Posts Tagged ‘hospitality’


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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An experimental quilt and applique piece I made for a friend and grovie, April, while she was going through a difficult time.  She had lost access to her altars, and I made this to represent the Three Hallows until she regained access.  Craft and Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I sometimes fret that I’m not as prolific as I used to be. My Druid studies have slowed down, for sure, but my crafting has as well! I often lament how I don’t get to flex my artisan muscles the way I used to now that I’m so often occupied with a little one. I used to sell my one of a kind art dolls at local shows. I never made a ton of money, but it was enough to keep up with my hobby. The positive feedback from customers really raised my spirits and kept me going, pushing me to work harder at expressing my vision of the Three Kindreds.

I recently vented about just that, more or less, to another talented mama.  When I got home, after having dinner, I got to work on a going-away gift for a grovie.  It was a simple craft, one that would not take days to complete.  Most of my work is like that these days, with the exception of the quilt I made for the recent baby saining.  I realized that most of my work these days become gifts to family members, ritual objects for myself or my protogrove, or gifts for grovies – my spiritual family.  The later is just another way that I give of myself to uplift my community.  My grovies give so much of themselves to help our protogrove flourish – I love to give back to them.  Until I started to think about this topic, I didn’t realize how much effort I put into perfecting my crafts to benefit my spiritual family.  Here are some of the recent pieces I’ve made for my tribe.



A needlepoint experiment that came out very well!  I made this for Tan to remind her that she has the strength of a battle Goddess!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.



My latest needlepoint – a gift for a grovie moving away after he retires from the army.  That’s honestly the hardest part of having a Pagan group near a military base… Jacob will be missed!  I included a very meaningful quote from one of our favorite chants.  I’m happy with the needlework but I think I could have done a better job gluing it into the frame.  I hope he doesn’t mind!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.




A felt Goddess ornament I made for our last Winter Solstice gift exchange.  She went home with Andrew.  She was a first foray into needlepoint.  Craft and Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016



Although I haven’t had a chance to make the more complex dolls I used to sell at craft shows, I continue to make smaller, simpler versions for altars or children.  I made this girl gnome as a baby shower gift for Cassandra’s little one.  Very simple, mostly because she needed to be free of choking hazards, but also very satisfying!  Photo and craft by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Tanya's crystal workshop at a local park.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Tanya’s crystal workshop at a local park.  We sat in the shade of a pavilion, put all the materials on picnic tables, meditated together, and enjoyed a feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Planning the location of a group ritual may be as simple as “inside or outside” for some, especially if they rely on utilizing each others’ homes, but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Furthermore, not everyone has enough space to accommodate more than a few visitors. Traditions like Ár nDraíocht Féin emphasize public rites, so that can further complicate things.  There are many Groves and Protogroves that meet at one or two individuals’ private property, but that seems rare.  If you’re thinking about starting an ADF study group or protogrove, but you’re worried about having an unknown number of strangers in your home, you may want to look at other options.  This may seem overwhelming at first, but you have a variety of paths to explore!

    • Public Town or City Parks

      This is an obvious place to start.  Scout out local parks with accessible bathrooms (very important), shade, and a variety of shelter in case of inclement weather.  Pavilions may even have power outlets if you’d like to have crockpots or kettles plugged in for a potluck following the ritual.  Call the appropriate city or town office to look into a reservation if you’re concerned about having tables or the possibility of shelter from rain.  My group, Northern Rivers Protogrove, rented a small pavilion at one of the largest parks in the area.  All I had to do was look up the park office online and contact them.  They required a $15 fee (which I paid by check with group funds) and asked for some basic information, including a reason for the reservation.  If you’re nervous that a park will reject you for wanting to have a ritual, you could simplify your explanation.  For example, you could say that you’re having a fall celebration while maintaining your integrity.  A ritual and a celebration are the same; it’s just word choice based on audience.   Do check with local and state laws.  I’ve heard from some in other states that parks don’t always allow religious activities.  Looking to save money?  Just meet at the park and find a free place, but be prepared with a plan B in case others beat you to all the sheltered areas.


    • State Parks
      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015

      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015

      Northern Rivers Protogrove recently had a ritual that we called “A Feast for Manannan mac Lir” at a local state park along the St. Lawrence River.  For a group named after the local rivers, it seemed important that we arrange this and “pay the rent” to Manannan!  The information about city or town parks also applies to State Parks, but there may be additional concerns about what you bring in and take out.  For example, a park on a protected lake won’t be an appropriate place to leave certain offerings out of environmental concerns.  Other state parks are more developed.  The location we chose had newly renovated bathrooms, a clean beach with lifeguards on duty, marina, campgrounds, pavilions, and a huge playground.  It was also more expensive to rent a pavilion here ($60), and every car had to pay a $7 parking fee, but the park is immaculate and the pavilion we rented included clear signs as well as garbage and recycling receptacles.  Since the group made a day of the event, it was worth it in my opinion.  We’re about three-four years old now, so we can afford this from time to time, but smaller groups just starting out may want to to save a bigger park for another time if there are high fees.  Also consider the accessibility of the site.  Since ADF rituals are supposed to be open, having events in a more rustic park that might not be handicapped accessible could be a bad option.  You just never know who will show up!  Look for parks with wide paths, ramps, and accessible bathrooms.


    • UU Churches
      Parks are great places, and of course many Druids and Polytheists want to gather outside as much as possible, but if you live in a climate with four seasons, shelter and plumbing become very attractive amenities!  This is especially so with open rituals since some people may not want to (or be physically able) to attend rituals in inclement weather.  Think the handicapped, small children, the elderly, and pregnant women.  Many Pagan groups utilize Unitarian Universalist churches.  In the past, when I lived in Utica, I belonged to an eclectic group that often rented space at the UU church for rituals, workshops, and even a couple Pagan Pride-type events.  However, this was made possible because a few of the group’s leaders were already active members of the UU church, so they were trusted with the keys.  When my protogrove was seeking ritual space, we decided to look at other options because the UU church nearest us already has a CUUPs group, and none of our members went to the UU.  Without the connections, and with time and space already needed by the CUUPs group, we decided not to pursue that option.   Having said that, if you are already active in a UU church, you should look into using that space.  You’ll have access to bathrooms and, usually, kitchen space.  Depending on the specific church’s policies, and your involvement, there may be a fee, and you may need to coordinate with another person who has a key.  Scheduling in advance will be important here due to other programing.


    • Metaphysical ShopsIf you’re lucky enough to live near an established magical shop with enough space, you may be able to have some rituals there!  Back in Utica, there was a shop that hosted bimonthly gatherings, and they were opened to having other groups utilize the space.  This may be a good option for new groups that don’t have an established “home base.”  It could also be a winter solution for groups that usually meet in parks.  Here in Northern NY, a few metaphysical shops have informed me that they would be happy to have us should we ever need space.  They either have a set rental fee, or merely ask for a donation.  One shop even said those who rent a space will get a special discount the day of the event.  You’ll need to consider scheduling in advance because other groups, readers, or presenters may be using the space.  One big plus is free publicity! Many people will come to your group simply because the shopkeeper knows who you are and that you’re already meeting there!


  • Yoga and Holistic Centers

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow.  Photo by Weretoad,  2012.

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow. Photo by Weretoad, 2012.


    Northern Rivers Protogrove’s base is at the beautiful Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  Not all Yoga centers will be an appropriate choice for NeoPagan groups to approach for ritual space, but don’t rule it out.  Ours is not just a studio space in a building – it’s a whole property that includes a yoga studio, kitchen, bathrooms, barn, labyrinth, nature trail, gardens, and a fire pit surrounded by a stone circle.  That last point, as well as the location’s monthly drum circles, encouraged me to ask.  This path is for those who are patient.  I didn’t have an established relationship with the center at the time, and their board wanted to know all about us.  I supplied them with links to ADF, explanations on modern Druidism, and a step-by-step guide to our rituals so that they would see that we’re working with positive energy and not trying to do any harm.  I think my openness and insistence that we are an Earth-centered path really earned us some trust.  We’ve never used the space without their live-in VP in attendance, but he’s very open-minded and loves to take part in our workings.  Our relationship with the yoga center continues to grow and improve, and in the spirit of hospitality, we try to give back when we can.  We always pay a rental fee, often giving more than required when we have highly-attended rites.   We’ve helped with yard work, painting, and occasionally attend their other functions, including fundraising to update the facilities.  We also promote each others’ activities.  Just as with the other examples, you’ll have to do a lot of cleanup when you leave in order to maintain the trust you’re building.  Northern Rivers is lucky in that we have several dedicated members who stay until the floors are cleaned, the tables and chairs put away, and the dishes are done.  We also have to schedule a year’s worth of rituals in advance because they have many other programs beyond their yoga classes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near such a facility, and have the energy and/or funds to give back, I encourage you to explore this option!

The moral of the story?

It would be nice if each Pagan group could have an established temple that meets all their needs, but new groups should spend their energy establishing themselves and having group rituals where they can.  Whether you’re starting a group, or you’re looking for a new ritual space to meet your growing needs, I encourage you to look around your community and think about what’s available to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, and never forget the virtue of hospitality when exploring these possibilities.  In fact, emphasize that virtue, letting others know that you will clean up at least, or help in other ways if possible!  Renting spaces for ritual will often bring up the question of money and how groups obtain it, but that’s a post for another time.  For now, I hope those thinking about starting a study group or protogrove will find this encouraging.  If any of my readers have found other solutions for open group rituals, please comment so those seeking options can get more ideas!

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This post has been a long time coming.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot…

ADF Druids spend a lot of time examining things in light of the Nine Virtues, of which hospitality is one.  It’s always been a quality I struggled with.  Not that I don’t want to be hospitable.  It’s just difficult for me given my own idiosyncrasies, upbringing, and society.  Having a baby really got me reflecting on this challenge of mine because everyone I know wanted or wants to meet her.  As my pregnancy reached its conclusion and Bee entered the world, I was really stressed, uncomfortable, exhausted, and, well, grouchy!  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I had a wonderfully ideal pregnancy right up until the last couple weeks.  The resulting cesarean immediately after moving into a new apartment only made me less interested in socializing.  I wanted my mother and father – that was it.  No doubt it was primal urge to be taken care of after having my abdomen sliced open.  I posted on FB about not wanting visitors.  Some may have viewed that as melodramatic at best or rude at worse*, but seriously – we all react to drastic life changes differently.  As I recovered and grew used to having an infant, my husband and I ventured out to visit people on our terms.  That meant we didn’t have to worry about cleaning, unpacking, or entertaining beyond our energy levels.  When we were tired, we headed home.

I reviewed my DP essay on hospitality to help me reflect.   Little has changed except that I now realize, in addition to my mother’s great hospitality, she has also been incredibly insecure about having people over.  As a result, we rarely had people over except for special occasions! The home was never clean enough for her and, upon entering, our guests were greeted by an apologetic hello, complete with instructions that they shouldn’t look around.  I feel that I’ve inherited this insecurity.  Indeed, I’ve caught myself saying those very things now!  With pets and now a baby, keeping the home “magazine clean” is harder than ever.  And yes, I know real homes are seldom kept that tidy, but it’s very difficult for me to shake my nagging worries that our home is never clean enough, that the pet smells we are so used to are overpowering to our guests, that the furniture is covered in too much cat hair, that the living room is too cluttered with art projects and supplies, that there are too many dishes in the sink, that there are too many wires on the living room floor, that there’s not enough room for people to sit, that the living room is too hot because we choose not to have an AC, etc, etc, etc…

The insecurities about my home are only compounded by my own social insecurities that I’m only just realizing.  My home is my safe place.  It’s where I can relax, let loose, and recharge.  It’s very difficult for me to let just anyone come in to begin with, let alone spend a day or two.  I have to really trust people and click with them.  I have to feel safe and free to be myself without fear of angst.  Most times, I have to mentally prepare myself for having people over.  I do not do well with unannounced visited at all.  It’s something that has always stressed me out.

There’s also a fear of strangers.  When I was younger, my parents put the fear of strangers into me.  There’s a definite positive side to that in that I’m alive and well, but it also nourished a real fear that persists, for better or worse.  Strangers could be thieves or could out my spiritual values to the wrong people!  Letting strangers into my home brings in unpredictability – and my home is not supposed to be that way!  It’s my safe place.

I both admire and tsk tsk groves, circles, and covens that welcome anyone into their homes.  While on the one hand, it is the easiest way to start a group, especially if you have land, but on the other hand, it just makes me nervous.  Most robberies are usually perpetrated by people you know, or so I’ve read somewhere.  I’m also a believer in psychic vampires – people who, knowingly or unknowingly, feed on energy.  I don’t want people who knowingly do that to others without consent entering my home either.  In my experience, they create drama and feed off it or wallow in it.  If people can’t keep their emotional shit together, I don’t want them in my home!  And, unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of people like that in the Pagan community!  It’s a big reason why Northern Rivers has membership levels.  We occasionally do things at members’ homes but nobody wants strangers over.  We keep our High Day rituals open to the community at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  If, after getting to know you, we think you’re a decent, respectful person, we may eventually invite you over to a private gathering.

Having a baby has only made these issues come to the fore of my mind.  With regards to just having folks over, taking care of an infant is hard enough!  To entertain guests for a long time is, well… the thought is just exhausting right now!  Especially when it comes to feeding guests.  My husband and I live on such a tight budget and have so little time to prepare meals between feeding, changing, and entertaining Bee.  When more people are added to the equation and need breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it’s just too much for me to handle right now! And I have so little me-time to recharge.  Bee is the center of my universe.  I love her but I spend sooo much time nursing her and comforting her, especially at night after work.  I crave me-time more than ever**.

And in regards to having strange Pagans in the home with an infant?  No way.  You can bet I’m going to be even more selective of who can pass my threshold.  Again, people may think I’m being crazy or rude, but that’s fine.  The moment that baby came into my world was the moment my Mama Bear Mode was activated.

Yet the thing is, I so want to be hospitable!  I occasionally pour over Pinterest for party inspiration because I so adore throwing them!  I love to spend time with friends and I love making meals to share!  I enjoy having the Folk of Northern Rivers at my home for meetings, small rituals, and general chatting.   A couple years ago, I finally procured a lovely tea set that I enjoy taking out and I desperately want to have some of my lady friends over for regular tea parties!

What can I do to work through my insecurities?  How can I be more hospitable while still maintaining the boundaries I so need for my physical and emotional well-being?

I’d like to, ideally, put aside time one day per week to clean the home to my liking.  This will require equal dedication and help from those living with me, but it will making having visitors less of a stressful ordeal.  I need to plan ahead when having people over so I’m not freaked out about the state of the home.  I also need to just trust that my friends love me, understand that I’m a busy new mum, and won’t judge me harshly for some extra cat hair!  I also need to be firm when I have people over and admit that I just cannot afford to make a huge meal myself and either suggest a potluck or that everyone contribute towards ingredients and putting the meal together.  In fact, that could result in some wonderful parties!  Taco day, veggie sushi night, pizza parties, etc…

To any dear friends or family reading this: I pray that this entry doesn’t come across as mean-spirited.  Rather, I hope it shines some light on my hermit-crab tendencies.  As we get into a better routine with Bee (and thus I get more sleep), I will feel more up to having people over regularly.

To my readers: do you struggle with any virtues?

* Thankfully, many friends and family were very understanding of my desire for quiet and alone time with my little one.  Most who expressed this seemed to have gone through similar experiences or had a good sense of empathy!

** A big thank you to those who visited after Bee was born and brought me or made me food!  My mother was a saint and made several meals those first few days.  One of my girlfriends came over with homemade Indian food!  Oh, that was fantastic!  Another dear friend brought her special strawberry bread which was such a treat!  If you know a new mother and want to visit her or just do something nice – MAKE HER FOOD!  And do the dishes.  😉

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