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Posts Tagged ‘Muin Mound Grove’

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Daniel’s Memorial Dragon Garden – Photo by John Crump, 2017.

The transition from winter to spring was marked by a tragedy within my own community and grove. A friend, someone I started studying Paganism with back when I was in college, suddenly passed away.  It was very sudden and heartbreaking, especially as he left my friend (his wife), and their daughter on the corporeal realm.  After discussing his wife and daughter’s wishes, the grove (of which he was a member) came up with the idea to create a memorial dragon garden in his memory.  The Yoga Center, where we have most of our rituals, allowed us to keep it on their land near the fairy gardens.

We gathered for the Spring Equinox and created it as a magical working.  It was part to memorialize our friend, part to heal our hearts, and part to strengthen our bonds.  In addition to studying Wicca with him when I was in Utica, he attended Muin Mound Grove for many years, then joined Northern Rivers Grove last year.  The two groves came together to honor him in our working.  It was probably the hardest ritual I ever lead.    As we took turns placing stones or figurines in the garden, we shared memories.  There were many tears and hugs.

I spotted these daffodils growing in the hedge.  I wonder if someone tossed a potted plant and now they’ve gone feral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We focus so much on rebirth at this time of year. The death of a friend and grovemate has had me focusing on the death part that is so necessary for the cycle to renew. We get caught up with the flowers in the spring that we can forget the decaying leaves that nourish the plants. Honestly, thinking about how I will go back to the Earth and contribute to that gives me a strange comfort. All the same, it doesn’t make these partings any easier.

No buds, but the wildflowers were growing in late April.  I need to go back and visit…  Red trilliums are such a beauty to behold.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I collected big, heavy bag of trash in the woods for Earth Day.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I went into the woods around Earth Day to keep with my tradition of picking up some trash that time of year. I usually try to pick up some trash whenever I go into the woods, but I put in extra effort around Earth Day. The effort is my offering to the local spirits. I wondered if any of the Dead lingered in the woods, watching me remove the garbage…

We celebrated Bealtaine with laughter and joy. We danced around a Maypole and we jumped the embers for cleansing and good luck. We missed old friends, those who moved away, and our friend who passed beyond the veil. We called on the fertility of the land, and I contemplated the role our Ancestors have in abundance.

Shortly after Bealtaine, I took part in my friend’s very small and private funeral. We met up with his family, another grovie, and a friend from the eclectic circle in Utica. There were elderly people and babies gathered in a small circle of mud boots and umbrellas.  We were surrounded by trees that held great significance to my departed grovemate and the most magical balancing stones. The sky cried buckets.  While others moved soil, everyone chanted:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
And fire my spirit…

I thought of all the Dead around us, mingling with the soil, the waters, the air, and in our own spirits…  It was a sublime moment.  One that will stay with me forever.

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Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby.  It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid.  A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really.  She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not.  I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me.  A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away.  I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.

This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores.  I used some of the money toward a candle making kit.  It was a very simple kit  with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders.  I broke into it today and had a lot of fun.  Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.

The kit was very easy to use.  I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels.  Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use.  I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me.  I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit.  I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients.  As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.

I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try.  I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week.  The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly.  That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.

My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.

‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.

 

 

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The beautiful silver charm and box created by our talented Tan.  Also pictured is the beeswax candle used in the blessing.  Photo by Cassandra, 2016.

About six months ago, I performed my first Mother Blessing for my friend and grovemate Cassandra.  During my protogrove’s Spring Equinox rite, I had the honor and pleasure of leading a baby blessing, or saining, for the bundle of joy who arrived around Imbolc.  I performed the blessing as one of our magical workings.  It was largely inspired and informed by the saining Rev. Skip Ellison performed for my daughter.

I blessed the baby in the name of the Kindreds – by fire, well, and tree.  As I recited the prayer, I circled the child, held by her mother, with a beeswax candle.  Then placed some of our blessed water upon the baby with a silver charm handmade by one of our grove artisans, Tan.  Next, I placed my oaken wand against the child.  Finally, as I recited a translated charm from Carmina Gadelica (page 192 from the CJ Moore edition), I sprinkled the baby three times with “wavelets” from our holy well. This resulted in much squirming from the wee one, and chuckling from the circle of onlookers.

Next I presented the child and mother with a quilt the protogrove put together.  Secretly, I reached out to our members near and far, asking for bits of fabric representing the baby, her family, and protection.  I received such a variety, and some of the personality of the group came through.  I practiced using my growing needlepoint skills, Bee scribbled on some with fabric marker, there were fluffy foxes, whimsical owls, fireflies, spirals, a Goddess symbol, and several runes.  It was the biggest thing I’ve ever quilted, and although it challenged me, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out!  We passed it around the circle, touching in and putting our love into the blanket.  Charged with care and protection, it represents the safety, love, and guidance of the community.  Muin Mound presented a similar quilt to my daughter at her saining, and I loved the idea of a communal quilt as a sacred object – a child’s first magical tool.  When feeling sad or scared, the child can wrap up in the blanket and feel the support pour in.  As my protogrove grows, we develop our own special traditions.

After taking an omen for the child, I moved on to thank the Kindreds.  I don’t think I planned the end of the working all that well, but my grovemate seemed moved and very happy with the working.  Perhaps I should have some sort of musical signal, or a final exclamation?  I also wish I had thought to set aside a special chair ahead of time, as I had to awkwardly find one right before initiating the magical working.  As always, I’m growing and learning as I go along!  Serving my community is such an honor.  There’s definitely a pressure in that I want to do it to the best of my abilities, but it’s extremely fulfilling.

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Last weekend, we celebrated Lughnasadh with friends from Northern Rivers Protogrove and Muin Mound Grove at the latter’s annual Lugh Games. There was friendly competition, feasting, swimming, singing around a fire, and a lovely ritual. My husband was crowned the champion of the games! It was a wonderful time.

Today, I celebrated Lughnasadh with my family. Having already participated in a large, formal ritual, today was about our household customs.  I hope my readers had a blessed Lughnasadh.  May the season be fruitful for everyone!

One of our traditions is to gather wild grass gone to seed on Lughnasadh. It’s the closest we have to wheat near our home and it acts as a centerpiece on our dinner table. Come Imbolc, our Druid group will use the grass to make Brighid crosses. Gathering it was a wonderful excuse to spend some time outside on this lovely Lughnasadh day! Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

Although it’s a small harvest, I’m proud of it!, especially the potatoes. I only dug around a corner in one of my potato bins and was pleasantly surprised! Huzzah for harvest!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

We set our table for a homemade dinner of salad, roasted veggies, seitan, corn on the cob, red wine, and my first attempt at “wheat sheaf” bread. Everything was delicious, and much of it came from local farms or our own patio garden!  We made offerings to Lugh and Tailtiu.  After dinner, I used some of the cornhusks to make corn dollies.  I can’t wait to share that tradition with Bee.   Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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As part of Northern River’s Autumn Equinox ritual, we had a baby saining ceremony for Bee.  The rite was inspired by material gathered by Alexander Carmichael in Carmina Gadelica.  In the highlands, Pagan ceremony blended with the Christian idea of baptism.  Baptism was seen as a powerful force of order among those people.  It was the first initiation into the community and the Christian faith (191).  Baptism was valued so highly, and failure to receive one was such a frightening prospect that special cemeteries were set apart for the babies who died before receiving such a blessing.  Sad little places, they were often rocky and hard to get to.  “It was thought,” Carmichael explains, “that such a child had no soul; but it had a spirit, and this spirit, taran, entered into a rock and abode there, and became mac talla (son of rock), which is the Gaelic term for “echo” (190).  To me, that language suggest a fear of ghosts and/or angry spirits.

Although sainings have some of the familiar acts of a Christian baptism, it is to be viewed as more a blessing and protective charm rather than any sort of dedication to a specific religion.  The tradition seems to come from the midwives, or knee-women, who performed their own baptism prior to that given by the priests (189).  This was likely done for fear of infant mortality and how seriously the community viewed baptism as demonstrated above.  However, these midwife baptisms have language that suggests they’re carried over from earlier traditions.  There’s protective language against fairies and gnomes, for example (192).  Indeed, if  you read my earlier post about childbirth traditions in Ireland and Scotland, you’ll know that a fear of changelings was also very real to our ancestors.  To protect against otherworldly abduction, newborns were “handed to and fro across the fire three times, some words being addressed in an almost inaudible murmer to the fire-god.  It was then carried three times sunwise around the fire, some words being murmered to the sun-god” (189).

For our purposes, Rev. Skip Ellison of Muin Mound Grove performed the saining.  It was important to us that he do it because he married us a few years ago.  He asked that the Three Kindreds protect Bee.  He gave us an iron ring to keep near her to ward off malignant spirits.  I carried a candle around her as she was held by my husband. She was then given splashes of water, “wavelets,” to symbolically bestow various qualities.

A waveflet for thy form,
A wavelet for thy voice,
A wavelet for thy sweet speech;

A wavelet for thy luck,
A wavelet for thy good,
A wavelet for thy health;

A wavelet for thy throat,
A wavelet for thy pluck,
A wavelet for thy graciousness;
Nine waves for thy graciousness” (Ellison, 147).

Baby Bee after her saining. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

It was decided that I would carry my daughter from person to person in the circle to receive their blessing. Indeed, this is traditional. Carmichael wrote, “At this function and feast the child is handed from person to person around the company, going deiseil, in a sunwise direction. Every person who takes the child is required to express a wish for its welfare. The wish may be in prose or in verse, but preferbably in verse and original if possible” (191) because poetry has the tendancy to endure.  Amazingly enough, Skip’s granddaughter, Dragyonfly, wrote an amazing song for Bee which she sang during this portion! We were given a copy of the lyrics as a gift. What a treasure!

Acorn favors I made for guests. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

It was important to me that I show my saining guests hospitality in the form of a favor. I made several felted acorn ornaments for people to bring home. They’re reminders of their witnessing her blessing and what it meant. The basket was with us during the whole Autumn Equinox and saining ceremony so they could soak up all that goodness. I gave them out after feasting.

Baby Bee enjoying a fun bear blanket from Tara with a friend. So far, it’s the biggest blanket my daughter owns! Definitely good fort material! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Bee received several lovely gifts from people in addition to the song. Grovies gave her blankets and clothing. My mother gave her a cute fox coat and some money that we plan to use for a highchair. My sister and niece gave Bee a wonderful book about nature spirits and an original painting. My little family is truly blessed!

A beautiful quilt made by my grovies in Muin Mound. Everyone chose fabric and/or made their own squares. I have some truly talented friends! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

An amazing painting by my sister for our little Bee! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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I’ve had a busy but wonderful weekend full of learning, beautiful weather, and old friends.  I feel exhausted, and my feet hurt, but it sure beats lazing around with Netflix all day!

Yesterday I attended the first in a series of meditation workshops at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  Local reiki practitioner and long-time meditator, Cherie Schneckenburger, lead us through an explanation of the many practical benefits of meditation, some of the research major universities have done and are continuing to do on the subject (especially in regards to pain management), and some practical exercises to help us strengthen our visualization skills.  Much of this initial workshop was review for me, but some of the activities were new and I found them to be very effective.  I’ve filed them away in my brain for future reference!  They will surely help me help others down the road.  I also wanted some review as I once more get back into my meditative and light trance practices.  I really feel that I’ve been neglecting that side of me lately.  My recent meditation on Ériu was a leap from months of relative idleness.  I’ve been attempting to maintain a weekly practice, but most of it has been in the form of prayer and offerings of gratitude.  There’s nothing wrong with this, of course – it’s certainly kept me very connected!  My meditations are rare, short, and usually focused on grounding and centering, and I’m feeling that I need to start working on those skills again.  Not only do I need to for the Initiate Study Program, but I’m hoping to use meditation as a pain management tool during labor – at least initially.  I am looking forward to the next workshops in this meditation series.  I’m ready to dust off my meditation skills, hone them, and go further with some experienced guidance!

A view of Onondaga Lake in Liverpool, NY. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Today, Weretoad and I went to Syracuse and Liverpool to see some friends – grovies from Muin Mound!  It was serendipitous how it all worked out.  One was originally going to come up this way to bring me a breast pump she didn’t need.  Well, she only gave birth two weeks prior and I felt silly having her travel to me, so we decided to go to her!  Suddenly, the old gang was organizing a bit of a nature walk along the Onondaga Lake in Liverpool.  My friend and I decided it was a perfect opportunity to get together and see others from the grove!

I’m so glad we made the trip.  Not only did I get to hang out with my friend and her lovely family, but I was able to visit with other grovies who I haven’t seen in months!  It was great to catch up and take in the beautiful day!  The air was chilly at times but I found myself unbuttoning my coat repeatedly.  The ice and snow were melting, the ducks were out, and people were everywhere enjoying the change in weather!  And to top it off, I got some things I needed like the breast pump (yay!) and some exercise!

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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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