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Posts Tagged ‘land spirits’

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Earthy gems – dried peas to plant next year. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

I was working in the garden this afternoon. Specifically, I was pulling out the dried pea plants and shelling the pods to save seeds. No matter how frequently we pick and eat fresh snap peas through June and July, the plants are usually tired and brown a few weeks following Lughnasadh. The final harvest is a meditative experience filled with intermittent chanting and prayerful gratitude.

I randomly remembered a comment on my blog years and years ago. I’d posted something about my then container garden. One reply basically asked when my blog switched over to gardening instead of Druidry. It left me confounded.

Years later, my relationship with my garden has deepened. It’s a major part of my Druidry, and I can’t imagine it any other way. I enjoy speaking about mythology and liturgy as much as the next Druid, but I’ve noticed myself blogging more about how I live my Druidry everyday. Druidry isn’t simply philosophy divorced from life – it’s an experience intertwined with everything. Not all magic occurs in a fire-lit circle. This time of year, for me, it revolves around the garden.

Mornings and evenings have felt particularly autumnal these last few days. Some leaves are changing, and apples blush on the branches. The cider mill is open. My garden is moving into a new phase. The late summer crops ripen, and the fall plants embrace the cool air and rise to prominence. The final pea harvest always marks a turning point for me.

If you’re still reading my blog, I hope you enjoy seeing my garden. I hope it inspires you to get your hands dirty and join me in the ritual of life and renewal.

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A few pea pods aren’t dry enough to shell, so they’re hanging on my fence. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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Newly cut roses for Airmed. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

Summer is here, and that means I’m in and out of my garden multiple times a day. Gardens take work, but it’s a relaxing, uplifting labor or love. I often find myself lost in contemplation. I thought about how it’s a perfect metaphor for my religion, but then I realized that it is my religion. Although my Druidry is culturally focused on Irish traditions, it always comes back to the land I live on.

In Druidry, we honor the Ancestors. Most of my ancestors lived in Europe, with a great many coming from the northern parts – Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and Norway. I think of how they interacted with the land (without romanticizing it). I study the plants they worked with, their land-based symbolism, their agricultural cycles, and how they interacted with land spirits. Some of my ancestors moved to the United States to seek new opportunities. I know that some came here to farm, to brew, and cook. I delight in learning how they did things and adapted to North America. I look to the ancestors of this land I now live on. I try to learn about and respect how the indigenous cultures live and work with the land. I try to learn about the spirits in their traditions so I don’t insult them. I strive to honor them in my own way with acknowledgement and my efforts to restore native species of plants to my yard. I try to keep abreast of issues that are important to the tribes who live in Upstate NY. It’s a never-ending effort of respect for the land and the people who lived here first.

In Druidry, we honor the Deities. I honor the Tuath Dé Danann, with emphasis on Brigid, but also a lot of work with Airmed, An Cailleach, An Dagda, Angus, Lugh, An Morrígan,  and Manannán mac Lir. They are mostly deities of cultural elements, but they also have strong land associations. Many have lore-based connections to plants or animals. Their sacred spaces are based in the land, sea, and sky of Ireland and surrounding countries. How can I connect with them in Upstate NY? The Celts migrated in the past, so I believe I can connect to the deities just as they did*. One way is by respectfully creating shrines on the land where I live. One of my favorite, most meaningful offerings are the plants I grow.

That brings me to the third arm of Druidry – honoring the land spirits. I’m mostly focused on the actual spirits of this place – seen and unseen. When it comes to the unseen, I’m specifically referring to the spirit of the soil, the trees, the overall forest here, etc. Not really the Good Folk, but that is a big gray area (see link below)**. When I interact with the tools and ingredients my ancestors knew and loved, I also interact with the land. I must consider what is and isn’t invasive and damaging to this land. When I visit cemeteries to honor the dead, I also honor the land they are becoming. As I grow food for my family, I know that I will go into the soil and contribute to the cycle one day. When I erect shrines for the deities, I work with the land. When I create spiritual tools, I strive to respectfully wildcraft what I can, and then use materials ethically obtained. I avoid working with certain objects due to mining, over harvesting, etc. When I lead rituals with my grove, we are interacting with an older cultural tradition, but also integrating it with the rhythms of this land.

It all comes back to the land. Gardening, and the many other ways I work to live in better harmony with the earth, is me living my Druidry. As we move into more challenging, uncertain times, I pray that my relationship improves and helps me and my family adapt.

 

*The topic of immigrants interacting with deities from another land is a huge topic best for another post.

** Are land spirits and fairies the same thing? Here’s a great discussion on that huge topic.

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When I was younger, my mother taught me to sew. My first project was a small pillow. I decorated it to look like the Earth. At least, that’s how I conceived of it in my six-year-old mind. I still have that pillow. It is a treasured reminder of how I’ve grown with the gift my mother gave me. Sewing became one of my favorite pastimes. Since that first pillow, I went on to stitch stuffed animals, curtains, and costumes. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried my hand at making a fabric doll. When I did, it was because I couldn’t afford a statue of a goddess I work with. The result was something I felt more intimately attached to. I worked with the goddess through the process, and the effort became an offering to her. I’ve gone on to make several spirit dolls since.

For the pragmatic practitioner, a doll can act as a mental stimulus to aid in focus during magic and ritual. For deeper work, dolls can become a conduit or home for trusted allies. They can become talismans to augment the magical qualities your plant spirit ally already possesses. Just as the process can connect you to the spirit you are depicting, you also have control over what materials you use. Choosing more sustainable materials can affect the character and energy of the finished piece.

Dolls are typically humanoid. While a full body is not  required, I find that a face facilitates connection. That’s the power of personification. It’s important to note, however, that such a visage should not be confused with the actual face of the spirit. It is an interpretation, one that should come through much contemplation and even research if you desire to incorporate lore (as I would do when making a deity doll). I encourage you to incorporate motifs associated with the plant. Study the leaves, stem, flowers, seeds, or roots and contemplate what designs you could incorporate.

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Mugwort Dram Pillow Art Doll by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

Originally, I had a more complex concept in mind for my mugwort spirit doll. As time went by, my idea simplified. I decided to craft a mugwort face in the spirit of a green man, but female. As an Artemisia, I find that mugwort has a very feminine energy to it. Furthermore, I wanted to connect the doll to the plant’s dream-inducing qualities and make a dream pillow. I used fabric I already had on hand, including some wool felt for the silver-green leaves I admire. The pillow is stuffed with wool and dried mugwort from my own garden.

I’m very pleased with how she turned out! All that’s left is for me to consecrate her. I encourage those curious in experimenting with spirit dolls to start with a face and add it to something like a drawstring bag or pillow that can contain dried components of your plant ally.

For some inspiration, check out Hagstone Publishing’s spirit doll Pinterest board. If you’d like to see some of the other dolls I’ve made, you can look at my portfolio. Want to join me in my plant spirit ally exploration? Check out Hagstone Publishing’s guide. It’s never too late to work through the journey.

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There are several tree stumps  in my back yard. At one point, there was a grove of trees in the back corner. Last year, our first full summer at our new home, I decided to observe everything growing there in order to decide how to proceed our approach to that area. Given that we only have a quarter of an acre, we have to find a balance between leaving the land alone and transforming it to make our dreams a reality. I watched and studied to determine what were invasive species, what was healthy, etc. I watched the stumps as they continued to send out shoots, fighting for life. I was tempted to let them grow, but my research lead me to reconsider. The odds are against them growing into strong trees once more. If the scrawny branches ever get very high, they will be weak and prone to wind damage. Removing a layer of last year’s oak leaves revealed that the stumps themselves are rotting. Fungi grow there, and various decomposers are making the wood soft despite what the roots are striving to do. It made me sad; the trees are dying and yet, like people, doing anything to live. Perhaps they should be put out of their misery? And so, I promised the land I would reforest the area. While I trimmed the green shoots, I prayed and chanted quietly.

Soon, we will start a new grove, starting with birch and mountain ash (rowan). We also hope to get some apple trees.

While we prepare that corner for reforestation, I decided the branches, which are mostly oak, should be put to good use rather than discarded. I chose some thick bits to dry for a future ogham set. The rest, so tender and pliable, inspired me to try something I’ve always want to do: make a wattle fence.

Well, it’s actually a garden border in what is becoming our forest/shade garden. The bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley are just coming up. I really like how the border turned out despite my inexpert hand. It adds to the woodland character of what we hope will be a quiet contemplative space full of native species. (I recently planted some wild ginger rhizomes out there below the pines.)

The border was especially fun to make since the wattle method is very old. Our ancestors used it to make fences and even construct buildings. Trying my hand at it gave me appreciation for the dead. It would have been so easy to buy a premade border, but the land provided this material. It was grown here and, eventually, it will go back to the land right here. While a part of me will always feel sad about cutting them from the stumps, this is the essence of working with the land.

My first attempt at a wattle border. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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