Posts Tagged ‘music’


Scottish folklore and superstitions – When the Song Dies – Aeon Film.

Do take a moment to watch this short documentary by Jamie Chambers about the folk traditions of Scotland.  In particular, it focuses on how old songs and places connect us to our ancestors.  There are some interesting accounts of experiences with the spirit world and the Sight.

It is wonderful to see that these beliefs still exist in the lands that so inspire us, but it is sad, too, that they are dying out.  We need to do our part to respect the cultures we learn from and preserve their traditions and language.  It is a monumental task, and not one any one person can achieve.  It must be a collective effort between all of us who practice the traditional ways – the artisans, bards, and liturgists.

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Walk through the veil of trees to get to the stone circle… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

We joined our friends at the Kripalu Yoga Center for an enjoyable evening of camaraderie, feasting, music, and fun.  A gentleman gave a didgeridoo demonstration and discussed some of the tradition surrounding the instrument.  That was quite fascinating!  I’d never heard one in person before and it was surprisingly meditative.  My little one slept through the performance!

Before that, we took a walk through the trees to visit the stone circle where Northern Rivers Protogrove has many of its seasonal rituals.  We celebrated Lughnasadh with Muin Mound in Syracuse earlier this month and we missed the lovely ritual space we’ve come to know.  I left an offering to the local spirits, assuring them that they were loved and we would be back soon!

The fire pit at the stone circle. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

There were some changes to the circle – mainly in the form of some new stones! What a surprise! We were also amused by this sign next to one of the stones:

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Apparently some nature spirits had moved in while we were away! One of our yoga center friends said he politely asked them to leave and they seem to have complied!  At least, we didn’t see any while visiting…  perhaps it has more to do with the cold temperatures at night?Di

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A grovie recently brought a documentary on Hulu to my attention.  It’s called “The Celts” and you’re able to watch it free online!  With six fifty minute episodes, I decided to give it a go while marathon nursing my little one (growth spurt, I guess?).  Narrated by John Morgan, it spans Celtic history from that civilization’s cradle to modern times.  Because I am, admittedly, new to the Druid scene, I can’t claim this is the most accurate documentary ever made about the Celts.  I will say, however, that nothing struck me as contrary to the historical reading I’ve been doing.  There were even some fascinating tidbits that matched up with what others who have been studying longer have shared with me.  For example, I learned a lot about the salt mines in the Hallstatt region – something Michael Dangler brought to my attention in past musings about the Celts, modern Druids, and natural resources.

The documentary also asks some compelling questions such as who are the Celts?  What does it mean to be Celtic?  This question is explored in the final installment – the episode I thought would be least interesting considering it was about the modern era*.  There is no fluffiness about this series.  It teeters between respecting modern Druidic practices in Celtic nations as revivals of national pride – a way to celebration cultural and linguistic heritage in a modern way – and as anachronistic nonsense that continues to confuse modern folk about the historical facts.  Also questioned are kitschy elements that so many modern folk, especially the diaspora who make pilgrimages back to the old country, think represent the Celtic identity.  The conclusions are that defining “Celticness” is difficult to do outside of the usual reliance on linguistic groups alone.  I think all modern Druids and Gaelic polytheists who live outside of Celtic nations should check that episode out and think on it.

The best part of this production are the visuals.  Not only were there the usual views of seaside cliffs, standing stones, and rolling green hills.  I was able to delve into the aforementioned salt mines, visit a people in China who are believed to be descended from an ancient Celtic people, and examine a wide variety of artifacts in exquisite detail.  Although the music was a bit odd at times, I think they were going for a Celtic sound that wasn’t obviously Irish.  Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing different examples of Celtic languages spoken.  The episodes about modern Celts also feature some very interesting stories about how those languages were suppressed – something we should not forget about when we go to honor our ancestors in ritual!  I also really enjoyed seeing a carnyx for the first time.  I had read about them in history books and saw them illustrated upon photos of artifacts in books.  The Gundestrup Cauldron  features some, for example.  This show included a man who reconstructs and plays them.  I had read of their sound and the belief that they brought fear into enemies.  To hear one was truly wonderful!  I don’t know why I never looked them up for more detail, but here’s a start**.

I definitely recommend this documentary.  I believe it would be very accessible to people who are new to Celtic studies and Druidism, and after ten years of learning, I also got a lot out of it.  I’m sure old hats would enjoy it just as much for all the beautiful footage!


*This is, of course, something I want to study more to have a better understanding and appreciation for my ancestors and the hearth culture I’ve embraced.  It’s just sometimes difficult to get into because there are so many political and imperialistic aspects to wrap my head around.  I’m more intrinsically motivated to learn about the ancient Celts, their religious practices, and their customs.  I’m trying to learn more about Christian and modern Ireland in baby steps.

** Now how cool would it be for a Druid grove to have one during Lughnasadh games?


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An image of the main ritual , a Keltrian Druid rite, from the Central New York Pagan Pride Day, 2012.  Photo by Weretoad.

We woke and dressed just before sunrise.  It was going to be a long day.  Skip and Sharon Ellison, the keepers of Muin Mound Grove, very generously offered us hospitality in their camper the previous night.  We fell asleep to the music of heavy rain and, indeed, the ground was still moist when we emerged, ready to travel to Liverpool, NY.  This year, my grove decided it would be fun to work together and show what our artisans are capable of, vend some wares, and provide information on ADF and Druidism.  When we arrived at the Long Branch Park in Liverpool, we immediately got to work setting up a massive tent.  I displayed my dolls, Phoenix hung her jewelry, and we showcased some of Dragonfly and Willow’s work.  Soon we were joined by other grove members, old and new.  It turned out to be a really fabulous day.

Snake Dance from the CNYPPD, 2012 – Photo by Weretoad

The festivities began and ended with a spiraling snake dance and very, very casual Wiccan rite.  I found myself swept away in a whiplash of joyful energy as we careened over the hills, through the tall oaks, and around the vendor tents.  Laughing, grinning, and even tumbling down the grass, we joyfully welcomed a beautiful day full of learning, music, ritual, and camaraderie.

Because I was vending, and I didn’t want to leave my husband alone too long*, I only attended one workshop – “The Tribal Origins of Sacred and Folk Music with John Hartford.”  I’m glad that was the one I picked.  He demonstrated several instruments and discussed the evolution of tribal music.  I also learned some interesting things about Celtic instruments that I didn’t know before.

I was very interested in attending the main ritual.  It was lead by a Keltrian Druid grove from the Syracuse area.  The Henge of Keltria seems more private than ADF, so while I was aware of this grove’s existence, I had never seen them or their rites before.  Having grown out of ADF, I was curious to compare styles.   There were some awkward moments in the rite, but I feel it was entirely due to being such a massive ritual.  They are very difficult to lead!  My favorite parts were the tartans worn by the members (showed a sense of community), their attention to lore, and their method of “recreating the cosmos.”  My new friend from the North Country, RavynStar, came and we discussed some ideas for the North Country Druidic Study Group.

Space set aside for a simple healing rite on the edge of Onondaga Lake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

As the afternoon waned, our Senior Druid lead us to the edge of the park where the land met the Onondaga Lake, one of the most polluted lakes in the country.  There, we partook in a simple healing rite.  We offered song, spring water, and seeds to the local wildlife.  We took care not to offer anything that would cause further pollution.  The Senior Druid told the story of the lake which nearly moved me to tears.  The omens spoke of further work to restore this body of water and the land.  This poignant, quiet ritual was probably the most meaningful part of the festival to me.

Other highlights included hooping, drumming, and a belly dance performance by Adi Shakti.

My friend Parallax shows me her moves at the CNPPD, 2012 – Photo by Grey Catsidhe
My friend Jen joins the ranks of Adi Shakti and their annual performance at the CNYPPD, 2012.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe

As a vendor, I was pretty successful.  I felt comfortable taking some of the money I earned and shopping for Winter Solstice gifts.  Although it was a sunny day, the chill in the air whispered of winter.  The wheel is turning, and Pagan Pride Day always ushers in the Autumn Equinox.  It was fun to gather with other like-minded individuals, including old friends who I hardly ever get to see, and my grovemates.  The memory will comfort me when this region’s Cailleach spreads her cloak of blizzards, isolating us until the thaw.



* Bless my husband.  He gave his entire day to helping me vend without any complaint.  I’m a very lucky gal!

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Rolling in Riches

Accidental Snap Dragons – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012

This afternoon, I felt a sudden, inexplicable urge to go outside and lay on the grass.  I don’t know where it came from, but I felt as if my body craved the scent and sensation.  So, being that I was home from work with nothing else to detain me, I went outside and sprawled out on the front lawn for a little bit.  It felt wonderful.  My back was against the grass – cool with a hint of moisture.  I faced the sky and felt the warm sun.  I felt so relaxed.

I rolled toward my garden and admired all the treasures.  The lemons slowly plumping up; the accidental snap dragons growing through the mulch; the ripening tomatoes; the striated zucchini.  Some lyrics from Disney’s Pocahontas – “Colors of the Wind” – came to me:

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth

This month has been particularly stressful with regards to money.  Going outside to enjoy nature and behold the harvest reminded me what real wealth is.  Money is important, of course, in the society that we have.  I still need it to survive.  But whenever I start to worry about not having enough, I need to stop and enjoy what I already have.

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“So, what is a Druid doing belly dance for?” you may be wondering.  “Shouldn’t you be doing céilí?”

Well, first of all… a modern Druid can dance however she wants!

Second… I never seem to be able to find a céilí class that is convenient for me.   Or find one at all.  When I lived in the Mohawk Valley, I was lucky enough to try céilí dancing once at a workshop.  It was a lot of fun and I would have gladly taken the class but something came up with work or college…  There are step dancing classes here in the North Country but they’re for wee ones and teenagers.  I’ve emailed about adult classes but never heard a response.  C’est la vie.

Third… belly dance is amazing!  To be honest, I would rather belly dance than just about anything else…  (Although I would still like to learn some ballroom and, yes, more céilí.)

I first became interested in belly dance in high school.  I obtained one of those “kits” at Barnes & Nobel.  You know – the themed boxes that have books with supplies in them.  In this case, it was a red and yellow box with a book about belly dance, a somewhat low-quality DVD, some silly body stickers, and a pair of zils.  I practiced in my room and had the worst posture ever.

In my freshman year of college, I broke up with my first boyfriend.  It was really upsetting to me and did a number on my confidence.  It was around this time that I became very spiritual.  Paganism became a much bigger part of my life.  The time I used to spend talking to my boyfriend went to reading about Wicca, practicing magic, finding other Pagans…  It helped my heart heal.  Belly dance was the other cure.  I remember finding out about a local class, stepping into that studio for the first time, and feeling so welcomed.  Back then, I was moving from eclectic Wicca to a really shallow exploration of Kemetics.  When I was younger, the Egyptian Goddess Bast was my patroness and she was very dear to me.  Finding a studio that focused on Egyptian style belly dance seemed like just the thing.  Hell, Bast was all over that place physically and spiritually.  Here were women of all shapes, ages, and sizes moving seductively and feeling beautiful and confident!  It was here that I really learned how to feel music, to dance, and to love me.  It was in belly dance that I started to feel sexy and desirable again.

Bast and I went our separate ways shortly after that.  She is associated with beauty and seductiveness, and I found that in myself through belly dance.  Perhaps she was leading me and initiating me into womanhood.  The woman I was becoming was not a Kemetic priestess, but we made our peace with that.  Life twists and turns.

When I moved to the North Country, there didn’t seem to be any belly dance.  Work, my wedding, and then grad school basically consumed my life.  Now that I have my MA, am comfortably married, and settled in my career, I felt I should look around for belly dance again.  I recently found a studio at St. Lawrence University offering a tribal belly dance workshop and excitedly registered.  I’m so glad I did!  As soon as I walked in, I felt that welcoming spirit.  I was embraced by women of all shapes, colors, ages, and sizes.  We worked together for two hours learning basic belly dance movies and tribal techniques.  I shimmied my hips, snaked my arms, and undulated my whole body.  I felt womanly and alive!  The lady leading the workshop, Ms. Tina, a visiting belly dance instructor, emphasized that tribal belly dance (which originated in America as a blend of traditional styles with other forms of dance) is about women.  It is danced by women for women to celebrate our bodies and our energy – creative, seductive, loving, self-absorbed, sisterly, motherly, and all our many moods.  It’s a time and a place to celebrate our curves, to sweat together, to laugh together, and to feel sexy.

I love it.

The woman who teaches belly dance in St. Lawrence County, Basimah, focuses on Egyptian – my original style.  I’m hoping to take some of her classes in the future.  It’s not céilí but it speaks to my soul.

Plus, I can always combine my favorite form of dance with one of my favorite forms of (very Druidic) music!

And, you know… it comes in handy around drum circles at festivals all over the world. 😀

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Have you ever listened to the various offerings from Symphony of Science?  If you haven’t, you really should.  Though spirituality and science are sometimes made to seem opposed to one another, the nature of the world and universe is something Druids love to think and learn about.  Many of the songs, which are auto-tuned lectures by famous scientists, are very moving and beautiful.  I once left my altar after doing some trance with a flying ointment and came into the living room to hear my husband listening to one.  It occurred to me how wonderful they would be to meditate or trance to.

My friend Cat brought this latest offering to my attention – a remix of Mister Rogers!  Anyone who grew up with his show and was touched by the curiosity and imagination he instilled will love it.  Curiosity and a joy in the simple magic of life – just what I needed today!

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