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An experimental quilt and applique piece I made for a friend and grovie, April, while she was going through a difficult time.  She had lost access to her altars, and I made this to represent the Three Hallows until she regained access.  Craft and Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I sometimes fret that I’m not as prolific as I used to be. My Druid studies have slowed down, for sure, but my crafting has as well! I often lament how I don’t get to flex my artisan muscles the way I used to now that I’m so often occupied with a little one. I used to sell my one of a kind art dolls at local shows. I never made a ton of money, but it was enough to keep up with my hobby. The positive feedback from customers really raised my spirits and kept me going, pushing me to work harder at expressing my vision of the Three Kindreds.

I recently vented about just that, more or less, to another talented mama.  When I got home, after having dinner, I got to work on a going-away gift for a grovie.  It was a simple craft, one that would not take days to complete.  Most of my work is like that these days, with the exception of the quilt I made for the recent baby saining.  I realized that most of my work these days become gifts to family members, ritual objects for myself or my protogrove, or gifts for grovies – my spiritual family.  The later is just another way that I give of myself to uplift my community.  My grovies give so much of themselves to help our protogrove flourish – I love to give back to them.  Until I started to think about this topic, I didn’t realize how much effort I put into perfecting my crafts to benefit my spiritual family.  Here are some of the recent pieces I’ve made for my tribe.

 

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A needlepoint experiment that came out very well!  I made this for Tan to remind her that she has the strength of a battle Goddess!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

 

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My latest needlepoint – a gift for a grovie moving away after he retires from the army.  That’s honestly the hardest part of having a Pagan group near a military base… Jacob will be missed!  I included a very meaningful quote from one of our favorite chants.  I’m happy with the needlework but I think I could have done a better job gluing it into the frame.  I hope he doesn’t mind!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

 

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A felt Goddess ornament I made for our last Winter Solstice gift exchange.  She went home with Andrew.  She was a first foray into needlepoint.  Craft and Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

 

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Although I haven’t had a chance to make the more complex dolls I used to sell at craft shows, I continue to make smaller, simpler versions for altars or children.  I made this girl gnome as a baby shower gift for Cassandra’s little one.  Very simple, mostly because she needed to be free of choking hazards, but also very satisfying!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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New Hobby

Thanks to a generous gift from a grovie, I’m exploring weaving with a rigid heddle loom. Here’s my first project! I’m using scrap acrylic yarn, so it’s not very pretty, but I’m darn proud of my progress!

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Small Brighid Doll by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Although I don’t have much time to craft these days, I gleefully signed up for the ADF Artisan Guild Imbolc exchange. The group decided that everyone should make something small, and we decided on the amount of time it should take and the general cost.  I was excited enough to participate and do a little sewing, but was absolutely over the moon when I saw that my partner was my dear friend, R!  She and I got back to my Utica days, when I was first exploring Paganism.  We bonded over an interest in ADF, and she encouraged me to make the drive to Muin Mound in Syracuse.  Life took us to different corners of NY, and we don’t get to see each other as often as we used to, but we still bond over our shared interests and meet up whenever we can.

R indicated that, despite her Norse hearth culture, she has an interest in Brighid.  I decided to make her a small Brighid doll, since the exchange was for Imbolc.  I repurposed a blue wool sweater by felting it, and used a little for Brighid’s body. Folk art inspired me to leave the face blank.  I usually love painting faces on my dolls, but I really think my decision works for this small doll.  It gives her a very solemn look, and the individual regarding the doll will inherently known how they feel she should look.

R’s Fairy Cottage, 2015

In exchange, R surprised me with this adorable fairy cottage made with polymer clay and a repurposed jar.  I love all the whimsical details – right down to the woodgrain on the door! There are even little windows on each side, and Bee loves to peer in.  It has be excited for spring with all the pink flowers!

Funnily enough, we actually were able to meet up a couple weeks after receiving our gifts.  Her girlfriend happened to have a hockey tournament in the area, so we met for lunch.  It felt wonderful to reconnect.  Hoping to do more of that come the warmer weather!

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Goddess symbols on my altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

This may seem frivolous to some. Like Valentine’s day, love between lady friends should be celebrated all year. However, unlike the love between romantic partners, especially that shared by people who see each other every day, it can be hard to express fondness for people who have become distant through the complications of life.  Work schedules, childcare, personal hobbies, and family obligations can really stretch a person thin!  I feel like, if it weren’t for the internet, I would have lost touch with a lot of my beloved gal pals.  Although we don’t get together as often as I’d like, I just want to send out a special bit of love to all the ladies who are very dear to me.  I wish it were easier for us to get together more regularly, whether it’s to chat over tea or dance around a fire.  Preferably both.  Maybe with wine.  So I’m sending out this little bit of love to the ladies in my life – not just my mother and sister, but also my soul sisters, my spiritual teachers, my like-minded learners, my fellow eccentric artists, priestesses, flame tenders, witches, bitches, Earth warriors, tree huggers, whimsical dreamers, and all around amazing people.  I feel like I spend so much time surrounded by people with whom I can never feel entirely comfortable or myself.  Whenever I’m with my soul sisters, I feel such joy and kinship.  The ladies this goes out to all beam with blessings from the Goddesses, and I’m lucky for how you’ve touched my life.  A toast to you, my lady friends.  I wish we were all together right now.

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Yesterday was spent with some wonderful friends, old and new. We honored An Cailleach and Angus, feasted, and celebrated the winter season.

2014 Winter Solstice Celebration | Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF.

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Although well into the New Year, I wanted to take a moment and conclude writing about my experience with Three Crane Grove’s Yule Along.

My family spent some time honoring our Goddess of the hearth, Brighid, and the Shining Ones. I became a little mixed up at the end.  Three Cranes said they had miscounted or something, and I, in Typical Ditzy Druid fashion, didn’t notice.  I also think the business of the holidays in general threw me off and we somehow missed the day associated with the boar and warriors.  Funnily enough, with regards to my twelve card divination for the new year, it was framed by the boar.  I drew the boar for January and December!  I generally interpret this card as associated with the warrior, a hunt, challenges, possible danger, and even leadership.  This year I intend to refer to the results of the readings at the end of each month and reflect on how close they were.  I should also check going into each month to be on the lookout for the blessings or challenges in store…

New Year’s Eve was spent cleaning the home as best as we could to ensure that we could bring as much cleanliness as possible into 2014.  No easy task with a little one to look after!  While I’m proud of what we accomplished, I’m also proud of myself for just embracing the reality of the situation.  Having a baby who is just starting to crawl will not lend itself to the spotless home of my fantasies.  And really, being a creative person, I doubt I’ll ever have a spotless home.  By coming to terms with that, I let a nagging stress go.  There’s nothing wrong with aiming for cleanliness but to overshoot moderation and delve into a realm of constant self-critique is not healthy.  Goodbye nagging stress, hello acceptance*!

We also had a couple grovies over to ring in the New Year.  A military family, they were away from loved ones and that saddened them.  We welcomed them into our home for a super casual hang out.  One of them, Holda**, is from Germany and wanted to share some of her German New Year’s traditions with us.  We watched a black and white comedy sketch called “Dinner for One” which, apparently, plays non-stop in Germany at that time of year.  She also introduced us to molybdomancy which involves heating lead, pouring it into a container of water, and interpreting the resulting shapes as signs for the New Year.  This method of divination was new to me, and I really enjoyed experiencing it!

We melted the lead in a spoon held over the candle flame. Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

We poured the molten lead into a pot of water then removed it. We used a flashlight to see what shapes we saw and used them to predict 2014. We thought this looked like a ship. Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

The next day, Weretoad and I spent some time putting away our Winter Solstice decorations.  We put the evergreens outside and then I purified the home with some juniper incense.

Overall, observing the 12 Days of Yule was a very rewarding experience.  While not a traditionally Celtic thing to do, it helped me engage with the season in a new and meaningful way that extended beyond and blended nicely with the significance of the Winter Solstice.  It also helped to bridge my celebration with my Christian family’s Christmas by setting aside a day to celebrate the spirit of generosity on the 25th of December.  My husband participated in the rituals and that was really special to me.  I would like to do it again in 2014 but pay better attention to the number of days.

* Dear husband, no you may not use this to get out of helping me clean before we have guests! 😉

** Her Pagan pseudonym.

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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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