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Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Truly, the last ten years have been transformation for me, and 2019 was, overall, a grand end.

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The famous entrance stone in front of New Grange. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011

 

I entered the decade a newly married woman with a new job, new apartment, and new community. I had to start from scratch making friends and learning the land. My Druidry grew, especially in the first five years. Before I had my daughter, I did some intense magical and meditative work. I created and acquired some of my most cherished tools. I had profound experiences with the land and spirits that pushed me onward. My husband and I even traveled to Ireland! It urged me to start a Druid study group and find kindred spirits. This ultimately resulted in Northern Rivers Grove! Connecting with others who wish to commune with the Kindreds and serve the land in a positive, safe environment has been such a blessing and sense of pride. As I continue to read about others who struggle(d) with toxic circles, I count myself lucky and intend to remain vigilant to protect my grove.  Though my official studies within ADF have stagnated since having my daughter, I’ve continued to grow on a personal level to serve my spiritual family by writing liturgies, performing rites, and practicing with divination. I rediscovered the value of simple but powerful folk magic and devotionals, and I placed the academics on the back burner for now.

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A Bealtaine ritual with Northern Rivers Grove, ADF. Photo by Grey Catsidhe

Becoming a mother was the most defining aspect of the 2010s. While it slowed my progress in magic and trance, it taught me patience, endurance, and perseverance I never knew I was capable of. My blog’s focus turned to Pagan parenting for a bit, and I continue to reflect and share on that topic with my readers.

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Airmid (OoaK Fabric Art Doll) sewn by Grey Catsidhe. 2010

I began the decade with a flurry of sewing, and I had the pleasure of vending at small festivals and through Etsy. My husband was always a tireless support, even sitting with me at my stall. Once I had my daughter, my priorities shifted. My sewing slowed, but Brigid woke my love and drive for creative writing. I believe my Druidry nurtured this and gave me a natural outlet at rituals and within ADF as a whole. I shared work with my grove, published material in Oak Leaves, and took part in some #Prayeraday challenges!

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As 2019 comes to a close, I am full of gratitude for my growth as a writer. I attended a conference, joined a writing society, participated in #pitchwars and #pitmad, and even queried a few agents and publishers. Networking has been helpful. I haven’t felt so connected to other writers since college! I’m still tweaking my manuscript after some kind rejections, but I’m very proud of my work. Beta readers are giving me helpful suggestions and positive feedback which is encouraging. I don’t often talk about my geeky side on Ditzy Druid, but I’ve even written some highly reviewed fan fics! Finally, I’m incredibly proud to say I published a short story in the first issue of Stone, Root, and Bone magazine through Hagstone Publishing. 

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I intend to continue improving and achieving as a writer. My greatest focus remains creating stories about contemporary Pagans. 2020 and the coming decade promises more writing, and that includes my blog! I’m honored that you’ve joined me for some of my journey. Thank you.

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A full moon working in summer, 2019.

May the coming decade be full of growth, kindness, good stories, and time outside. Kindreds bless! Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh – Happy New Year!

(Oh my gods, I never even gushed about all my gardening!)

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A lovely little potato and pea harvest from 2016! Photo by Grey Catsidhe

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After many months of admiring from afar, I finally signed up with author Lora O’Brien’s Irish Pagan School. Another polytheist I admire, Morgan Daimler, recommended Lora awhile back, and I’ve been eyeing her website with interest ever since. I’m trying one of the free courses, Learn the Lore, first. They are short, based around 10ish minute readings with videos. Very manageable, especially for someone like me who is trying to revive my academic side of Druidry. I’ve kept my daily devotionals, but I really want to keep learning and reflecting. Hopefully this can yank me from my doldrums.

I’m going to try and put my reflections on here as a way to hold myself accountable, and to start blogging more regularly.

Yesterday, I read and listened to the first half of Echtra Condla. It’s a story I had read before, in one of the anthologies I possess, but hadn’t really thought much about. First of all, I love listening to Lora read. I am grateful to listen to an Irish person tell the stories, and to hear how the names are pronounced.

I was tasked to reflect on my thoughts in regards to the native, Irish lore and the Christian influence on them. Do I read the mythology specifically for the Pagan elements? Do I look for Christian allegory? Does the latter bother me? Etc.

I’m comfortable reading lore and knowing that there is a Christian layer. It would be wonderful if we had unadulterated, native Irish mythology, of course, but I’m glad to have what we have. It creates an interesting puzzle. I may not catch all the Christian influence, but I feel that the Pagan elements are so strong that to simply dismiss tales like Echtra Condla would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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My dairy-free crepes turned out well! I didn’t have any lemon to squeeze over them, but I prefer powdered sugar anyway. Photo by Grey Catsidhe

I’ve also found that I appreciate knowing what my more recent Irish ancestors did and believed, too. Learning their beliefs is just as important when it comes to honoring my ancestors. It seemed like no coincidence that I started this on Pancake Day. While I’m not Catholic anymore, I decided to make some thin, crepe-style pancakes to honor my ancestral traditions. (I tried a dairy-free recipe, and they turned out really well!)

I’m looking forward to day two!

 

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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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Homemade Pan Boxty – Photo by Grey Catsidhe

It’s been awhile since I tried anything new from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  I made boxty pancakes before, but I decided to try making pan boxty today.  Unlike the former, pan boxty only utilizes fresh grated potatoes.  I didn’t have any mashed potatoes sitting around.

According to Allen, this dish came about in response to famine and poverty.  By grating and then squeezing the moisture out of the potatoes, our Irish ancestors were able to use potentially rotten spuds that wouldn’t work in other dishes.  Pan boxty is dense, crispy, and filling.

The traditional recipe she shared called for six “medium” potatoes.  I think the recipe was for one boxty that could be quartered…  but I was able to make three!  It didn’t specify what size of cast iron pot one should use, so you have some wiggle room when it comes to portions!  (Heck, in a recipe that calls for a “handful” of flour, you can play around…)

Despite its simplicity, boxty is not a quick meal.  You have to grate the potatoes, squeeze the moisture out, and wait for the starch and water to separate.  Each boxty cake takes about thirty minutes to cook, so if you make more than one with a small pan… be prepared to wait around a lot.

If you have the time and energy, making boxty is worth the effort!  They are very delicious, especially with some ketchup (is my mutt American upbringing showing?). The effort they take will keep us from overindulging in these thick, buttery, crispy, potato treats, but I see myself making them whenever I have more potatoes than I know what to do with!

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In case you haven’t been following the news, Ireland has all but officially just became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!  And wow – by 70%!  I am very proud to have Irish heritage today.

It’s especially fascinating for me to see this after having recently finished reading Angela’s Ashes, a memoir by Frank McCourt.  While I’m normally more interested in ancient and medieval Ériu, I’ve been trying to learn more about modern Ireland.  There’s so much to wade through, but I feel that it’s important for me to better understand all of my ancestors, not just the pre-Christian ones.  McCourt’s story takes place in the early 1900’s, right up until after World War II.  It highlights an Irish family’s struggles with poverty and addiction, as well as Frank’s own coming-of-age.  Also evident are the deep wounds of English occupation, animosity between Catholics and Protestants, and religious-oriented sexual repression and guilt.  Included is a small peek into a generation’s perception on homosexuals within Ireland.  The whole story is very depressing, but an incredible page-turner.  Part of this is due to McCourt’s wry humor which translates well through his childhood point-of-view.  As I read, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors.  The book opened with Frank’s parents moving to New York to escape Ireland’s poverty.  They came around the same time as some of my ancestors before returning to Ireland to seek help from their families.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

When I visited Ireland a few years ago, I saw many reminders of where the country had been.  Not just the magnificent megalithic monuments that I was mostly interested in – but monuments to honor victims of the Great Famine and scars from events like the Easter Rising.  To see a nation, once the site of so much animosity, come together to honor love makes my heart swell.  Today, I can see and appreciate just how much Ireland has grown.  I can only understand it so much as an American removed from Ireland by a couple generations… but I am still so proud.  It’s not a perfect country, of course, but it is quite different from the one my ancestors left decades ago.

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If you live in America and have a Netflix account, you’ll be able to check out a Nature documentary called “Ireland’s Wild River.” It follows the narrator, Colin Stafford-Johnson, as he shares the beautiful Shannon River.  I watched this recently on a lazy evening while my little one napped in my arms.  The visuals are stunning and immersive.  I  caught myself wistfully sighing more than once as I imagined myself there.  Many of the documentaries I watch about Celtic lands, particularly Ireland, are concerned with history.  This program was dedicated to the plants and animals that live in and around the Shannon’s meandering waters.  While we modern folk learning about Druidism in America must explore our own local flora and fauna, it is also important that we understand the land that our ancestors came from.  We may find helpful similarities between our lands and the Nature Spirits that live here which may further inform our understanding of lore, art, holiday observations, and other folkways.  Don’t expect a lot of depth, and especially don’t look for much discussion on the old magical beliefs of Ireland, though.  However, it could be just what you need to inspire a new prayer for the Nature Spirits.  If you need to relax and have 52 minutes to lounge, why not indulge in some beautiful imagery of Ireland’s lush Shannon River?

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I recently watched “Ghosts of Murdered Kings” on PBS.  If you follow the link, you’ll be able to stream it on their website.  This documentary focuses on the research surrounding the various bog bodies that have been uncovered throughout much of Northern Europe.  I was able to see some bog bodies in person, first one at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and then in the National Archaeology Museum of Ireland (which I blogged a bit about here).  The later has several on display.  I felt a bit odd typing the previous sentence because there is something deeply humbling and even troubling to me about displaying dead bodies, especially if they were meant to be in the bogs…  But on the other hand, they have taught us so much about the Celts and their beliefs.  They also communicated something almost ineffable about mortality that stayed with me after seeing them.

“Ghosts of Murdered Kings” is another wonderful addition to the NOVA library.  It explores the most recent theories surrounding these bodies.  The prevailing theory seems to be that the bog bodies were usually royalty sacrificed to the land following poor harvests which relates back to the old ritual marriages between rulers and sovereignty Goddesses.  Even having been exposed to this theory before in history books and the National Museum of Ireland, the refresher was welcomed.  I learned several new things about how these theories came to be which gave me a greater appreciation for the scientists who work so diligently.

I recommend this documentary but caution that children might be frightened by it as it shows real corpses and features some minor dramatized violence and discussions of “triple murder” and “overkill.”  It will definitely make you reflect on the practices of our Celtic ancestors and their relationship with the natural world.  Whether such a sacrifice was or still is necessary is not the point – rather, why aren’t we taking our relationship with the land as seriously?  Each of us is married to the land whether we like it or not.  If we fail to respect her while also meeting our needs, what we will we have to give up to change the situation?  What habits should we commit to the bogs to better ourselves and society?

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