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Posts Tagged ‘high days’

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Lughnasadh is difficult this year. Some sad and complicated things happened in my family this week. I’m looking forward to seeing grovies this weekend, but today was a quiet celebration at home. I made a simple dinner of homemade cornbread, tacos with local ingredients, and leftover salt potatoes. We made offerings of cornbread in thanks for our blessings. We’ve been counting them a lot recently.

For games and physical activities, we took a long walk and played a couple card games while I nursed. We brainstormed some ideas for future celebrations when Bee is older.

As we enter the harvest season, I hope to keep my family close so we can take care of each other. I hope to harvest new happy memories with loved ones and to give my baby all I can. I pray Lugh gives my family the strength we need.

May your Lughnasadh come with a good harvest.

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Slowly but surely, things are coming together in the garden.  We’re not being overly ambitious this year given the circumstances, so we’re making what we have work for us.  We’ll probably need one or two more bags of compost and soil, but they’re not very expensive.  I was very happy to get seed samples at the gardening event in Alexandria Bay this past weekend!  That will help a lot.

One of my gardening goals this year is to learn to work with the cycles of the moon. According to local herbalist Sue-Ryn Burns, the last quarter of the lunar cycle is a perfect time for tilling soil, applying fertilizer, and pruning.  Although I’m a couple days early, I wanted to take advantage of both that energy and the fertility of Bealtaine.  I finally emptied my little compost bin onto a tarp to separate the good stuff from everything that’s still decomposing.  This is probably my most successful year of composting yet!  It’s a small operation given my inability to have a large compost heap, but definitely worth the effort!

It started last year with a bunch of garden scraps and some supposedly compostable cups from a cafe with sustainable goals. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Everything went into this small bin. It’s probably about five gallons. I drilled holes into the bottom. I want to get another and then some sort of pan to collect the juices.  It’s supposed to be wonderful for the plants!   I’m very lucky to have a garage in which to store my compost bin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I apologize for the blurry shot, but you get the gist. This is the compost right before winter. I continued to add green and brown matter, usually in the form of compostable, dye-free cardboard. The cold helped the vegetable matter break down faster once the thaw hit. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

A small pile of beautiful, dark compost after I separated it from the still decaying matter. For those curious, the compostable cups are still degrading. That will probably take a long time… I wanted to see what happened, but I’m glad I didn’t throw too many in! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Composting is a wonderful activity, and I definitely recommend it to gardeners, even if you rent like I do!  There are many ways to go about it and it’s a great way to reduce food waste.  It’s very magical and earthy, too.  Truly a great way to teach children about decomposers and soil.

I mixed my compost with last year’s potting soil and half a large bag of compost and soil from the local garden center that wasn’t touched last year.  My husband helped me to shovel it all back into various pots.  We added some more soil to the moon garden and I reconfigured the stones.  All the while, the sun set and an owl sang its song.  It was a bit of work for this pregnant lady, but Weretoad did all the heavy lifting and I enjoy this sort of exercise.  Like my late grandfather, I always have some project and am not entirely happy if I don’t!  I can’t and won’t let my pregnancy keep me from one of my greatest joys – my garden!  After all, it’s a huge part of my spirituality and I intend to introduce my child to this hobby ASAP!

Soon, the moon will start to wax and I will plant greens and flowers.  Meanwhile, I have dandelion roots in the dehydrator and tender young dandelion leaves in the fridge for a Bealtaine dinner tomorrow.  May your Bealtaine be filled with fertility – be it in the garden, your family, your artistic pursuits, your relationships, or finances!

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My Imbolc altar this year.  Included are the felted sheep I made, the pouch I keep my brat in, that motherhood statue from my mum, my drop spindle, the lavender Brighid cross, a collage ATC featuring Brighid from a fellow ADF artisan, and two new beeswax candles and candlesticks from my mum.  And of course, the new table cloth I finished the other day!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I want to wish each of my readers a very wonderful Imbolc.  It’s certainly a special day for me this year.  I work with Brighid regularly, and she is an important part of my life.  What’s more, given her association with motherhood and midwifery, I am feeling particularly sensitive to her energy and invitation to look for new growth.  Not only is the sun increasing in strength each day; not only are some of the trees forming buds; not only are bulbs showing up in the gardening section of stores – my belly grows round with life!  Further more, not only is my family feeling some of Brighid’s magic, but The North Country Druidic Study Group has also been blessed – only we’re no longer going by that name!  As of today, we’re officially a protogrove in ADF!  We are now Northern Rivers Protogrove!  Everyone involved is so excited!  And what spectacular timing!  As long as the lake effect snow that threatens doesn’t force us to change our plans, we’ll be gathering to honor and celebrate Brighid’s feast.  You can bet it’s going to be quite a feast with the news!

Our traditional Imbolc meal.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

At home tonight, hubby and I celebrated with a hearty dinner – my traditional Imbolc meal of colcannon, peas, and veggie crepes!  This, combined with a full week of work, seemed to knock Weretoad right out.  He’s been napping ever since!  I’ve spent my evening quietly admiring Brighid’s candle, preparing offerings for the ritual tomorrow, and excitedly updating the Northern Rivers website to reflect our new name and status.

However you celebrate, I hope Brighid’s feast day is a blessed one for you!  May you find warmth, inspiration, creativity, and healing.

Brighid’s flame.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Well, here we are – the end of 2012!  Before we move into the new year, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on all the personally significant events of 2012.

1) I Spent A Lot of Time Outdoors

Although I make a point to do this every year, it’s always a highlight!  I love being outdoors, and this year I revisited a favorite mountain, kayaked and swam in lakes and the St. Lawrence River, picked blueberries in the Adirondacks, gardened on my patio, and took leisurely strolls behind my home.  I saw all sorts of plants and wildlife, and learned many new things.  Nothing connects me to the spirit world quite the same way as a hike in the forest! Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

2) I Returned to Niagara Falls

After over a decade, I finally returned to Niagara Falls.  Weretoad hadn’t ever been, and we had a wonderful vacation together.  We admired the falls, explored a tropical butterfly garden, humbly stood in awe of a Buddhist temple, and got in touch with our inner child at goofy museums and funhouses.  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

3) More Arts and Crafts!

I continued to sew, felt, spin, and crochet.  I once more tried my hand at knitting, successfully completing two hats for Solstice gifts, and started some basic cable stitching!  My doll making improved, and I worked on some lovely pieces for artisan competitions, commissions, and vending.  I participated in a couple shows this year – the Krebashia Kingdom, a medieval faire in Northern NY, and the Liverpool Pagan Pride Day!  Both were pretty successful and I had a ton of fun.  Although I plan to keep crafting in 2013, I’m turning inward and focusing more on personal projects.  I’m going to take a break from vending for the next few years.  I won’t have time with the little one on the way.    It was fun while it lasted, and perhaps I’ll get back to it again one of these days.  In the meantime, you can still expect me to share some of my work here on the blog!  Local folk may be lucky enough to attend a workshop – I’m hoping to once more teach how to felt Ostara Eggs in the spring.  Doll and photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

4) More Family Involvement

I performed my first ever High Day rite for my family this summer.  I would have attended Summer Solstice at Muin Mound Grove, but different things came up with the family and they begged me to stay, insisting I perform the rite with them so we could all be together.  I obliged and it ended up being a very positive experience.  Some of my family even gave offerings and expressed an interest in doing it again.  Since the North Country Druidic Study Group picked up, my family has expressed an interest in visiting the Yoga Center sometime to celebrate a High Day.  I don’t expect any conversion experiences, but it’s wonderful that they opened up to my beliefs more.  It meant so much to me.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

5) I Attempted to Exercise More!

Over the summer, Weretoad and I started to run using the Couch to 5K program.  I learned a lot about endurance, what I’m capable of, and how to make homemade electrolyte drinks!  It was a lot of work and, even though our fall schedules brought our running to an unfortunate end, we were proud of what we did and hope to start again down the road.  In the meantime, I need to find low-impact ways to exercise while pregnant.  My sister gave me a pregnancy belly dancing DVD, there are yoga classes, and my old friend – walking!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

6) Another Successful Year of Gardening!

Although I still have a long way to go, this year’s garden brought many successes and lessons.  I learned more about growing squash and hope to use my knowledge towards a better harvest next year.  No surprise pumpkins or sunflowers this year, but we did have a surprise leek!  Another wonderful achievement was getting a dwarf lemon tree and having it bear fruit!  Although my ability to garden will be a bit hindered in 2013, my husband is planning to take up many of the responsibilities.  We’ve already started by looking through seed catalogs together and dreaming about next year’s garden!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

7) We Lost a Beloved Family Member

In mid July, we lost one of our ferrets, Puck.  She was such a sweet, mischievous little imp.  We still occasionally find things that she hid.  I felt her very strongly around Samhain, but now she’s quieted down and seems to be at rest.  I still miss her eager face each morning, and take heart in the joyful attitude she possessed right up to the very end.  I learned a lot from her, will always love her, and will continue to remember her.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

8) The North Country Druidic Study Group is Born!

In June, after finishing my graduate classes (huzzah!), I decided to finally start a Druidic study group.  I posted about it on a local FB group dedicated to Pagans and got some nibbles! I wasn’t sure where it would go, but decided it was worth trying if only to make some friends within the Pagan community. Suddenly I’ve got a core of very dedicated, interested members.  Some even joined ADF!  We’ve formed a relationship with a local Yoga Center and started to perform public rituals for the High Days.  In 2013, we’re hoping to become an official ADF protogrove!  I’m very excited for us!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

9) I Became Pregnant!

In November, I found out I’m having a baby!  Weretoad and I had been trying for a few months and poof!  Suddenly it happened!  Everyone in my family is very excited, and we’re happily preparing for the little one’s birth in 2013!  I won’t gush too much about it here because I seem to do that enough every other post!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

10) I Stepped Down from Muin Mound Grove

Muin Mound has been my spiritual family for several years.  I grew as a Druid, a woman, and an artisan with them, and I know my faith is what it is in part because of these wonderful people.  Weretoad and I love everyone there, but I had to step back in order to focus on my pregnancy and support the hopeful protogrove here in the North Country.  We will always be a part of Muin Mound and they support us in our decision.  We plan to visit as often as we can, and my hope is that the North Country Druids will be strongly linked to them.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

As the day turns to evening, and as you prepare for your house blessings and parties, I hope you bring in much luck and happiness for the New Year.  I think Teo Bishop said it best on his blog post, and I second him in every way.  I thank you for reading my blog in 2012, sharing your opinions and insights, and all the positive feedback.  I’ll see you in 2013!

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The Earth is warming.  The sun is shining.  The plants are rejoicing! Ahhh…it must be time for the Summer Solstice!  It kind of snuck up on me!  Feels like just yesterday we were dancing the Maypole…

It’s hard to say what the old Celts actually did at this time of year.  Some customs seem to have been brought in by immigrants and invaders.  Others are localized festivals not celebrated on a Pan-Celtic scale.  Certain regions of Ireland, such as County Limerick, have celebrations associated with Áine.  Her influence seems to be sovereignty (big surprise), light (possibly the sun), and the Otherworld (Freeman, 178).  In some places, burning wheels were rolled down hills and used to predict whether or not there would be a good harvest (Hutton, 311).  Bonfires were common in many places this time of year (Ellison, 178).  The Manx practiced a tradition of paying rent to Manannán mac Lir, lord of the sea (179).

Some of my herbs.

At Muin Mound Grove, we tend to honor two of the Tuatha Dé Danann – Airmid and her brother Míach.  The story goes that their father, Dían Cécht, a healer God, killed Míach in a fit of jealousy for making an improved prosthetic arm for the king God Nuada (Dían had already made one of metal, but Míach’s was of flesh and bone).  From the ground in which Míach was buried, all the healing herbs grew in the shape of a man.  The herbs grew according to the body parts they could heal, thus revealing the mysteries of the plant world to his sister Airmid.  She gathered them in her cloak.  Again, Dían became mad and scattered the herbs to the wind.  Some say that this act is why we do not fully understand the magic of herbs and continue to suffer illness.  Others say that Airmid is the only one who knows their secrets.  We remember and honor Airmid and Míach at Midsummer in Upstate NY because it is when herbs start to come back to full strength in our gardens.  This is an especially important time of year for gardeners such as myself!

Airmid Mantle

Last year, I gifted my grove with a handmade Airmid mantle.  During ritual, we place herbs that we research upon the place it may heal before giving the herbs as an offering to the Nature Spirits.  Should you wish to add this tradition to your own Midsummer Rites, I suggest not putting the offerings in the fire unless you know, without a doubt, that the herbs are safe to burn.

While the herbal harvest is underway, my favorite fruit is also ready for picking here in Upstate New York: the strawberry!

I started my celebration a few days ago with some strawberry muffins.  They were so delicious that I’m making them again – heat and humidity be damned!  I used local strawberries and the basic muffin recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  Very easy and perfect for breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (look for local flour!  We have North Country Farms near my home!)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I use sugar in the raw)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg (use local if possible!)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk both times and it worked well)
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • about 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries – halved or quartered depending on size

Grease your muffin tins.  This recipe claims to make 10-12 muffins, but they would be very tiny.  I used a six-cup muffin tin and made really large muffins.  I like them that way!  Mix your dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and create a well in the center for the liquid ingredients.  Mix the liquid ingredients in another bowl then pour it into the dry mixture all at once.  Mix together until it’s moistened yet lumpy.  Add your berries and spoon everything into your tins.  Bake in a 400° F oven for 20 minutes or until brown.  Cool and enjoy!

However you celebrate the Summer Solstice, take some time to check out what is locally available.  So many of the high days are intimately connected to the agricultural cycle, and Summer Solstice is known for the “first fruits.”  While what is happening in Upstate NY, for example, may not match up with what the ancient Celts were doing in their various regions, the most important thing is that you’re connecting with your local nature spirits and your local agricultural cycles.  Head over to your farmers’ market to explore!

My Summer Solstice  lunch today- locally made Greek yogurt with organic oats and a strawberry.  Nom!
Resources:
The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit by Rev. Robert Lee (Skip) Ellison
Kindling the Celtic Spirit by Mara Freeman
The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton

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I’m always trying to think of easy tutorials for Pagan families to do together, especially projects that help people learn and perfect useful skills like sewing.  This one is to celebrate Beltaine.   During this season we delight in the new life bursting forth everywhere.  It is also a time to be flirty and sensuous.  The ancient Celts were described by historians as wearing colorful clothing and a lot of jewelry.  They were a people who appreciated art and wore it proudly. In the spirit of their showy nature, the lusty month of May, and the blossoms outside, I came up with this floral garland hair clip.

The finished piece worn in the back of my hair.

The Process:

Step 1: Gather your materials.  Pictured are scissors, three equal strands of slender green ribbon, three different colors of felt scraps,  buttons, corresponding thread, and a needle.  Not photographed is the hair clip.  These were all materials I had laying around.  The felt was made from recycled products.  I highly suggest using a hair clip that you can stitch on rather than glue.  While some glues are very sturdy, I’ve found that good stitching gets the  job done just as well and without the fumes or high temperatures.    As far as children go, the most dangerous aspect of this project is the needle.  If you make this with children, make sure they’re dexterous enough to handle it.
Step 2: Gather your ribbons and make sure they’re equal.  I don’t suggest making it very long unless you have exceptionally long hair.  You’ll be folding the garland in half and attaching the clip midway.  Test the length against your hair.  Doyle just loved this activity.
Step 3:  Knot and somehow secure that end of the ribbons to something so that you can easily braid.  If you’re anything like me, you have tons of art supplies in boxes and crates.  I  used this tub of colored pencils to keep my ribbons in place. Knot the other end. When your’e done, you’ll have a nice garland!
Step 4: Cut out teardrop shapes from the felt.  They can be small, medium, or large.  I eyeballed them.  They don’t have to be perfect – just similar.  If you are a perfectionist, you can make a little pattern but for something so small that will be clustered, I find the process tedious and unnecessary. Another option is to buy precut felt flowers at the store but that’s not as fun for me.
Step 5:  Stitch your petals onto the braided ribbon garland.  I suggest doing this first rather than adding the button at the same time.  Doing it together becomes cumbersome and you might not adequately secure all the petals.  This is especially important for wee ones learning how to sew.
Step 6: Add your buttons.  Make sure they’re fully secured by stitching through the holes several times.  Little ones might benefit from two holed buttons to simplify the process.

Step 7: Repeat steps 4-6 for as many times is necessary.  Attach the flowers at desired intervals.  My garland ended up having 5 flowers but this will vary depending on the size of your flowers, the number you make, the space you utilize, and the length of your ribbon.  To make them even, I suggest using an odd number of flowers.

Step 8: Securely stitch the hair clip to the most central flower.  As with the button, pass the needle and thread through the openings several times.

Step 9: Wear and enjoy!  You can pull strands of hair to the back of your head and wear it as I did, or you can clip some hair on the side of your head and wear it so the ribbons hang closer to your face.

I think this project is a fun way to get into the spirit of the warm season.  Most of the time, you see ladies and girls wearing floral circlets.  For work and school, where you might not want to stand out so much, a clip like this is just the ticket to add some floral flair to your look while celebrating Beltaine.  Besides changing the colors of the felt, thread, and buttons, other possible variations include: shorter ribbons for people with shorter hair or who don’t want something quite as showy; leaves rather than flowers; one leaf or flower with a garland of bells.

Have fun!

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Imbolc is fast approaching and I’ve been getting ready!  I’m nearly done with this holiday’s artisan trading card and should have it in the mail by the end of the week.  In the meantime, here’s the offering I’ve made for Brighid.  It’s a sachet stuffed with wool and various dried herbs from my garden.  The Brighid cross isn’t as centered as I would have liked, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever embroidered which is saying something.

I also made some representations of the High Days for a wreath I’ll be making at the grove.  The only charm missing is Imbolc’s.  I want to make a small Brighid cross.  I’m unable to attend the business meeting and crafting session because of class so I hope that there’s either enough wheat left for me to make one or that someone can do it for me.  Anyway, at the top is a skull for the ancestors of Samhain.  Going around sunwise, next is some holy for the Winter Solstice.  After the blank spot for Imbolc comes a bird nest for the Spring Equinox followed by a blossom for Beltaine.  Next is a bright sun for the Summer Solstice, a spear for Lughnasadh, and an apple for the Autumn Equinox.

Next is a pouch another Pagan’s work inspired me to make.  I could always use more pouches for ritual equipment.  I need to add a strap to this and will probably use it with my ritual garb.

I’ve been wanting to make a stereotypical witch for awhile now.  Well… not Oz stereotypical, but a witch with black robes and a pointy hat.  She’s a child witch, much as I would have liked to dress when I was young and playing at witchcraft (more fun than playing house).  She’s very small but I’m pleased with her.  I did not use a pattern to make her.

I finally found a use for one of my crow beads!  Yay!

 

Finally, I’ve been busy in the kitchen again!   Another culinary success!  These bagels are vegan, too!

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