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Posts Tagged ‘music’

2016 has been a strange one for many of us.  It feels disingenuous to type that, though, when I’ve lead a very comfortable life all year.  Considering the atrocities faced by people in Syria, for example…  Yet 2017, as most years, will also throw some difficulties at us, challenges that can feel insurmountable.  Sometimes they will be, and they will crush us mentally, physically, and spiritually.  More often, though, I think we can take the challenges and ride them with grace, learning the required lessons and, perhaps, teaching others along the way.  2016 saw us lose many heroes and inspirations.  Some of us lost family members or friends to various circumstances.  Many of us saw 2016 as a battering ram of defeat, and the tumult reached me on a personal level right at the very end.

I have not done my annual saining and divinatory reading for the New Year.  I have not yet looked for insight into what is coming, but I am optimistic.  Typical to my Sagittarius sign, I always look on the bright side, even after a painful situation.  To me, every hurt is a lesson.  I realize I’m showing a lot of privilege in saying that given that I’m not in a war zone or scared to use the bathroom at night…  I have gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given and I want to do more to help those in need.  It’s a theme that’s continued to show up in my magical work.  I’m looking forward to growing as a person in 2017.  I’m looking forward to growing in my spirituality and strengthening my grove.  My grove!  We became a grove in 2016.  I must focus on the successes and learn from the failures.  I will continue to work through the Nine Virtues to be the best I can be!

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – performed by the Byrds and written by Pete Seeger – came to mind today.  Despite its biblical origins, I’ve always felt the song is very Pagan.  Life is full of comings and goings, beginnings and endings, as painful as that can be.  Perhaps our paths will cross again one day, but for now, all I can think of is the wheel turning… and the work that I must continue.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
Wherever you are, whoever you are, I wish you a very blessed 2017.  May we all grow and improve in our paths and in kindness to each other.
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My daughter chose the colors and then wanted to add extra features with a marker.  She also poked it on the top of its head, but it still works!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

When Samhain / Halloween decorations and materials started showing up at the craft stores, I snatched up one of those small, papier mâché skulls.  At the time, I didn’t have a project in mind, but I knew something would come to me.  It wasn’t until my daughter was playing with it that we stumbled upon its purpose, which makes sense given the (very informal) research I’ve been doing on rattles.  She put some toys inside the skull and shook it.  She said she wanted to make a rattle like her egg shaker.  I thought that was a brilliant idea.

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Gathering materials.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Materials:

  • A papier mâché skull
  • tissue paper cut or torn into small pieces (a toddler will happily help you tear)
  • dry beans, beads, small stones, or other filling to create the rattle sound
  • modge podge or tacky glue
  • a paint brush or two
  • an old plate or tray
  • markers for additional decoration

Pour some glue or modge podge into your old plate or tray.  Using the paintbrush, work a layer of adhesive onto the skull.  Bee wanted a paintbrush too, so we worked together.  As you paint, smooth pieces of tissue paper over the glue. Make sure you put your dry beans (or other filling) into the skull.  Gradually cover the openings in the skull with several layers, taking care not to puncture the wet tissue paper. You may want to do the top first, let that dry, and then do the bottom for easier handling.  Once the whole piece is dry, you may want to decorate the skull to bring out its features. We did not add a final layer of gloss, but I think it would be a good idea to preserve your piece.

I enjoyed making this instrument for a variety of reasons.  It was a fun, easy project to complete with my daughter.  At three, she’s learning to cut, so she had fun practicing with scissors and tearing tissue paper of her choosing.  It’s a great use for wrinkled, torn tissue paper  if you’re like me and try to reuse everything until it’s falling apart.  I would like to make more rattles year in different colors – white and black, perhaps.  It could be a fun grove craft project.

The skull rattle joined us at my grove’s Samhain celebration.  Bee and I played it while we chanted.  It doubles as a seasonal decoration.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open for more papier mâché shapes appropriate for other celebrations.

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A few posts ago, I talked about my hesitance to work with a rattle during a trance exercise suggested in a book.  Something about the context didn’t feel right to me.  It just wasn’t for me. Well, I attended the Central New York Pagan Pride Day on September 17th and had an opportunity to try a rattle as I danced in a drum circle.  It happened by chance – I was merely trying to encourage my daughter to try something and join me in the dance.

After the fact, I researched the instrument and found that it’s called an ekpiri rattle.  It was comprised of a wooden handle and various hard shells strung around it.  It made a satisfying woody rattle.  It’s apparently a common instrument in Ghana.

As the drummers worked their magic, I danced with my daughter and some old friends in the circle.  I won’t say that I went into any sort of deep trance – certainly not the kind I experienced at a Wellspring drum circle a few years ago – but I did find it remarkably easy to release worries and feel connected with the moment.  I have a vivid memory of looking up at the tall oak tree above the circle.  I admired it as I spiraled below, playing that beautiful African instrument.

As I rattled and focused on the oak here and there, inspiration struck – why not make a rattle in a more Druidic context?  I imagine utilizing wood found in Celtic lore- perhaps apple to represent sweetness and the Otherworld, or rowan for protection?  I imagine the percussive sound coming from acorn caps strung about the wood.  And this is leading me to research rattles and their ritual uses in European cultures.  Perhaps I should revisit my bell wand?

This could be the start of something personally transformative…  My trance studies are once more meeting with my casual love of dance while also appealing to my creative side.

 

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Yes, yes, I can already hear your impatient mutterings, wondering what “The Lion King” is doing on a blog about Celtic spirituality.  Well hold your horses (or zebras).

Earlier in the day, my daughter followed my husband into the garage to “help” him with something.  She emerged carrying my large plush adult Simba.  He’d been in a bag with my other “Lion King” toys, patiently waiting for the right time to come out.  We have limited space in the apartment, after all… Well, I took this as a sign that it was time to initiate her in the mysteries of my childhood. (“It is time,” as Rafiki would say.)  My husband and I grew up loving “The Lion King.”  I spent much of my childhood watching it, reading related books, singing along to the soundtrack, playing with the toys, and acting out various scenes with my friends.  You could say I was obsessed.  I had been eager to share it with my little one and continue the great “Circle of Life.”  I actually got a little emotional as that song played over the opening scene.  My daughter excitedly pointed out each animal, oohing and aahing over the presentation ceremony.  As the movie progressed, I brought out more of my old toys, and she excitedly engaged with them.  She danced to the songs and reacted emotionally to Mufasa’s death – more than I thought a two year old would.

As I watched, it hit me that this movie was probably my first exposure to ancestor veneration and the concept of how interconnected everything is.  Sure, “Bambi” had an equally emotional death scene, but “The Lion King” really went beyond death simply as a fact of life, and infused such spirit into the experience.  Not only are our beloved dead still with us in the natural world, passing through the food chain, but they are in the stars and even in us.  It can seem so obvious, but it’s really rather profound when you look at your reflection and see familiar features from ages past looking back at you.  When Mufasa tells Simba that he forgot who he himself was and, therefore, forgot his father, it’s quite profound.  We like to think of ourselves as individuals, but our actions and morals are something that are passed down to us, that we will pass on ourselves.  We honor our dead by living in a way that they would be proud of, and we hope our children will continue to live in a way that brings the whole family honor.  When I was older and more worldly, the Broadway musical version came out with even more songs to add further depth to the story.  One of the songs explored how intimately connected we are to our Ancestors and all life.  I remember starting to explore ADF Druidism, thinking on my Ancestors, and automatically singing “They Live in You.”  I thought of my grandmother, my great grandmother, and all the people I never met who had shaped my own parents.  They truly are alive in me – genetically and even in my value system.

As Samhain nears, and my daughter grows, it is good to know that an old childhood favorite can be a tool for discussion.  From the “circle of life,” to ancestor veneration, “The Lion King” is a great option for a Druid Movie Night with the little ones.  And hey, the Broadway song is definitely one you could add to your repertoire when giving offerings to your Ancestors.

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Every one or two months, I treat myself to a massage from my trusted massage therapist in Watertown, NY.  She’s an amazing lady – very open-minded and holistic.  I’m comfortable talking about my religious practice with her, and she’s equally at ease sharing her explorations of meditation, Buddhism, and alternative healing with me.  We approach spirituality a little differently, but we find common ground and have some really great conversations.

Today, I had an hour session that was part Swedish massage and part what she calls “sound energy healing.”  She’s been training on how to use such things as Tibetan singing bowls, tingshas, and tuning forks for therapeutic and spiritual purposes.  What she did felt a lot like reiki but with sound.  She surrounded me with various-sized singing bowls which she played according to her intuition.  She began by using the tingsha like a pendulum to check my chakras.  The sensation of the sound waves flowing through the air was amazing.  I relaxed and just relished in the experience.  Often, the singing bowls made me visualize great spirals moving over and through me.  A few times, it felt as if golden spears were cast right through me.  None of it felt painful; rather, the sound waves felt like they were pushing anything stressful and “negative” right out of me.

I know that sounds really New Agey, and people who are close to me know I don’t often go for that sort of thing.  Yet there is much to be said for the power of music.  There are stories of ancient bards disfiguring people with their song, which is a metaphor for how easily someone’s reputation can be changed due to a finely crafted song or story. I spent many years playing in my school’s orchestra, and that often aroused intense emotion.  When playing a song that evoked feelings of war, adventure, sadness or love, it was difficult not to get swept away in it while sitting in the middle of the source and participating in it.

Today’s experience has me curious about how the ancient Celts might have utilized sound in ritual.

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Whenever Bealtaine rolls around, I inevitably get the old song, “Sumer is Icumen In,” stuck in my head.  My very first experience with Paganism in general was at a Bealtaine (they called and spelled it as “Beltane”) festival.  It included a Maypole, and the priestess, who would become one of my good friends and mentors in my early days of Paganism, sang the song in her beautiful alto voice as we danced with our ribbons.  Music and food were essential parts of her seasonal celebrations.  They are for all of us, but she’s the first person to help me see that and make the connection between local food and the agricultural cycle of the various Pagan holidays.  Although I have never felt my voice is practiced enough to do the tune justice in public, I find myself singing it constantly with my baby girl now that Bealtaine is here.  Again, I think about the lessons my friend taught me and I rejoice at the Nature Spirits growing all around.  Some will become my food, and I join them in their yearly dance.

Bealtaine has found us once again, and the green of summer is growing in!  Sure, I don’t have the traditional Hawthorne blossoming nearby, but I have plenty of Nature Spirits heralding the change of the season!

 

Chives are among the first sings of life in my garden each year. This tenacious herb winters well in Northern NY. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The dandelions are just blossoming! I’m hoping for some time this weekend to harvest. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Beautiful lemon blossoms fill my my living room with a delicious aroma. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Next weekend we will join with friends and grovies to jump the sacred bonfire. In the meantime, my little family will celebrate with food and household saining. May your own celebrations be blessed, and may you pray with a good fire!  Sing cuccu!

 

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Meant to be sung to the tune of “Ten Little Indians,” I came up with these lyrics while thinking about ways to teach Bee about the Three Kindreds.  Nature Spirits are, in my opinion, one of the easiest for children to learn about first because they are all around us.  As the oak is such an important symbol in Druidic spirituality, it only seemed a natural choice, but you could easily change the lyrics to fit your needs as so many preschool and kindergarten teachers already do!  This is also a great way to practice counting with actual acorns once your child is past the “put choking hazards in mouth” phase.  For babies, just do what I do – sing it while trying to calm down a fussy pants or provoke a smile!

 

One little, two little, three little acorns
Four little, five little, six little acorns
Seven little, eight little, nine little acorns
Ten acorns ready to grow!

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