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Posts Tagged ‘Gods and Goddesses’

I feel like there’s a maelstrom swirling around inside me lately.  Along with relaxing to some of my favorite shows, I’ve been throwing myself into writing.  Writing anything – my book, blog updates, tweets, even my first fanfic – just to keep that swirl of stressful worries from tearing me open.  With that in mind, here’s the next bit of the Magical Roots Challenge.

  • Day 12 – Deity

 

Photo and doll by Grey Catsidhe

I’m a polytheist, usually leaning towards the hard side, but somewhat soft in regards to PanCeltic deities I suppose (for example, I see Brighid being the same as Brigantia).  I primarily work with Brighid, and I consider myself her priestess.  I’m always working to improve in this aspect.  I’ve been trying to revitalize my flamekeeping practices to make them more reflective and spiritually oriented, but it’s difficult as a mother.  I mean… you can’t meditate all day when the child wants to watch cartoons or would prefer to race you up and down the sidewalk instead of taking a walk along the hedge.  But I try, and consider motherhood one of the challenges she has given me through which to learn and grow as an individual.  I also work with her as my primary muse, the protector of our hearth and home, and unofficial grove patron*.  I even work with her as my gatekeeper in most rituals simply because of the closeness I feel to her, and her connection to all three hallows.  It just makes sense to me.  It’s worked really well in my personal and grove rites.  Rather than a poem, I’m including a photo of a simple doll I made to represent her.  She sits on my altar, always a reminder and focal point during my flametending work.  I should write a poem to her though… The thoughts are there, especially with what I’m going through and all the chaos in the world… I just need to organize them.  I’ve also been thinking about a short story… Soon, my friends.  Soon.

 

  • Day 13 – Stone/Crystal

Photo by Grey Catsidhe


I don’t often work with crystals.  In fact, I usually don’t buy them anymore.  I’ve written in the past on the reasons and why I prefer to work with stones I find in the forest, in lakes, or rivers.  I do some work with my quartz crystal ball, though.  I brought him home years ago from one of my favorite and most trusted mineral stores – Sticks n Stones.  I put him in the window during the full moon to charge, and he usually hangs out on my altar to energize things as I need.  Fun fact – he has a bit of a crack.  I got him on a discount, but I love him all the same.  As a young Pagan just finding my way, I thought having a crystal ball would be très chic, and I was curious about scrying.  I wouldn’t have been able to afford one of the flawless balls, so I adopted what most people would have overlooked as a flawed piece.  Regardless, he still came from the Earth mother and is one of my treasures.

  • Day 14 – Incense
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Photo and incense by Grey Catsidhe

Incense is one of my favorite offerings to give.  As a Sagittarius, I’m drawn to flames. I love the way my prayers spiral upward and outward to the spirits on perfumed smoke. Brighid often requests it.  UPG- she loves spicy scents like cinnamon.  This prompted me to try making cones with ground cinnamon.  So easy!   I aspire to make more incense by hand.  I attempted some simple kyphi, but it didn’t turn out well.  My goal is to get makko powder and experiment with that, and I would really like to work with resin from local trees.

  • Day 15 – Kitchen Witchery 
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Photo and cookies by Grey Catsidhe

I fancy myself a bit of a kitchen witch.  Much of what I do revolves around the hearth, and it’s a natural extension of my work with Brighid.  (I mean, really… weren’t most of our ancestral mothers doing folk magic in the kitchen at some point?)  Along with candle magic, doing work with food or tea is one of my favorites.  It’s easy and practical.  Feeling ill?  Make a tea to help you physically and spiritually.  Stir some energy and say a prayer over that ginger, lemon, and honey.  Cut some sigils into your dough.  Stir the pot of soup a certain number of times as you add seasonings and pray for blessings and nourishment.  Make special dishes to reflect the seasons, and be sure to give some as an offering!  Most importantly, say prayers of gratitude before eating and, if possible, start to compost and garden so you can bring the magic of the plant world and its cycles into your kitchen.  Connect to the land during the high days – literally and not just metaphorically.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

*The only reason I say Brighid is our unofficial grove patroness is because, while many of us work with her, many others are not dedicated to her.  Some of our members are of other hearth cultures, even though we have an Irish focus.  So, out of respect to grove members, we haven’t pushed that.  We do give her a lot of offerings though…
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We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

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I posted a few weeks ago that I planned to get back into my trance studies, but I had to wait until my vacation started and I could get into a routine.  I did, however, begin my reading: The Way of the Shaman by Harner and The Trance Workbook:Understanding and Using the Power of Altered States by Hoffman.  I have only read the introduction of the later, but I really like the former so far.  It’s written by an anthropologist and includes narratives about his own exploration via teachings from practitioners around the world.  I’m always a bit cautious of anything Western that includes the word “Shaman” or “Shamanism” out of a concern for cultural appropriation, but, so far, his work seems respectful and insightful.  His work bridges a myriad of different traditions, translating them for modern Americans. Rather than attempting to explain away with cold science, he explains how very meaningful they are.  The science is important, I think, but we mustn’t overlook the very real cultural implications of such practices in the process.  Rather than insisting the reader utilize words, visuals, or gestures from any specific culture, he looks at the commonalities and allows the audience to go from there.

During my weekly ritual on Saturday evening, I announced my purpose to the Kindreds – to once more begin my trance studies and explore the entrance to the Underworld.  This exercise was based on the first Harner describes.  It’s rather open-ended: think about an opening to the Underworld (he gave some examples), listen to drumming for ten minutes, and allow yourself to visualize.  Ok, there was more detail than that, but he did not give a script to follow, which I appreciated it.  It allowed me to take what I already know about Underworld mythology from my hearth culture and apply it.

I found a Youtube video that featured basic drumming meant for trance.  It lasts just slightly over ten minutes and includes a brief moment of silence to signal that the end is coming.  The drumming is not jarring in the slightest.  I was able to play this without headphones, at a low but audible volume, while my daughter slept.  I decided to visualize the oak tree and the holy well at its roots.  This is imagery I’m very used to as it’s how I see my “inner grove” – relics from previous attempts at trance 1 that I still interact with.  I called to my spirit guide and I rode him through the waters, swimming downward, arching back up and through the surface of a pool within an underground cavern.

At this point, I realized that I was able to get into this state rather easily.  The drumming was just what I needed.  All distractions, aside from this single thought, had not come to bother me.  I put this thought aside and moved forward, riding my spirit guide through an increasingly visceral, rocky tunnel.  Spirals and triskelions covered the walls, and torches lit the way every few feet.  There was a greenish, bluish tint to everything. At times I saw golden faces, but I never felt afraid.  I was very immersed at this point. 

The tunnel widened and there was a massive, underground lake with a large treasure chest in the middle.  I left that alone – that wasn’t my purpose today.  I decided to explore a little and found a chamber with a long table.  Various golden-faced beings were feasting.  I saw a kindly, feminine face and thought she could be Brighid – in part because she acknowledged my presence with a quick look after I had asked her to guide and protect me in my workings.  She went back to the feast.  I didn’t interact with any of the beings, and I had a sense that I was like a fly on a wall to them; here I was, a small, mortal being not worth bothering over unless I troubled them.

I started to think about time around then.  Don’t eat the food.  Don’t linger, my mind urged.  Or was it my spirit guide?  Both?  A long time seemed to pass, the drumming in the background… I wondered if it really was a ten minute video… was it longer?  Would I hear the signal?

Thinking about time and the drumming video started to bring me out of the experience.  It was time to turn back.  I felt like my spirit guide really picked up speed – we practically flew over the lake and up through the tunnel.  Back through the well and up the rabbit hole…  I thanked my guide and the Kindreds, promising to continue my work to improve my skills in order to grow as a priestess and better serve my family and community.

It was a really good, visceral first experience after a hiatus.  I tried again last night to continue exploring, but it didn’t go as well.  Unlike the first night, I did not do it in the context of a formal rite.  It was also very humid, and the space between my bed and altar felt too tight.  I was too focused on my physical discomfort…  I started down the tunnel but had to turn around.

I intend to keep at it.  I like the drumming.  Perhaps I need to always trance as part of a ritual, with offerings and all the mental keys.  Or, perhaps it was merely that I could not get over my own physical discomforts?

 

 

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Each week, I draw a card from my Druid Animal Oracle deck as an omen for the week.  I pray for guidance as I go forward.  During this week’s ritual, I pulled the owl card. I’m not used to seeing this omen, so the meaning didn’t come to me right away.  At first I thought about wisdom, stealth in the dark, and change because of the myth of Blodeuwedd the flower maiden.  She is transformed into an owl for betraying Lugh.  

This made me stop and think a lot about change.  The frog card can signify change, but it’s a total change – inside and out, possibly including one’s environment.  Snake can also indicate change, but more superficial.  One must shed one’s skin in order to grow.  What kind of change is the owl, then?  A punishing change?  An unwanted change?  Change via divine intervention?

I then thought about the link between owls and An Cailleach, as the Scottish-Gaelic cailleach-oidhche refers to owls.  An Cailleach transforms from old to young in several stories.  Could the owl card refer to a change via age or even a spiritual transformation?

I asked for more clarification and drew another card after shuffling.  This time the cat card came to me.  I associate this card with protecting the home and, at times, sensuality.  The former meaning comes from some Irish stories in which cats guard treasure, especially in fairy realms.  As I have cats at home, I see them as protectors and very hearth-centric.  I thought more about the connection between the cards.  They are both predators capable of seeing in the dark, yet I felt more confused.

Although I feel I have a good sense of the cards, their meanings, the symbolism of the animals, and my own understanding of their lore and biology most of the time, I occasionally turn to the companion book for further insight. I might have forgotten something.  Interestingly, another meaning for both cards is “detachment.”  Well, when both cards have literally the same word in their symbolic description, it’s hard to overlook the emphasis.

I’m not sure what this omen means to me yet.  Is it a blessing?  A warning before something comes up?  Maybe it means that, in order to engage with the spiritual change I seek, I need to take some time for myself.  This would make sense given my last post about  once more delving into trance practice.  Only time will tell.

Learning a divination system can be a complex process, but I love how rich and thought-provoking it is.

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Some plantain leaf and heal-all I harvested. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

I’ve noticed a significant decrease in temperature recently. There have been reports of frost in the Adirondacks, and the chilly nights have already started to impact my garden. Some of the less cold-tolerant plants are starting to wilt or die back. An Cailleach is waking up, and as much as I love autumn, it means that many of our Nature Spirit allies who bless us with food, healing, and other creature comforts are going to go back into the Earth Mother for awhile.

Each year I say I’m going to prepare more than the year before, and I never do quite as much as I hope.  I always have grand plans of stuffing my cupboards with canned or dehydrated veggies and fruit.  One of these days, that will happen, but it won’t be this year.  However, just as I learn more about gardening each year, I also learn something new when it comes to preserving the harvest and preparing for the cold season.

This autumn, I’m trying to save a few little things here and there. For example, I forage for useful herbs as I play with Bee around the house.  As I do this, she is also learning about the world around her.  And even though I just haven’t had the time to can lots of fruits and veggies, I may make bigger batches while preparing our daily meals, then freeze some for later.  Today I made apple pie and prepared twice as much filling as I needed.  Just a little extra effort will make for a sweet reward on a cold, winter day.

Fresh apple pie. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I prepare for the winter in these small ways, I reflect on my gratitude for the blessings of the Three Kindreds.  The Nature Spirits have given me so much in the form of food, shelter, and healing herbs throughout the green season.  In gardening, foraging, and preserving, I am calling on age-old knowledge passed down from my Ancestors.  I give gratitude to Airmed for herbs in my garden and to Brighid for the transformative power of the hearth fire as I cook and preserve.  I thank An Dagda for the abundance we have.  I suppose I could even thank An Cailleach for the chill in my freezer!  (Hmmm… never thought of that before…)

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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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Photo Apr 12, 12 25 58 PM

Little Bee loves to give offerings of birdseed to the Nature Spirits every time we go outside. We sprinkle them below the ash tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Working to clean up the shrine to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Working to clean up the shrine to Airmed. Bee helped me add some stones.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The Good Folk are staring to appear.  ;) Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Nature Spirits are popping up everywhere!  I’m so glad the potted hyacinths survived the winter!
Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The gnomes are coming out, helping me care for the plants.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

The gnomes are coming out, helping me care for the plants. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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