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Posts Tagged ‘initiate study program’

My work through the Initiate Path of ADF has been slow but steady this past year. I may not always be “studying” in the traditional sense, and I may not be as prolific as others in ADF, but I’m always doing something. Writing prayers for my practice is one such something.

The very practical prayers preserved in the Carmina Gadelica inspired me since I first read them.  There are prayers and songs for all manner of mundane but very important activities such as herding cattle and weaving.  These chores become imbued with sacred purpose when you add that extra focus and energy. Song and prayer is also an excellent offering.  I’ve been working to infuse my own life with small acts of magic, blessing, and thanksgiving.  Not only does it keep me connected to my tradition, the land, and the spirits, but it buoys me up during difficult times, helping me feel part of something greater, even when life becomes overwhelming.  (And believe me… September has found me feeling detached at times…)

On this Autumn Equinox, I share with you a prayer I started around the Summer Solstice, and tweaked throughout the season.  I now say it while tending my garden, or harvesting food and herbs as I did today.  I usually sing it to the tune of “Now the Rite is at an End.”  It just fits!

 

The image includes a photo of some herbs I collected today while singing the above.  My hands smell like the mugwort, calendula, and sage I harvested.  Here’s text for those who’d like it:

Spirits of this plant, I pray
And give thanks for this great crop.
May you heal and nourish us,
And the cycle never stop.

– by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

May your harvest be bountiful, and I hope you get outside to enjoy the seasonal changes.  As for my family, we are joining with our grovemates to celebrate!  Feel free to utilize the prayer in your own celebrations and gardening work.  Or, even better, perhaps it will inspire you to write your own!

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It’s interesting to look back to last summer. At this time, we were preparing to make an offer on our home. We were heading into new territory and some of the worst stress I remember experiencing. It was a lesson on patience and austerity, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Here we are, a year later, transforming our yard into beautiful gardens, shrines, and pollinator habitats. (And a few play areas for the little one!) Last summer was all boxes and uncertainty. This summer, as I stand on my porch to gaze at the small batch of abundance I’ve been cultivating, I feel a sense of peace. I feel that I’m  rediscovering my niche after a long period of stress and flailing.

My nasturtiums are very happy in their herb spiral garden home.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Having the freedom to garden as I desire has been wonderful. Even when I returned home from work riddled with stress and fatigue, a little time in the garden always restored my connection to the Kindred and my own sense of self. Working to form a lasting relationship with this new land has been rejuvenating. It’s reawakened my love of herbalism, and I’m throwing myself back into my casual studies with gusto!  Just a couple months ago, it seemed summer was a distant dream.

I inherited my late grandfather’s map of Ireland and related books.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I’m looking forward to furthering my Druid studies this summer. When I visited my family in the Utica area, these heirlooms from my late grandfather seemed to further point me toward that. He worked tirelessly on my family’s genealogy, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older and started to honor my ancestors. My sister told me she felt my taking these would make him happy, and as I walked around the hallow home where he lived and died, I spoke to him of my intentions, and I got a strong sense of approval.

In addition to the map and books, I also picked up some old artwork for my home, and was given permission to transplant some plants in my garden. I brought some of my grandmother’s lily of the valley for the shade garden, and some comfrey for my herb garden. The lilies seem to be taking well. The comfrey looks a tad wilted with the stress of the move. I’ve not lost hope, though. I’ve read they are quite prolific, and even a little section of root can grow. This particular plant is one of the first that my grandmother, an herbal enthusiast herself, taught me about, so if I can establish a patch from her own garden, it would be very meaningful to me.

Burning grove offerings in my backyard fire pit.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Speaking of Druid studies, my grove is growing strong! My friend and grovie, Cassandra, lead our Summer Solstice ritual. We honored Manannan, and asked him to help us as we reestablished our open doors to communities who need safe places, such as the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. It was a moving ceremony, but also one with much joy and laughter. Some of our members identify as part of the former community, including one of our elders who proudly told us about some of the first Gay Pride marches he attended.

It was a rainy day, so we held the ritual indoors. I brought many offerings meant for the fire to my home, and I made sure they got to their intended destination last night under the light of a waxing moon. I poured a libation to Brighd to help me with the work – the work of a Senior Druid. Hearing the way Northern Rivers Grove has positively impacted people gives me so much hope. I’m working to improve my practice so that I can serve my community.

As I reflect on where I was at this time last year, I feel excited for the relative peace this summer promises.  I will continue to work with my new plant allies and the land spirits.  I will throw myself further into my Initiate Studies with ADF.  Right now, I’m working on Trance 1 and Divination 2, but I know I will have to augment some of the previously completed courses as the whole study program is undergoing change.  It’s all good, though.  It will all help me become a better Druid and a better person in general!

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I’ve been very busy since I last shared an update.  Some of what has occupied me deserves its own post.  For example, my protogrove is now officially Northern Rivers Grove!  Also, we once more participated in the Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown.  All very good things, but also very exhausting.  I’ve made sure to keep up my hearth practice as best as I can, though.  I’m finding that it’s important to stay grounded in my personal spirituality and numinous relationships while also reaching out to support my Grove and local Pagan community.

Sometimes, simply breathing and grounding before going to work or running errands is exactly what I need.  A difficult situation in the first week of October found me retreating to the bathroom at work to shield myself.  In the quiet of the restroom, I called upon the powers of the three realms, pooled them within myself, and built my “Druid Egg” in my usual fashion, strongly visualizing black to banish negativity.  I saw my egg glossed with reflective silver, and sent all the daggers back to their origin.  I then let the powers flow back to the land, sea, and sky.  I left feeling so empowered and energized; I felt and envisioned the proud weight of antlers upon my head, something I find myself doing when I feel strong like one of my spirit allies.

Later, at home, at the quiet of my altar, I turned to my inner grove to speak with my spirit allies.  Simply going inward can be very healing after dealing with difficult, yet ultimately minor, altercations.

Today I came downstairs before anyone else was up, before all the extra electronics were on.  To the sound of rain, facing the forest,  I once more engaged in my Three Realms yoga practice.  It refreshed me.  I’ve found that doing it twice satisfies my need for corporeal symmetry and thus a sense of balance.  Child’s pose connects me to the Earth and the Underworld.  I focus on what that means to me at that time.  I moved through serpent, into cow, into dog – feeling the Nature Spirits as I move upwards into a tree pose.  I stare ahead to the birch trees.  Then, arms upward, I salute the sun and feel the sky energy, today flowing with life-giving water.  This is still a work in progress, and I wish I could do it every morning, but I think making it part of my weekend practice will suffice, though!

Whatever you are working through, whether it’s the Dedicant Path, the Initiate Path, the Clergy Path, or other studies related to your Druidism – persevere and find a way!

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The last couple weeks (since I last updated on my work through basic trance exercises and techniques) have felt like a backwards slide.  You see, I went back to work after a long vacation.  In many ways, this was a good thing, especially because it thrust me back into my ten-month routine of waking up with the sun, doing a devotional first thing in the morning, and then going to bed at a decent time.  Unfortunately, getting back into that schedule, on top of all the mental, physical, and, yes, spiritual demands of work – in addition to taking care of my family – has been exhausting.  Trance has been difficult to achieve, let alone attempt.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried.  I continue to breathe, ground, and shield via visualizations each morning. When I have been stressed, I’ve closed my eyes to visualize all the irritations floating away or burning up in the candle fire…  I engage in the Two Powers often, especially when I do my weekly ADF-style ritual.  Last week I journeyed to my inner grove just to be.  I only moved through my Three Realms yoga practice once since I last wrote about it, which bums me out.

As I move forward and readjust to the usual schedule, I am striving to continue my studies.  I am reading when I can, and I intend to work on some new exercises.  I know that periods of stagnation are normal, but I can’t let it come to that when I’m actively working on my Initiate Path.

Onward, my friends!  Onward and upward!

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As vacation is almost upon me, I’ve decided to tackle another advanced ADF course – Trance 1.  I’ve been putting off restarting it for awhile.  The main reason was having a baby.  Before that, I was making progress with Ian Corrigan’s Nine Moons program, which supplemented ADF’s Initiate Training Program.  I knew I would have to start again, and I think the time is right.  My daughter is getting more independent, and I’m mentally ready.

I started to communicate with other ADFers working on Trance 1.  We’re swapping successes and failures, providing encouragement, and reminding each other to journal.  I’m planning to start reading Trance-Portation by Paxson again. I ordered a few other books from the reading list, and I just received Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman today.

My excitement is tempered by reality, however.  While I’ve worked hard over the past couple years to return to and refine my spiritual practice to include daily and nightly devotionals with weekly formal rituals, trance requires extra time and focus.  I get most of my work done when my daughter is preoccupied or asleep.  The former is difficult because she inevitably gets bored and wants to see what I’m up to.  The later allows me more freedom and time, but usually at the end of the day when I’m so exhausted.  Ah, but I mentioned vacation!  I hope that some time away from work will allow me the energy I need, not to mention mornings without having to rush anywhere!

I’ve been trying to strengthen my meditation skills and get myself back where I used to be.  It’s been hard…  I tried to do some this weekend, but I was so stressed out and tired…  I ended up falling asleep.  Of course, I did a personal no-no  – trying to meditate in bed!  That never works out the way I want.

Well, perseverance is a virtue!  I’ll try to blog more about it.  Heck, I’ll try to blog more period as I delve back into my studies…

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I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

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Look what came in the mail today! Yes, that’s “Patterns in Comparative Religion” by Eliade! It’s for an advanced ADF study course. And yes, actually, I’m excited to read it! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

I purposefully photographed my personal library’s latest addition for a reason.  Even though I’m working hard to take care of a busy toddler, and making sure she has interesting and wholesome stimuli, I’m still making time for myself.  It’s taken over a year, but I’ve finally started to reestablish a routine that allows me to maintain  personally meaningful, deep spiritual connections.  It was difficult, and I still have a lot of work to do to return to where I was before pregnancy, even before graduate school, but I am getting there.  It’s also a little different since some of my daily rituals involve prayers that are more childlike to promote Bee’s understanding of Gaelic polytheism as well as her early literacy skills.  Morning and evening prayers are simple and melodic.  Motherhood has given me a new appreciation for nursery rhymes and ritual gestures.  So the experiential and the experimental are going well.

The hardest habits to reestablish are my academic studies.  Between six months and a year, Bee suddenly became very active.  That’s only increased.  Finding peaceful time to read has been problematic.  I’m still nursing her, so there are times, during the day, when I may fit in some reading, but she usually wants to play with her hands.  Seriously, she grabs and pinches everything.  Everything.  Imagine a cat laying on the book you’re reading.  Now imagine the same scenario, but give your cat opposable thumbs.  Get the picture?  My new plan is to try to read more in bed at night with my trusty reading lamp.  I spend too much time trying to catch up with social media at night, and for what?  To see all the quiz results people want to share?  Psh.  Between the uselessness of that and recent studies showing how detrimental screen time before bed can be, I think I seriously need to make a change.  This great post on sacrifice from the Agora blog really drove that home to me.

Thankfully, I have allies to encourage these revived and improving habits!  A fellow ADFer started an Initiate Program study group through Schoology to help people like myself get through it.  The study program is a beast but this group, and her breakdown, is just what I needed.  Some of the books on the ADF reading list are very academic and require focus when reading.  I have no choice but making time, during Bee’s sleep, to read.  This study group has really helped reinvigorate me, thus my latest purchase towards the course “Indo-European Mythology 1.”  I scanned the table of contents and I’m already excited!

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