Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Newly cut roses for Airmed. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

Summer is here, and that means I’m in and out of my garden multiple times a day. Gardens take work, but it’s a relaxing, uplifting labor or love. I often find myself lost in contemplation. I thought about how it’s a perfect metaphor for my religion, but then I realized that it is my religion. Although my Druidry is culturally focused on Irish traditions, it always comes back to the land I live on.

In Druidry, we honor the Ancestors. Most of my ancestors lived in Europe, with a great many coming from the northern parts – Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and Norway. I think of how they interacted with the land (without romanticizing it). I study the plants they worked with, their land-based symbolism, their agricultural cycles, and how they interacted with land spirits. Some of my ancestors moved to the United States to seek new opportunities. I know that some came here to farm, to brew, and cook. I delight in learning how they did things and adapted to North America. I look to the ancestors of this land I now live on. I try to learn about and respect how the indigenous cultures live and work with the land. I try to learn about the spirits in their traditions so I don’t insult them. I strive to honor them in my own way with acknowledgement and my efforts to restore native species of plants to my yard. I try to keep abreast of issues that are important to the tribes who live in Upstate NY. It’s a never-ending effort of respect for the land and the people who lived here first.

In Druidry, we honor the Deities. I honor the Tuath Dé Danann, with emphasis on Brigid, but also a lot of work with Airmed, An Cailleach, An Dagda, Angus, Lugh, An Morrígan,  and Manannán mac Lir. They are mostly deities of cultural elements, but they also have strong land associations. Many have lore-based connections to plants or animals. Their sacred spaces are based in the land, sea, and sky of Ireland and surrounding countries. How can I connect with them in Upstate NY? The Celts migrated in the past, so I believe I can connect to the deities just as they did*. One way is by respectfully creating shrines on the land where I live. One of my favorite, most meaningful offerings are the plants I grow.

That brings me to the third arm of Druidry – honoring the land spirits. I’m mostly focused on the actual spirits of this place – seen and unseen. When it comes to the unseen, I’m specifically referring to the spirit of the soil, the trees, the overall forest here, etc. Not really the Good Folk, but that is a big gray area (see link below)**. When I interact with the tools and ingredients my ancestors knew and loved, I also interact with the land. I must consider what is and isn’t invasive and damaging to this land. When I visit cemeteries to honor the dead, I also honor the land they are becoming. As I grow food for my family, I know that I will go into the soil and contribute to the cycle one day. When I erect shrines for the deities, I work with the land. When I create spiritual tools, I strive to respectfully wildcraft what I can, and then use materials ethically obtained. I avoid working with certain objects due to mining, over harvesting, etc. When I lead rituals with my grove, we are interacting with an older cultural tradition, but also integrating it with the rhythms of this land.

It all comes back to the land. Gardening, and the many other ways I work to live in better harmony with the earth, is me living my Druidry. As we move into more challenging, uncertain times, I pray that my relationship improves and helps me and my family adapt.

 

*The topic of immigrants interacting with deities from another land is a huge topic best for another post.

** Are land spirits and fairies the same thing? Here’s a great discussion on that huge topic.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

img_6095

Happy green moss growing between the cement slabs. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

One of the reasons we bought our home is because we loved the back patio and garden area. However, we are not keen on how the stones were placed. There are large slabs of cement with wide gaps in between. Previous owners put gravel in the spaces, but it doesn’t stay, especially during winter. I am constantly toiling to keep the plants that grow between the stones at a manageable height. It makes me feel bad, but I do pull plants that get too high. Last year, around early autumn, I transplanted my hanging strawberry plants and their babies into the ground to start a strawberry bed. As I dug, I felt guilty for displacing some moss. I moved it into the patio area between the cracks. I was inspired by one section that had some moss in it. I thought it looked nice and wanted to experiment. Months later, you can see how well the moss took to its new environment above. It’s spreading its fuzzy green wings.

Newly transplanted moss. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

Some neglected pots of soil developed their own layer of moss. I decided to move them to the patio cracks. Grow into a happy patch, little moss! Of course, I  seek their permission first, then sing to them as I give them an offering of water to help them settle into their new home.

A naturally occurring cushion moss in a patio crack. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

Some mosses have happily developed here on their own. They like the sandy, acidic soil and partial shade. Check out this gorgeous, verdant cushion moss! Many of these specimens, undisturbed from my refusal to use weed killers, are cheerfully releasing little spores to spread some fuzzy love.

Nettle (center), moss, and wood sorrel. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

As with any garden work, I  learn more about the land and the other plants that are growing here as I work and explore. The more I learn about Japanese gardens, the more I’m intrigued with the idea of transforming the land but working to do so in a way that maintains harmony. When you slow down instead of hack and slash everything without observing, you may miss blessings from spirits all too willing to work with you.

I recently saw a witch post on social media about how plants and fungi she wanted to cultivate are suddenly growing in her yard! I feel as if I’m experiencing a similar blessing. I’ve longed to find nettle for years. I sought it in the hedges near my old apartment, where I was lucky to discover numerous other plant allies. Last year, I thought I found it, but was not convinced.Over the winter, I considered buying some seeds. As you may know from my Instagram, I recently found it growing along my fence! Yesterday, as I transplanted moss from a pot, I felt a sting. At first I worried I’d disturbed a bee, but nope! I quickly realized I brushed against a tiny nettle who had taken up residence in the pot along with the moss. Well hello there, wee one! Don’t worry. I’m not moving you anywhere. In fact, you can have that whole pot. Welcome!

Read Full Post »

When I was younger, my mother taught me to sew. My first project was a small pillow. I decorated it to look like the Earth. At least, that’s how I conceived of it in my six-year-old mind. I still have that pillow. It is a treasured reminder of how I’ve grown with the gift my mother gave me. Sewing became one of my favorite pastimes. Since that first pillow, I went on to stitch stuffed animals, curtains, and costumes. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried my hand at making a fabric doll. When I did, it was because I couldn’t afford a statue of a goddess I work with. The result was something I felt more intimately attached to. I worked with the goddess through the process, and the effort became an offering to her. I’ve gone on to make several spirit dolls since.

For the pragmatic practitioner, a doll can act as a mental stimulus to aid in focus during magic and ritual. For deeper work, dolls can become a conduit or home for trusted allies. They can become talismans to augment the magical qualities your plant spirit ally already possesses. Just as the process can connect you to the spirit you are depicting, you also have control over what materials you use. Choosing more sustainable materials can affect the character and energy of the finished piece.

Dolls are typically humanoid. While a full body is not  required, I find that a face facilitates connection. That’s the power of personification. It’s important to note, however, that such a visage should not be confused with the actual face of the spirit. It is an interpretation, one that should come through much contemplation and even research if you desire to incorporate lore (as I would do when making a deity doll). I encourage you to incorporate motifs associated with the plant. Study the leaves, stem, flowers, seeds, or roots and contemplate what designs you could incorporate.

img_5930

Mugwort Dram Pillow Art Doll by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

Originally, I had a more complex concept in mind for my mugwort spirit doll. As time went by, my idea simplified. I decided to craft a mugwort face in the spirit of a green man, but female. As an Artemisia, I find that mugwort has a very feminine energy to it. Furthermore, I wanted to connect the doll to the plant’s dream-inducing qualities and make a dream pillow. I used fabric I already had on hand, including some wool felt for the silver-green leaves I admire. The pillow is stuffed with wool and dried mugwort from my own garden.

I’m very pleased with how she turned out! All that’s left is for me to consecrate her. I encourage those curious in experimenting with spirit dolls to start with a face and add it to something like a drawstring bag or pillow that can contain dried components of your plant ally.

For some inspiration, check out Hagstone Publishing’s spirit doll Pinterest board. If you’d like to see some of the other dolls I’ve made, you can look at my portfolio. Want to join me in my plant spirit ally exploration? Check out Hagstone Publishing’s guide. It’s never too late to work through the journey.

plantspiritallychallenge

Read Full Post »

There are several tree stumps  in my back yard. At one point, there was a grove of trees in the back corner. Last year, our first full summer at our new home, I decided to observe everything growing there in order to decide how to proceed our approach to that area. Given that we only have a quarter of an acre, we have to find a balance between leaving the land alone and transforming it to make our dreams a reality. I watched and studied to determine what were invasive species, what was healthy, etc. I watched the stumps as they continued to send out shoots, fighting for life. I was tempted to let them grow, but my research lead me to reconsider. The odds are against them growing into strong trees once more. If the scrawny branches ever get very high, they will be weak and prone to wind damage. Removing a layer of last year’s oak leaves revealed that the stumps themselves are rotting. Fungi grow there, and various decomposers are making the wood soft despite what the roots are striving to do. It made me sad; the trees are dying and yet, like people, doing anything to live. Perhaps they should be put out of their misery? And so, I promised the land I would reforest the area. While I trimmed the green shoots, I prayed and chanted quietly.

Soon, we will start a new grove, starting with birch and mountain ash (rowan). We also hope to get some apple trees.

While we prepare that corner for reforestation, I decided the branches, which are mostly oak, should be put to good use rather than discarded. I chose some thick bits to dry for a future ogham set. The rest, so tender and pliable, inspired me to try something I’ve always want to do: make a wattle fence.

Well, it’s actually a garden border in what is becoming our forest/shade garden. The bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley are just coming up. I really like how the border turned out despite my inexpert hand. It adds to the woodland character of what we hope will be a quiet contemplative space full of native species. (I recently planted some wild ginger rhizomes out there below the pines.)

The border was especially fun to make since the wattle method is very old. Our ancestors used it to make fences and even construct buildings. Trying my hand at it gave me appreciation for the dead. It would have been so easy to buy a premade border, but the land provided this material. It was grown here and, eventually, it will go back to the land right here. While a part of me will always feel sad about cutting them from the stumps, this is the essence of working with the land.

My first attempt at a wattle border. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Like most Americans, I grew up hearing people moan about weeds. My grandmother, an avid gardener, was fussy. She didn’t want anything growing between the cracks of her sidewalk. When she still lived at home, she often poured boiling water over unwanted plants. Old fashioned, effective, relatively eco-friendly in terms of chemical use, but laborious. At the same time, she was the first to teach me about foraging and herbalism. She had a respect for the plant world, but wanted control over what grew where in her yard, as many do.  Myself included to an extent! My mother and father have been more relaxed about it. They prefer hand weeding and mulching, but don’t get hung up on dandelions and other diversity in the yard. My mother was always delighted to get bouquets of dandelions, and she taught us to make wishes when they went to seed. Her tolerance transferred to me, but magnified to a deeper respect for plants like dandelions – plants that not only are beautiful in their own ways, but very nutritious for us and pollinators like bees.

Since my early forays into gardening, I’ve been reading about herbs, and that also lead me to foraging. I’m in no way an expert. I have so much to learn about living in harmony with the natural world while also keeping my “territory” safe for my family and veggie patch. You can imagine my horror as I looked out my window to see my new neighbor spraying chemicals on the dandelions and clovers this spring. I’m, shall we say, friendly with weeds?

I actually dislike the word “weed,” but it’s easier than saying “plants growing where I don’t exactly want them.” I suppose I should just call them “wild plants.” The more I learn, walking through my yard is like browsing a grocery store. It’s not just “grass” or “lawn.” I can name much of the flora. Not all, and don’t ask me for Latin names… like I said. Not an expert. Weeding my veggie patch is an interesting mental process for me. It must be done. Just as I do not want fleas on my cats, I understand that my veggies will be less successful with too much competition. And yet, I have internal conversations like this:

“Oooh, lamb’s quarters! I’ll let you grow for now, but I’m coming back for you later. You’re going in a stir fry…”

img_4702-e1531153108495.jpg

My sandy, yet flourishing, herb spiral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I made a deal with the crabgrass today. I know it will die off in the autumn, but for now, its roots are helping to prevent soil erosion in my fledgling herb garden. The soil here is very sandy in places. I have my work ahead of me, but for this year, I’m accepting the crabgrass in the bare spots to keep things together when I water. I told the grass, “I’ll let you grow here for now, as long as you aren’t right next to the herbs. In exchange, you need to accept my haircuts!”  Yeah, I’d rather not have seeds settle in there.  I’ll plan to fill those areas in with something else next year.

I did tear plenty out around the lavender, though.

While my family is cultivating parts of the yard for food, we understand the importance of buffer zones for native species and pollinators. The back of our yard, right up by the stone border separating us from the cemetery, is filled with all manner of plants. I needed to see who was there before making decisions about what I want to do with that area. However, one corner is for the pollinator garden (or the “fairy garden” as my daughter likes to call it). We’ve dedicated it to the local spirits. Unless guided to do so, we are not taking anything from it for ourselves. I’ve since learned there are raspberries growing there. They are for the birds. We’ve planted bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop. Some other plants are starting to grow there, too. I’m carefully weeding so that the native varieties are able to flourish.

Elsewhere in the yard, we also leave patches of clover alone for the most part. The previous owners had a big dog, and he dug massive holes around the yard.  Before we finalized the purchase, they helpfully filled those in for safety, but we had big sandy patches all over.  We let crabgrass and flowering plants take those areas for now and just let them go nuts.  It’s better looking than sandy spots.  I’ve noticed many happy bees, and they bring their joy to our veggie and herb patches. It’s a win-win!  In the meantime, I continue to study foraging, learning what I can eat, how it impacts everything else in the yard, and am even dipping my toes into permaculture.

That said, if we get something really dangerous, I’ll probably follow my grandmother’s lead and bring out the tea kettle…

 

Read Full Post »

June 2018 Garden Update

July is nearly here, and it promises to be bountiful! I’m grateful for the growth in my garden throughout June.

I love how the cabbages spiral. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

The peas seemed to blossom later this year. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »