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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

First, I want to thank @swampdruid for bringing the latest Wild Hunt post to my attention.  Sometimes, life gets busy and I miss some of their fantastic content.  With a busy toddler, work, and managing a protogrove, I rely on my connections to filter the good stuff my way.  More on that in a bit.

The Pagan community is incredibly diverse, and that’s a beautiful thing in many ways – the sign of a healthy ecosystem, some would say.  There are many who argue that Pagan clergy is antithetical to who we are, or that we are each our own priests and priestesses. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but I feel that such strongly held beliefs, often passed down from authors who were just reviving Paganism in a very conservative West, can act as blinders to what history shows us, how the times have changed, and to our community’s needs.  In the end, to such individuals, all I can really say is “to each his or her own.”

For myself, I embrace a tradition rooted in community.  The Druids were the erudite spiritual leaders of their tribes.  They were the advisors, the judges, and the teachers in addition to the priestly class.  The lone “hedgedruids” came later as the times changed…  The pendulum started to swing the other way, and indeed we’re still in that slow motion back to a time when we actually have educated, trained spiritual leaders in our Pagan communities again.  Less of us are in hiding these days, so the very practical and inevitable past belief that we all had to be our own priests is not as necessary these days. Indeed, we should all strive to have our own personal relationships with the spirits we work with, lead our own household rites, and study for our own benefit – but we should embrace that we no longer have to work in isolation out of fear (although that fear certainly persists in some corners – we must not forget that).

Yes, part of why I joined ADF is because I loved the emphasis on studying the lore and improving our knowledge and practice with history.  The other big reason is the community.  In the US, at least, ADF is one of the biggest, most active Druid organizations.  We are connected to each other, and our clergy training program, in my opinion, is one of the best out there.  There’s certainly room for improvement, but places like Cherry Hill Seminary are out there to help fill in some blanks in the meantime!

If I believe that I am perfectly capable of communing with the spirits, why do I still need clergy? Why do I feel compelled to seek training to take on that title?  My first teacher in the Druidic path, Rev. Skip Ellison, taught me more than he probably realizes.  I watched him and the other Senior Druids of Muin Mound Grove; I watched and learned how to lead Druid rituals.  He gave me pointers and encouragement.  Liturgists for public ritual have different experiences and insights; they require related but diverse skills.  In my opinion, someone used to solitary ritual needs to see good public ritual in order to learn how to facilitate such events for others.  Just like good school teachers need mentors, so do ritual leaders. To continue the analogy with school teachers, anyone can learn themselves, but we turn to others for guidance.  Good teachers guide their students to be better learners independently.  I feel that modern clergy play a similar role.

Serving the community, teaching others, and helping others on their spiritual path as I improve myself, even without the official designation of clergy, has been an exhausting but fulfilling calling.  I’ve brought people together and created something.  The gratitude others show me for that is incredibly humbling.  I’m constantly reminding the group that we are creating it together, that I simply cannot do this alone.  I am striving to become clergy in ADF, to improve my own skills and knowledge, in order to benefit my community.  Someone has to do it.  Somehow has to step up and organize.  There weren’t any open, active polytheist Druid groups in my new home until I decided to do something about it.  People called to the roll of clergy give their time, energy, and money to bring people together so that others don’t have to feel so alone and isolated.

This latest column from the Wild Hunt, “Where is Community When Illness Strikes,” by Cara Schultz, struck close to home.  It’s a moving account of the author’s struggle with colon cancer and what the experience is like as someone in a minority Pagan faith.  One of my grovemates has been struggling with serious health issues for awhile, and as the group leader, I often find myself mulling over what I can do about that.  What can I do about that?  I continue to pray to Brighid, light candles, and reach out to my friend as often as possible.  I sent her a card after her surgery, maintained contact with her husband, trying to encourage him.  All this across an international border, too!  That border… how easy it would be to bring a casserole to a grovie on this side of the river…  Meanwhile, my job and family keep me very busy.  My education in pedagogy has helped me lead, organize, and teach.  My experience talking and working with others to create engaging experiences has strengthened my ritual skills.  My talents at sewing have helped me make ritual tools to enhance and brighten our celebrations.  I’ve had no training for helping others through difficult times.

Schultz reminds readers why clergy are truly important. It’s not simply that they teach us and help us improve our own skills.  It’s not just that they are good at organizing events and public rituals.  It’s that we need trained people who know how to deal with difficult situations, know how to help people navigate the spiritual implications of divorce, disease, war, death, and environmental destruction.  We need people to schedule rituals for joy, but also to raise the alarm and bring in the best of the best for the most intense rituals of healing, mourning, and transformation.  Official clergy status or not, we need people to delegate to others, figuring out who will make meals and provide childcare for those struggling in our community.  We need people with official clergy status to navigate hoops and red tape to assist our brothers and sisters in the army, in prisons, in hospitals…

The modern Pagan community is maturing, and we need trained clergy.  I’m proud to be a part of an organization working to make that happen.

I feel called to serve my people, and my lack of training in these difficult areas scares the heck out of me, yet I move forward, heeding the call. I can’t specialize in everything, of course, but I’m ready to learn and try to help people like me when they feel like they can’t help themselves. I often feel that I can’t do enough because of work or family obligations, but small steps in the right direction are better than hoping someone else will do it. I hope someone will be there for me in times of spiritual distress.

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If  you celebrate anything in December, it’s usually a busy time.  Regardless of the positives experienced, I think it’s safe to assume that most people are worn out after it’s all said and done.  I certainly felt depleted!  Today, I restored myself physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

Northern NY is finally getting snow!  The roads have been a bit messy, but that didn’t keep me from visiting my massage therapist at Harmony Day Spa.    I  go every other month or so for a basic Swedish massage from Ashley, although I have received hot and cold stone therapy, as well as a sound healing technique she offers.  She’s absolutely amazing, and I always feel rejuvenated when I leave.  I always say, some women treat themselves to shoes or manicures – I indulge in massage.  My back loves me for it!

As for the intellection restoration, I’m putting my spare time to good use and delving back into the academic side of ADF’s advanced study programs.  I reviewed what I left off on, and I’m hoping to finish IE Myth before I go back to work.  I can’t make any promises, but I am hoping!  I’m also working on Divination 2. I spent some time today pouring through Carmina Gadelica looking for examples of auguries with some success!  It’s so fascinating, and is deepening my understanding and experience with the Druid Animal Oracle cards I love so much.

I restored myself spiritually but going to my altar earlier for my weekly ritual.  Yes, I’ve kept that up weekly, but after such a busy, extended weekend, returning to my sacred space felt really good.  Time away from home almost always disrupts my daily devotionals and other routines.  Furthermore, I worked to clean and sain my altar.  The space needed a good cleansing. Taking the time to remove dust, incense ash, cat fur, and candle wax felt like removing cobwebs in my mind.  Taking pride in one’s spiritual focal point is a way of showing good hospitality to the Kindreds who visit, and the act reaffirms one’s commitments.  As we move to the secular New Year, I will be doing a lot more cleaning – both physical and spiritual.

 

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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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Every one or two months, I treat myself to a massage from my trusted massage therapist in Watertown, NY.  She’s an amazing lady – very open-minded and holistic.  I’m comfortable talking about my religious practice with her, and she’s equally at ease sharing her explorations of meditation, Buddhism, and alternative healing with me.  We approach spirituality a little differently, but we find common ground and have some really great conversations.

Today, I had an hour session that was part Swedish massage and part what she calls “sound energy healing.”  She’s been training on how to use such things as Tibetan singing bowls, tingshas, and tuning forks for therapeutic and spiritual purposes.  What she did felt a lot like reiki but with sound.  She surrounded me with various-sized singing bowls which she played according to her intuition.  She began by using the tingsha like a pendulum to check my chakras.  The sensation of the sound waves flowing through the air was amazing.  I relaxed and just relished in the experience.  Often, the singing bowls made me visualize great spirals moving over and through me.  A few times, it felt as if golden spears were cast right through me.  None of it felt painful; rather, the sound waves felt like they were pushing anything stressful and “negative” right out of me.

I know that sounds really New Agey, and people who are close to me know I don’t often go for that sort of thing.  Yet there is much to be said for the power of music.  There are stories of ancient bards disfiguring people with their song, which is a metaphor for how easily someone’s reputation can be changed due to a finely crafted song or story. I spent many years playing in my school’s orchestra, and that often aroused intense emotion.  When playing a song that evoked feelings of war, adventure, sadness or love, it was difficult not to get swept away in it while sitting in the middle of the source and participating in it.

Today’s experience has me curious about how the ancient Celts might have utilized sound in ritual.

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It’s late morning.  After doing my best to offer hospitality to our guest, I’m finally sitting down for some warm cereal and tea.  Ahhh…  me time!  The tea is made with roughly chopped fresh ginger, local honey, and half a lemon – its juice and rind.  Trying to keep my body healthy and ward off illness, of course.  As I sip the tea and slurp the cereal, I’m reminded of Brighid’s warmth and healing waters.

Although it’s only January, we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave.  The snow we were so delightedly hoarding since the Winter Solstice is all but gone.  On and off again rain quickens the process.  It almost feels like spring, and with Imbolc being the traditional beginning of spring, I find myself seeking signs.

Of course, we will be getting more snow this week (supposedly).  It’s a good thing, and I want more snow.  Our ecosystem needs it, our farmers need it, and Upstate NY generally has snow right up until mid march.  Recent years, the patterns has changed a bit…  Which is worrisome.

It seems a lot of us are waiting for Imbolc.  Those who don’t observe the Celtic high days, or the modern NeoPagan calendar, still seem to be thirsting for spring and it’s many festivals.  People want a rebirth within and without.  I’ve noticed a lot of friends who write are suddenly lamenting the difficulties of being a published author.  They’re turning within to mull it over and seek an answer.  Pregnant friends in the end stages of their third trimester struggle with pain, the medical status quo, and anticipation.  People have started the process of cleaning their homes, myself included.  Fellow gardeners are excitedly perusing the seed catalogs arriving in the mail, day dreaming of sprouting seeds and new, verdant life all around!

This past week, I’ve watched with a mostly passive interest as the NeoPagan community grappled with its identity online.  Oh yes, dear readers – the great Pagan/Polytheistic debate of 2013.  Even I’m going to mention it in a blog post.  I had been writing a longer response with all of my thoughts, many of which are mixed, and then I trashed it.  Self-identity is important.  Group identity is important.  Labels and names have power – they really do.  Everyone has a right to express themselves, to feel they belong to something bigger, and to nitpick linguistics and semantics.  Yet in the end, I’m not sure another blog post on the pile would do any good.  As for myself: I’m a proud polytheist who worships her Gods, walks the Druidic path, and yet finds a home within the NeoPagan community.  Maybe that will change one day, but for now, I am who I am.  You are who you are.  Let’s be friends.

My mind is filled with more personal concerns  – my growing baby, keeping my home clean, whether or not the North Country Druidic Study Group’s application for protogrove status will be approved, exercising, eating right, keeping up with my own spiritual practices.  Think of me what you will!

So I sit here drinking my healing tea and praying that Brighid will bless each of us with the healing we need and that spring will bring new, positive things to us all.  Until then, we must prepare and wait.

 

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Our Winter Solstice Altar.  Each time we set up, it gets a little better.  My goal for the next ritual is to add more seasonal embellishments!    Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

On Saturday, the North Country Druidic Study group gathered to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  It was our third ever public ritual and, although it was the lowest attended, it went really well!  Some last minute changes threw us off a little bit, but we bounced back and made the most of it!  For the last time until spring, we gathered at the beloved stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga Center*.

A bit of snow around the stone circle.  The Winter Hag was there!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

The sun was shining and there was only a sprinkling of snow on the ground.  Despite a warm start to the day, it grew cold as the sun set.  Determined to celebrate among the elements, we toughed it out!  By the end of the rite, our fingers felt clumsy and our tootsies were chilled!  Really makes me appreciate the warmth!

A chilly night presided over by the waxing moon.  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

We honored An Cailleach and An Dagda – the Winter Hag and the God of abundance (among other things), respectively.  We also paid tribute to the sun and did a working to send peace and healing to the victims of the tragedies the week prior.  These moments were very moving, and yet we also managed to fit in a festive spirit here and there.  We chuckled with An Dagda a lot and sang “Deck the Halls” as we ended the rite.  We acknowledged the finite nature of the sun, but that there is hope attached to it – hope that it will rise another day.  We equated that hope with our wish that the world will become a more loving place.

The blessing garland the group put together.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

We transferred those wishes into the garlands we made and a white candle Daughter RavynStar brought to charge.  The garlands were to be hung on the Yoga Center’s blessing (clootie) tree, and the candle was burnt during and after our feast to send healing to those in need.

A Winter Solstice feast!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Although the group was small, there was an abundance of food (Thanks An Dagda!) – including a birthday cake one of our members made for me!  I feel truly lucky that our little study group is turning into a real spiritual family.  We care about each other, support one another, and have become real friends!  Just as important, everyone is willing to lend a hand.  Without asking, people were setting up, vacuuming at the end, putting things away, washing dishes – how spectacular is that?!  I so often read about organizers feeling as if they have to do everything.  I feel very sorry for those groups.  When ours becomes a grove, it will truly belong to everyone involved!

Winter Solstice gifts!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Gifts were exchanged as is the spirit of the season.  I came up with a tag system so that those participating selected an ogham from a metal tree.  A small part of the tag was put into a basket which we drew from to find our gift as well as the ogham which carried a message for us the coming season!  There are some kinks to be worked out, but I hope to utilize it again next year!

Though it was small, our Winter Solstice ritual was wonderful.  I’m looking forward to the new year and the growth of our study group!

The Yoga Center’s altar, including the healing candle charged by the group.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

 

* We still plan to have our Imbolc ritual at the Yoga Center, but it will be held just behind the building for ease of setup, proximity to warmth if needed, and light.  Huzzah for portable fire pits!

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Everything was ready for our trip to Muin Mound Grove and our Summer Solstice celebration.  We were going to make clay suns in honor of the sky fire.  I already had some ideas for my design.  We plucked herbs from our garden to place on the Arimid mantle during the rite.  Weretoad and I were excitedly looking forward to seeing two dear friends who moved back to the area, as well as a new friend from the North Country who recently joined ADF.

But… Summer Solstice with Muin Mound did not happen for us this year.  Sometimes it seems like the Kindreds have other plans…

There were things going on in the family that needed attending to.  There is much stress in my tribe right now due to someone’s health and others’ financial situations.  My mum basically begged us to stay for emotional support and help.  Furthermore, she wanted us to celebrate the Summer Solstice with them because she didn’t want us to miss out.  She wanted the family to be together and wanted to be a part of my spiritual life at last.  Although I was sad to miss time with my grovies, my tribe is very important to me.  I felt my ancestors guiding me to stay with them.  I’m glad I did!

Some of my mum’s lovely roses.  She actually gave one as an offering during the rite.

Preparing a very last minute ritual for family was an interesting learning experience.  To begin with, I had none of my ritual tools and no liturgical outline.  The only Pagan ritual my family ever experienced was my handfasting – and that was very much eclipsed by the wedding itself in that everyone kind of knew what was going on.  This would be different.

I briefly explained what would happen, the reason for the high day, and who the Kindreds are.  I made suggestions of offerings if they felt so inclined.  I then set about gathering offerings for the kindreds, vessels to hold them, and figuring out how to set up the fire, well, and tree.  I visited a favorite store from home, Peter’s Cornucopia, a health food shop and cafe.  I picked up some nice incense there. For other offerings, I used what my parents had in the kitchen – oats, olive oil, and salt. I brought some wine from my new home and my brother-in-law brought some beer.  My mum gave me an old silver bowl she had received as a wedding gift but never used.  This became the well.  My sister and father contributed some firewood. We used my parents’ fire pit for that hallow, and situated everything by the oak tree Weretoad and I planted a few years ago.  It’s growing strong and seems very happy.

I didn’t take a photo when everything was set up, but this is where we did the ritual.    A lovely green and brown spot near my beloved childhood forest and gardens!

I usually use a bell wand to open the gates and have a fancy, ceramic drinking horn for the return flow.  These were at home so I used my hands to direct energy and a wine glass for communal drinking.  The experience reminded me of how tools are, for the most part, only as useful as the user.  I need not rely on them and can be creative without them when necessary.  The greatest challenge was divination.  My ogham and animal oracle cards were also home.  I can’t count how many times I’ve brought them with me just in case, but this time I did not.  I fretted over how to take an omen.  I didn’t like the idea of flipping a coin.  It’s too binary for my liking.  My husband suggested looking into ogham apps on the iphone.  I’m not much of a technopagan during rituals; I much prefer feeling the cards or wood on my fingers.  I was seriously considering experimenting with augury.  Something about that seems very pure in that you are truly opening yourself and your trust to the natural world around you…but because storms threatened, and I highly doubted my family would ritualize out of doors in that weather, I opted to figure something else out in case there wouldn’t be any birds to spot.  I ended up making paper ogham disks.  Very cheap, easy, and almost laughable, but it worked for the situation.  The omens were very favorable and spoke of enjoying the here and now, taking action to bring about the fruition of goals, and a bountiful harvest.

I was worried to lead a ritual in front of family, but once things started, the role of priestess overshadowed that of wife, daughter, and sister.  I was still those things, but I was focused on serving the kindreds and not on how I looked or sounded.  Afterwards, my mum said she was very proud of me and that she was surprised at my poise and voice.  Once everything started, any feelings of awkwardness at acting preachy vanished.  Brighid certainly blessed me with a honeyed tongue that night.

My husband was a huge help to me.  He felt strongly about staying with the family as well and encouraged me to take up my mother’s offer.  I told him that if I did that, I would need his help.  Since he recently joined ADF, I thought it would be a nice way for him to learn more.  He assisted me in choosing an appropriate incense offering, made offerings to the sea and Nature Spirits, helped me purify the ritual participants, and tended to the fire.  My sister also helped by praising the Earth Mother.  I felt it was an appropriate role for a newcomer and she was happy to oblige.

Everyone complimented me on the ritual.  My mother and sister said they felt so calm afterwards; that they needed something like that.  The healing work was very much appreciated and they seemed to like taking an active role in attempting to help someone else when everything seems so out of their control.  Amazingly, they would like to have more family rituals!  Weretoad and I suggested the Winter Solstice as a good possibility.

My potluck contribution.

Having already made a greens, strawberry, almond, and feta salad for the grove celebration, my family agreed to have a potluck following ritual.  It contributed to the feelings of togetherness and support as everyone helped.  Mum and dad supplied pizza and cookies.  My sister made a delicious pasta salad while her husband brought the beer.  Weretoad and I had our salad, wine, and veggie patties.  We talked and laughed throughout the night.

I definitely plan to be with my grove for Lughnasadh (barring any emergencies; Gods forbid), and missed them this past weekend.  I’m so glad I stayed to support my family, though.  They clearly needed it and the ancestors were watching out for us all.  It helped strengthen our bonds as well as my own beliefs in myself and my path.  Although we’re still concerned for that very sick family member, and other loved ones are dealing with some tricky situations, this was my favorite Summer Solstice so far.

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