little more costly, but walking an Earth-Centered path means making more ethical choices.  Saving up for a handmade wooden bowl may cost me more, but there’s more integrity there than buying a cheaper, mass-produced bowl in a big box store.  Think of the act of saving and supporting an artist as an offering to the Earth Mother! The beauty of co-ops is that you get to meet the different artists, so I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the people.  I know that the woman who makes the incense, for example, doesn’t use some of the harmful ingredients that other brands use, like saltpeter.  She also grows or forages for many of the ingredients.

Health Food Stores

Does your hometown have a small health food store?  Try to support them when you have herbal needs!  Many sell organic herbs in bulk.  I can get just about everything I could want at my local shop – dry herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, and, occasionally, beeswax.  Some even carry clean-burning candles and incense.  If I can’t grow it or forage for it myself, chances are my local health food store will have it.  If not, they can often order it for me.  If you’re advancing in your studies and want to make your own herbal goodies, or you simply want specific herbs for an offering, start here!

Local Food Producers

I’m referring to farm stands, wineries, and distilleries here. Eating local is a large part of my Druidism because it forces me to pay attention to the agricultural year, hence the Wheel of the Year.  Locally grown food or flowers could be in your calming tea, your healing pot of soup, your group potluck, or your offering bowl.  Interested in making herbal goodies in your magical rites?  Get your hands on some local honey!  That stuff is already brimming with healing energy.  Similarly, your wineries and distilleries will offer different alcohols in which to infuse herbs.  Unless you’re specifically looking for some energy from another land, alcohol made with grapes, grain and other ingredients from your region will be flowing with the blessings of your local Nature Spirits.

The next time you meet a new Pagan who wonders where to get supplies, I hope you’ll refer the seeker to an artisan co-op, health food store, or local food producers.

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An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. She enjoys exploring them with her magnifying glass. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

 

I’ve already written a bit about treasure baskets in the past.  Now that Bee is older, they’re becoming even more fun!  Currently, she has a basket of different pinecones and acorns on her “play altar” / “nature table.”  It’s been a great way for her to explore some of Mother Nature’s diversity.  It’s an open-ended way to explore and play.  She sometimes sorts them by type or size.  Once she used them to make imprints in play dough.

One thing that I like about this particular treasure basket is that it’s very seasonal, and Bee has been able to add to it whenever we’re out on our walks.  She gets really excited when she finds new acorns, acorn caps, and cones. I ask her if she’d like to take one to her nature table.  This activity shows her that she has choice and that her opinions matter to me.  We also say “thank you” to the Earth Mother and trees whenever we bring a new friend inside.  Of course, it’s also added to her vocabulary!

Knowing your child is definitely important when it comes to making new treasure baskets.  Bee is past the age of putting random things in her mouth.  We’ve had many discussions about what is and isn’t food.  (We’ll save the fact that many of our ancestors used ground acorns and pine nuts in meals for another day…)  For the last few months, she’s demonstrated an understanding that only food should go in her mouth.  Her last treasure basket was filled with different shells, and we introduced some smaller specimens towards the end.  Last year, I wasn’t able to let her play with anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.  It’s amazing how quickly little ones learn!

I’m planning to retire the pinecone and acorn treasure basket for a bit (I’ll bring them out again in the future), so I’m excitedly thinking about what the next basket will be!

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The old shrine. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Sometimes we have to take a pilgrimage to where it all began – to the source of our spirituality.  By that, I mean the places where we first felt the stirrings of spirits around us, observed the interconnection of everything, and where our soul first learned to dance.  For me, that place is my childhood home – in particular, the forest behind the house.

I grew up able to play in the shade of white pines, sugar maples, red maples, black cherries, crab apples, and aspens.  I learned the name of many plants, native and invasive, and whether or not I could eat them.  I learned how to recognize numerous birds by shape and call.  I often woke up to find herds of deer or flocks of turkeys outside my bedroom window.  Once I even saw a pine marten.  I meditated below those trees, poured my first offerings there, and hailed the moon on that land.  On summer nights, the song of crickets and spring peepers was my lullaby.  On winter mornings, the happy coo of mourning doves was a gentle alarm clock.  Although I was baptized a Roman Catholic, I always felt the most spiritual out in the forest.

As moved into Paganism, and as that grew into Druidism, I started to visit a particular spot often.  I made an Earth Mother statue, placed a small, porcelain teacup below her, and brought her interesting stones, seeds, flowers, etc.  The shrine is still there, although I have to gently remove the pile of leaves blanketing it each visit.  I always feel a mixture of gratitude for where I’ve been and an extreme nostalgia for the childhood that is gone.  I can almost imagine the ghost of my childhood self playing around the trees.  Perhaps that is a different type of Nature Spirit or ghost – the positive energy we left behind in our old haunts?

I wonder what will become of my old shrine should my family ever move. Should I take those relics with me, or should I leave them there for a new child to wonder at?  Who knows if I’ll ever have to cross that bridge. It makes me a little sad to think of all the childhood homes that are now inaccessible to others because they moved away.  Such is life, though.  We can always return in our minds if we quiet ourselves long enough and unlock the memories.   For now, the shrine remains, a special landmark I occasionally pilgrimage to.

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I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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Sugar pod peas poking out to say hello to the world! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

My daughter and I took a walk around our home to celebrate Earth Day. Granted, we do this regularly, but why not do something outside today? It was chilly, so, regardless of what season the calendar says it is, we took our winter coats out.

First, we visited the container garden in back to inspect the newly planted onion set and the bed of dwarf sugar pod peas.  As you can see from the photo, the peas are germinating!  I’m hoping that their reputation for cold hardiness gets them through the low temperatures this week.  I may need to tuck them in for a few days each night!

Sticking close to the hedge, Bee and I wandered a little further  from home to look for signs of spring despite the chill.  Right off the bat, we heard a chorus of frogs in the marsh behind our home.  Each day we go out, I tell Bee that the sound comes from frogs, and she knows what they are due to lots of reading and animal-oriented shows.  She got down on all fours and proceeded to bounce, chanting “hop, hop, hop!”  That had to stop when we reached muddier terrain.  “Squish, squish, squish!” I said, picking her up.  Her boots aren’t as waterproof as mine.  Mud boots are on Bee’s birthday wish list!

I pointed to the white oak, but the buds weren’t as obvious on him. The maples had glorious, red buds that were bursting open.  Bee liked looking at them more.  I was able to hold her up so she could carefully touch them.  “Gentle, gentle,” I cooed.  She knows that word from interacting with our cats and my lemon tree.  “Twee.  Twee,” she said.

We reached a green hill, lovely and green after the rain we received, and Bee gleefully ran up with me.  She loves open spaces to race and explore.  We didn’t linger there long because the cold wind whipped our faces.  Bee held her hat as we gingerly climbed down.  We decided to go home.  Chilly wind equals snotty noses, and Bee needed a handkerchief.  Silly mama!  Why didn’t I pack one?  They’re necessary when out and about.

Between work and toddler care, I wasn’t able to do anything traditionally associated with Earth Day.  I didn’t attend a rally, pick up litter, or plant trees.  If my husband had been home, it would have been easier to manage a bag of litter (one parent handles the bag and the other watches the tot), but it’s hard when you’re on your own.  Earth Day was simple for me this year: a walk around our little patch of home, observing the natural changes.  We made offerings of birdseed to the local spirits and Earth Mother.  I said a prayer of thanks and Bee babbled, obviously trying to join in.  She solemnly blew a kiss to the trees when we were done.  Engaging in such activities today and every day will help raise a child who places value in the Earth, a child who is more likely to be intrinsically motivated to attend rallies, plant trees, and pick up litter when she’s older.  I’m laying the foundation.  Even if she decides that Druidism (or Paganism in general) is not the path for her, I will consider myself successful if she grows up to love and honor the Earth, and every being she shares her home with.

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