Posts Tagged ‘health’


Chives emerge from the herb bed after a long winter. Photo by M. A. Phillips

The last few days have been tense. My county currently has zero confirmed cases of the new corona virus, my state has quickly jumped to the top of the pile. While schools just a couple hours away are closing for two to three weeks, we’re all waiting and trying to maintain normalcy.

We see the panic and fear on the internet as people post photos of empty toilet paper shelves in store after store. My colleagues who are older or have compromised immune systems teeter from nervous to petrified. The kids are flippant to skittish.

I’m trying to maintain calm and yet be a healthy level of prepared. Seeing examples of kindness buoy my spirits: friends and acquaintances in other hard-hit places offering lunches to kids at home without other food, reminders to donate to pantries, people opening their homes to others in need, and helping strangers find and reach supplies in grocery stores.

Druidry values hospitality, and I see that alive and well. Sure, someone posted a video of people fighting over TP, but I see an overwhelming and heartwarming flood of helpers.

I went outside today to get some fresh air and discovered the chives are waking up. It’s another reminder that the hard times come to an end eventually. I pray they don’t last long, but at least I’ll have some herbs to share soon.

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Warrior Shrine

Many ADF Druids participated in the recent Shrine a Day Challenge facilitated by Rev. Jan Avende. While I did not create a shrine every day, I did participate. I intend to post a gallery of the altars and shrines I submitted, but for now, I want to share one I forgot to upload previously. I’m not sure why I failed to add it to the official #shrineaday album, but here it is now. It’s not very fancy. I actually made it on my bedroom windowsill which has a dark curtain, so it’s a bit difficult to see.

I present my warrior shrine!  It’s actually very significant to me because, for the first time, I actually feel that I’m tapping into warrior energy.  Sometime last year, I started to think about what it would be like to take a martial arts class.  If you’re a longtime reader or friend, you know that I’m very interested in anime.  Some of my favorites involve martial arts, and I even started to cosplay a beloved ninja character last year.  I really admire the character.  In the process of transforming into her physically, I started to think about her personality and how she worked hard to transform herself into someone courageous and able to protect her loved ones.  I realized that I no longer wanted to feel weak and vulnerable myself.

This year I decided to stop wondering what it would be like, and I actually signed up for a martial arts class – Muay Thai kickboxing.

A year ago, if someone had told me I was going to enroll myself in a class full of punching and kicking, I would have laughed at that person.  Now here I am, learning how to block, how to do a roundhouse kick, and conditioning my body to some of the most intense physical activity I’ve ever experienced.  Some days, I don’t want to go to class, but I always feel amazing after.  As Imagine Dragons sing in their song, “‘Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins.”  It’s truly addictive, and I grow in confidence with myself each class.

I try to go into each session with an awareness and gratitude to my body, the Earth, and An Morrighan.  I strive to listen to my body and its needs.  I touch the ground and thank the Earth Mother for supporting me before we warm up.  When I feel my body starting to slow down, I imagine An Morrighan, her wings spread as she flies into battle.  Suddenly, I feel lighter, I feel stronger.

On my shrine, you’ll see a wooden dagger my dad made me when I was younger.  I used to read “Redwall” books, and was always inspired by the Redwall warrior.  The dagger was made in that spirit.  The cards represent An Morrighan, but also qualities of the warrior – an eagle for courage, and a boar for the fighting spirit.  I also included my fighting gloves and focus mitts (the later blend into the curtains).  I built this shrine, meditated on An Morrighan, and blessed them.  It was a meaningful experience, and it has encouraged me to go on.

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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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An "Ancestor Gnome" I sewed for Bee - Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An “Ancestor Gnome” I sewed for Bee – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Another Samhain has come and gone in my household and protogrove. Some, like myself, observed it from October 31st-November 1st (sundown to sundown). Many celebrated this weekend, for reasons of convenience or celestial precision. I know of some people who honor it all month long, which is totally fine, as the veil between this world and the other seems to gradually “thicken” and “thin.”  As for myself and my tribe, 2015 Samhain has ended (though we may sense our ancestors from time to time).

I’m always a little sad when Samhain ends, being an adult who has regular conversations with her inner child.  I love the magic, the mystery, and the socially acceptable guising.  I also need, as most do, the emotional release that comes with meditating on and facing mortality.  I had a bit of a health scare at the beginning of October.  Everything turned out well, but it was enough to make me pause and prioritize!  The fact that a high school acquaintance died in his battle with cancer a few months before really added to my sense of how delicate and precious our time is.

Regardless of what we may or may not believe about an afterlife, the truth remains a mystery to the living.  The here and now, and our time in these particular bodies, is such a gift that should not be taken for granted.  Even when so many of us in the polytheist and Pagan communities believe in some sort of continuation after life, we miss our beloved dead.  Personally, I accept the ambiguity of what happens to our energy.  The fact that our physical remains will go back into the cycle of creation and destruction, and that our bodies will mingle and always be together in some way, is profoundly beautiful to me.  I take comfort in that, and I’m sure many in my protogrove do as well, yet we still mourn our dead.

Northern Rivers’ Samhain Bonfire – photo by Annette P.

Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF, gathered on October 31st at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center to celebrate Samhain.  Despite the biting cold, we had our ritual at their stone circle.  That in itself was an exciting homecoming, and with the added psychic and emotional intensity of Samhain, it meant for a moving ritual.  Many of us were already tearing up as we gave praise offerings to the Ancestors.  When we got to our traditional apple rite, something passed on to us from Muin Mound Grove, some of us actually had to leave the circle for a bit to calm our nerves.  As we passed the apple, a potent symbol for the Otherworld, we named those who had passed since last Samhain.  As we named them, we pushed a clove into the apple.  The group then intoned, “come to the light” to the accompaniment of a chime.  We called the “Young Ancestors” to our firelight to gather with the “Elder Ancestors” who know the ways back to the Otherworld.  Samhain always makes for a long yet intense ritual.

Today I decided to take my household Samhain decorations down.  As you can imagine, there’s always a little sadness as you remove the relics of festivity.  As I packed the skeletons and ghosts away, it felt like the veil closing on the dead. Yet, I reflected, the Ancestors are always there.  I can always call to them beyond the veil, and there’s a chance that they may hear me with the assistance of messenger spirits, strong bonds, or intense emotions.  The spirit world can be a strange thing in that way.  And just as the paper, metal, and wooden skeletons will reappear in my home again, Samhain will also be reborn next year.

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A cesarean section is an excellent excuse for not running.  Because of that, and the other demands that come with new babies, I gave running up last year.  I still went for walks, danced when I could, and did yoga once (something I’d like to do more of).  Weretoad and I said, “next year.”

Well next year has arrived!  Now that the snow is gone, we’re on vacation, and have more flexibility in our schedules, we can work on running together once more.  Thanks to inspiration from my friend Grey Wren, today I got out of bed, told my husband what I was doing, invited him, and that was that.  Bee stayed with family so we could once more start Couch to 5K.

I was worried about the first time we tried this almost two years ago.  The very first day of Couch to 5K consists of very short intervals of running divided by slightly longer intervals of walking.  Yet the first time, we couldn’t finish.  That’s how out of shape we were.

This time, after the first run, we looked at each other and thought, “Wow.  That didn’t seem very long at all.  I think we can do this!”

And we did!

It was wise of us to start at the very beginning though.  We started to get a little winded towards the end, but we persevered and finished!  (See how I’m finding Druidic virtues in our running?)  Both of us felt amazing.  What’s more, we had a great time outdoors!  I’m very excited to take this first step towards getting back in shape.  I hope we can be better role models for Bee from now on.  I want her to see us up and exercising our bodies as well as our minds.  There’s probably something in there about moderation and integrity…

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Well 2013, it’s been interesting.  You had some great moments but also some really difficult times.  You were a year of great change and growth.  There was death and birth alike.


We started the year  performing a blessing ceremony on our apartment and then enjoying an evening with friends.  The omens were good but I don’t remember what they were now.  I wish I had kept that written somewhere.  This year, I’m making a point to write down the omens I have been taking for the coming year.  Excuse my language, but it seems rather half-assed of me to only look at the omens going in but not reflecting on them coming out!  So, lesson learned!
They say that the way you ring in the new year impacts your energy for the coming year.  If that’s the case, 2013 was one of great friendship!  They certainly helped me get through the difficult times and were there to celebrate the happiness I found.


A photo of our Imbolc altar by Weretoad, 2013.

A photo of our Imbolc altar by Weretoad, 2013.

In February, the North Country Druidic Study Group was reborn as Northern Rivers Protogrove, an officially recognized ADF protogrove!  As we approach our one year anniversary, you can be sure I will spend some time reflecting on the successes and learning experiences so far.  For now I will say that I’ve been so blessed to be part of this.  I’ve formed so many wonderful friendships with people from around he world because of Northern Rivers.

This month was filled with reflection and joy as spring was reborn!  I spent some time with Muin Mound grovies, meditating on Ériu , and connecting with and relating to the energies of life and rebirth all around me.  With morning sickness truly behind me, spring brought out a joyful period of Pregnancy.  I started to feel like a Goddess myself!

A photo featuring my grandfather as an infant.

My grandfather died in April.  It was not a surprise and definitely a mercy as his battle with cancer had taken away his quality of life.  Prior to that, he had lived a long and very blessed life.  I eulogized him here and honored him again at Northern River’s Samhain rite.   The ordeal was very difficult on my family, especially my father, his brothers, and my grandmother who is only just coming to terms with the loss of her mate.  Truly, nothing brings the blessings of life into crystal clear focus like death.


Gifts from a mother blessing. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

This month brought many wonderful things.  Some of my dear friends, including grovies, helped to organize a baby shower for Weretoad and I.  It included a beautiful mother blessing ceremony.  So many beloved people came from near and far to celebrate with us.  We also revealed our baby’s gender which, while annoying to some, was incredibly exciting to us!  This month, I continued to feel like a Goddess as my belly swelled.  It didn’t stop me from dancing around Northern Rivers’ maypole when we celebrated Bealtaine!  Who better to bestow fertility to the land than a mother herself?!  Oh, I will look back at this month with fondness…  So much magic…


My little girl. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Oh, June.  This month began with many difficulties.  We had a difficult time moving into a new home to make room for Bee.  Suddenly, I became unwell and then I went into labor early which resulted in a cesarean birth.  June sent me a heap of challenges, but I put my faith in the Kindreds and myself, and I persevered.  The reward was a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  The magic I felt so strongly in May grew and transformed into something even more magnificent.  New life arrived, and my role was elevated to mother.  May Brighid guide me and protect my baby girl!


This month brought more change, upheaval, and death of a sort.  After a joyous beginning, the month ended with the revelation that my sister and former brother-in-law were no longer happy together.  This resulted in a divorce that continues to sadden the tribe.  So much had been kept from us for whatever reason that the discord came as a great shock.  It was as if someone died because an illusion shattered and I no longer had a brother.  The important things are that my sister and niece are together and safe, and that my sister is growing into a strong, independent woman. I am so thankful for my husband who, despite his annoying traits (which everyone has), dotes on me and the little one.


We celebrated a quiet Lughnasadh  as August opened and we found ourselves reeling from the events at the end of July.  Spending time with grovies, old and new, helped to cheer us.  This month also saw me growing in strength after the cesarean.  I started to exercise again, and enjoyed wonderful walks with my husband and baby.  The month ended with a wonderful surprise – we saw an otter in the St. Lawrence River right in Alexandria Bay!  It’s something I had always hoped to see.  For such a playful creature to grace us with his presence, it felt like the Kindreds were smiling on us and reminding us to find joy in life despite the difficulties.


With autumn in the air and so much change in my life, I entered September reflecting on the creative and destructive sides of the Earth Mother.  I returned to work and broke into tears multiple times, but I have remained strong in that regard.  Balancing work, me-time, and time with baby has been difficult, but it’s become easier.  We ended September with a baby saining for Bee.    It was wonderful to celebrate her wee life with the Kindreds and loved ones, including old friends from Muin Mound Grove.


October is one of my favorite months of the year.  Samhain is a favorite holiday, so there was that, but Northern Rivers had a burst of activity!  Tara lead a wonderful workshop on gems and crystals and we went for a walk around the new “Area 51” sign which celebrates the supposed vortex in Watertown’s Thompson Park.    We excitedly prepared for the upcoming Samhain ritual which was amazingly successful!



Bee playing with her Druidic treasure basket. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I started to find the balance I needed between my spiritual practices and motherhood.  I know this will evolve as Bee grows, but finding ways to engage in my Druidism while also meeting Bee’s needs has been very important to me.  A lot of it has simply required me looking at typically mundane things in a new light.  Motherhood in itself, with all its ups and downs, is very spiritually transformative.  It has brought me closer to Brighid.  I shared a couple of my (so far) successful attempts to introduce Druidism to babies: “Singing to the Sky” and “Treasure Baskets.”


The year ended with ups and downs that we persevered through with the help of loved ones.  I lead a Winter Solstice ritual for Northern Rivers that didn’t go was I had hoped.  I have been fretting and reflecting on it a lot, but my grovies have been really encouraging and understanding.  Rather than throwing in the towel, I’m going back to basics and reading all  I can about ADF’s COoR.  The group will be meeting later this month to discuss ADF liturgy, brainstorm ideas, and plan for Imbolc.  We must take these things as learning experiences!  Rather than becoming entirely consumed by one public ritual, I also threw myself into the 12 Days of Yule lead by fellow ADFers from Three Cranes Grove.  It’s been a very special experience because it helped me bridge my Druidic practices with my Christian family’s, and it became something my husband and baby did every night with me.  It meant so much for my husband, especially, to help me with each little ritual.  He’s even started to say the words with me and doing some minor divination.  I’m really hopeful that we can keep it up with weekly devotionals.


Potion, our beloved ferret. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 20??.

Right before the Winter Solstice, we lost our dear friend Potion the ferret.  As I recently wrote, it was expected.  That didn’t make it any less difficult.  At the same time, we know she is in a better place and that her suffering in this realm has ended.

And with that, the pain and difficulties I faced in 2013 have ended.  My body has been healing, the dead have been mourned, and the transformations accepted.  More importantly, my family has embraced our blessings and thanked the Kindreds for them.  Now it is time to look ahead to the possibilities of 2014!  May everyone reading this have a wonderful New Year!

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Our beloved Potion. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 20??


Last night, we lost a very special little friend.  Potion the ferret has been one of our furry companions since my undergrad years.  I fell in love with her at a pet shop one day and couldn’t resist.  I had been researching ferrets already and was hoping to give one a home.  This particular ferret came from a breeder in Canada and was the only one at the independent pet store.  She was so tiny then…  And boy, was she a handful.  For such a little thing, she could sure bite.  She drew blood on more than one occasion, and it was only through the patient but stern training of my husband (who was still my boyfriend at that time) that she learned to trust us and have fun without chomping down.  After that, she was one of the most gentle little souls in our home.  She played with the cats, loved to explore inside the couch, and was always happy to lick our ears after a shower.  Later in life, she would show that same gentleness with our baby.  When she was younger, she regularly performed her “ferret war dance” with many a cluck.  Because ferrets are social animals, we brought home a friend for her – Puck.  They were the best of friends, although they also got into little spats.  It was a riot to watch them bounce around together…

When Puck passed away in the summer of 2012, it seemed like a little bit of Potion’s spark went with her.  Her friend was gone and she had less to do when we were away in the day.  We continued to take her out as often as possible and she still seemed in pretty good health.  She loved to chase and be chased by our little cat Samus.  When she got tired, she’d find a quiet place to hide and fall asleep.  This was always rather annoying because it happened before I needed to put her in her cage for the night.  It was a ritual that inevitably belated our bedtime. We used to have to coax her out by shaking a container of treats or gently kicking at the couch.  Sometimes she’d nip me through the fabric which always made my husband laugh.  She was gentle but could be a little spitfire too!

After I had my baby girl, we weren’t able to spend as much time with Potion.  We still took her out every night, but because we moved into a bigger house and had to attend to the baby, we kept her in our bedroom.  After a little while, I noticed that she was less active and seemed to be out of character.  She didn’t bounce and cluck like she used to.  She was losing fur and showing all the signs of the diseases that plague ferrets, especially the elderly.  It was everything Puck had experienced, but at a very rapid and sudden pace.  She continued to hide and fall asleep every night.  Some days it was hard to find her again.  I always feared I’d stumble upon her already dead.  I made a special point to tell her I loved her and gave her extra cuddles before bed just in case.  Puck’s death was a surprise and I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t able to say goodbye…

A few nights ago, I noticed Potion was really out of sorts.  She didn’t seem to be eating or drinking as much.  Her stool was different.  She hardly wanted to move. I cuddled her close and stroked her head, looking into those little beady eyes that always shimmered with so much love.  I felt awful for not being able to do more for her.  Between all of our debt and medical bills, we just didn’t have the money to take her to the vet for tests that would only tell us what we already knew.  We opted to offer her the best comfort we could until the quickly approaching end.  We modified her cage so she didn’t have to climb to reach anything.  I carried her with me to the sink and gave her water right out of my hand.  We gave her soft treats which she still showed a great love for.

Last night I cuddled her close and whispered my love to her.  I noticed a couple of her nails looked long so I trimmed them to try and keep her comfortable.  I helped her into her hammock , stroked her little head, and said goodnight.

This morning I found her cold and still.  I pray she didn’t suffer long and I hope she knew how loved she was.  I hope she knew how much joy she brought to us even though the end was hard and she did not get as much of our attention after the baby.  Because it was anticipated, I don’t feel as shaken as I did when Puck passed away.  I had time to really come to terms with it.  I also firmly believe that Puck was waiting for her.  A few nights ago, she did something she’s never done – something that was Puck’s specialty: she stole something rubbery- my husband’s nice earbuds.  I was struck by how odd it was for her.  It’s like she was playing with Puck.  And last night, before going to bed, I picked up my baby and randomly started to sing “Reunited” by Peaches.  I feel like Puck was here, waiting to be reunited with her old friend.  And indeed, when the ground thaws, I will put Potion next to puck in the moon garden.

In case you’re wondering, no – I’m not planning to bring any more ferrets into my home.  Not now, anyway.  They are adorable and clever, it’s true.  They make me laugh and have so many good qualities.  They really do make great pets, however they really need a lot of attention and care – something I just can’t do with a baby.  So if you’re interested in caring for ferrets, please know that they need a lot of work.  Think about your current lifestyle as well as what you aspire for.  Think about whether or not you’ll have room in your budget for the end of life care they often need.  I didn’t think about that in college but I did the best I could …

As we enter the second day of the 12 Days of Yule and I place mementos of her around my Ancestral altar, I’m reminded of how precious life is.  No matter what you celebrate, take some time to show everyone in your life, including your smallest family members and friends, that you love them.  You never know when they will be called to the Otherworld.


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