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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Awareness’

I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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Kitty is not as interested in reading as I am, apparently.

 In regards to practice, my spirituality is fairly strong.  While I’m not currently engaging in anything new, I’ve worked to perform daily and nightly devotionals, as well as weekly rituals that follow ADF’s liturgy.  While I occasionally falter (especially when I am not feeling well), I have definitely worked to maintain my hearth practice and relationships to spirit allies.

My studies, however, have lagged recently.  I don’t want to let that slide.  Progressing within my ADF studies is important to me because I want to know more and improve my practice.  I also feel compelled to serve my community.  Increased study will only help me become a better protogrove leader and liturgist.  A week ago, I decided to dig back into my Divination 2 studies.  In particular, I’m digging into Carmina Gadelica for examples of animal augury.  I also ordered a couple books for the Nature Awareness course.  They arrived today!  While I currently can’t read or write the way I used to (my daughter likes to sit in my lap a LOT), I refuse to give up!  It may take me another year or even three to complete the Generalist Study Program or the Initiate Study Program, but I’m growing “as fast as a speeding oak!”

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I recently shared a list of some favorite Pagan-related movies, and “My Neighbor Totoro” was on there.  Creating that list reminded me that the movie was part of my collection.  My daughter watched it several months ago, before her attention span was ready for a feature-length film.  I took it out again and she’s obsessed with it.  Of course, she calls the titular forest spirit “Totyoh,” witch is adorable. We’ve probably watched it every day.  Once more, I think it’s a fabulous film for children.  It shows the childlike joy of exploring nature right outside your door, a deep respect for local spirits, and relishes in the everyday magic of growing plants.

I decided to put my talents to the test and make a little Totoro plush for my daughter.  I mixed crochet with sewing, and I think he came out really well!  Bee absolutely adores him.

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My first ever Totoro plush.  Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

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A friend asked me what my favorite Pagan movies are.  I asked whether he meant documentaries about Paganism, or fictional movies about content that would inspire Pagans.  He said both, so I decided to make a list and share it on my blog!  There are some movies that didn’t quite make my list because they either didn’t feel Pagan/animistic/Earth-Centered enough, because they cast such characters or religions as evil, or because the elements were not developed enough to be meaningful.  There are probably many more films I could have included, but I simply haven’t seem them yet!  I’m sure I’ll need to do a part 2 down the road.  I’m already plotting a list of favorite Pagan and Pagan-inspired television shows!

Documentaries

American Mystic – Focusing on a variety of minority spiritual practices in the US, “American Mystic” examines how individuals in the modern US explore, maintain, and strengthen bonds with the spirit realm.  Included is Morpheus Ravenna, a well-known practitioner of witchcraft and founder of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood, which is dedicated to An Morrigan and her sisters.  Currently, you can stream this movie via Amazon Prime.

Glenafooka – If you’re interested in the living spiritual tradition of Ireland and authentic Irish folk belief in fairies, definitely watch this film!  Included are interviews with people of various ages as they discuss their experiences and traditions.  Click the name of the film, and the link will allow you to stream on your computer.

I Am – This documentary follows one person’s search for the purpose of life despite all the suffering and hardships.  I chose this because, in light of the various environmental problems we face, this film advocates taking responsibility and embracing optimism in doing so. It felt very spiritual without being religious, and could be part of a bridge building, inter-religious workshop or discussion group. “I Am” is available to stream on Netflix.

Modern Druids – Since I’m listing documentaries, I might as well include this 20-minute introduction to ADF Druidism.  Made by Buccaneer Pictures, it explains some of the history and practice of my Druidic tradition.  It’s really a must for anyone interested in exploring ADF and modern Druidism.  If you click the title, it will take you right to youtube!

When the Iron Bird Flies – I’ve talked about this documentary before, and I highly recommend it if you are interested in Buddhism as well as Paganism.  While the focus is entirely on Tibetan Buddhism in the West, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between my spirituality and theirs, particularly the emphasis on respecting nature and study.  It gave me much to contemplate.

Entertainment

Agora – Based on real events, this film depicts the famous female astronomer Hypatia in Roman-ruled Egypt.  In particular, it shows the conflict between Christianity and the older beliefs.  It can be hard to watch at times, but history isn’t always pretty.  Best save this for when the kids visit the grandparents! If you’re like me and will cry at what was lost, keep the tissues handy.  Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

A Letter to MomoI reviewed this film before, so check that out for a more detailed description.  This is an anime and the focus is on Shintoism and how the spirit world interacts with the human realm.  In particular, it explores how we can commune with the beloved dead.  Although there are cultural differences, I’ve noticed many similarities between my modern Druidic practices and Shinto beliefs.  Films like this inspire me.  Set in modern Japan, I can’t help but imagine what Western countries would be like if Paganism hadn’t been so interrupted by Christianity.  You can stream this through Amazon Prime.  A great film for the whole family!

Avatar -Yes, I’m talking about James Cameron’s science fiction movie with blue cat people.  Although many chuckle about it now, when I first saw it, portions of the movie had me in tears because it just captured the deep adoration many of us have for nature, right down to communing with a sacred tree.

Brave – Although this Pixar animation doesn’t delve deeply into Scottish lore, it is a child-appropriate introduction to magical ethics as well as transformation stories which appear in many cultural myths.  Also – will-of-the-wisps!

Labyrinth -Classic Jim Henson, a deliciously whimsical David Bowie, and goblins inspired by Froud – this movie was an influential part of my childhood.  It was probably my first exposure to traditional fairy tale elements such as helpful and trickster spirits, a journey through the underworld/fairy realm that symbolizes growth, overcoming the goblin/fairy ruler, confronting our shadow selves, etc.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and fix that!  Although it can be a little scary, it’s a muppet picture most can enjoy!

Pan’s Labyrinth – Directed by the talented Guillermo del Toro, this modern fairy tail embraces the darkness so often abandoned by other contemporary works inspired by older tales.  A girl must confront a shadowy realm to save her mother and herself.  Pan is a difficult teacher, and the lessons are hard, but such is life!  Malevolent and helpful spirits, screaming mandrakes, and spectacular visuals will surely inspire but have you looking over your shoulder the next time you pray at night.  Unlike the previously discussed “Labyrinth,” this is definitely not a family film due to some gore and violence.

The Lion King King – Another childhood favorite, it would take me several years to realize how deeply this movie influenced my belief system in regards to revering our ancestors.  It’s an excellent introduction for little ones.

My Neighbor Totoro – A must-see for little ones in a Pagan family as well as anime nerds!  Studio Ghibli’s “Totoro” is a heartfelt exploration of how the magic of nature can help people weather life’s difficulties.  More Shinto and Japanese mythology will delight you and warm your heart as soot spirits float through the air and Totoros make trees grow in our hearts and minds.

Practical Magic – Sure, this isn’t an entirely accurate portrayal of witchcraft, but I feel like Hollywood got really close here.  A lot of the philosophy behind what the aunts teach their nieces will be recognizable to most Pagans.  Unlike many films that show witches and folk magic in a more negative light (like “Wicker Man” which, despite the amazing music, I really don’t like very much), it depicts a town accepting their hometown witches.

Princess Mononoke – Another anime and another classic Studio Ghibli film – this is among one of my favorite movies ever.  Once more, it is greatly influenced by Shinto beliefs and the intersection between the human and spirit realms.  Of interest to many who follow an Earth-centered path, “Princess Mononoke” explores what happens when humans throw off the balance of the natural world.  Tree spirits, talking wolves, a heroic wild woman, and a honored guardian of the forest -what’s not to love?

Song of the Sea – Made by an Irish animation studio, this beautiful, moving family film incorporates many themes and spirits that adult Pagans who follow Irish-inspired traditions will recognize.  It’s a story about siblings, love, and selkies.  It’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Do you have any suggestions?  What should I watch and consider for a future list?

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An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. She enjoys exploring them with her magnifying glass. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

 

I’ve already written a bit about treasure baskets in the past.  Now that Bee is older, they’re becoming even more fun!  Currently, she has a basket of different pinecones and acorns on her “play altar” / “nature table.”  It’s been a great way for her to explore some of Mother Nature’s diversity.  It’s an open-ended way to explore and play.  She sometimes sorts them by type or size.  Once she used them to make imprints in play dough.

One thing that I like about this particular treasure basket is that it’s very seasonal, and Bee has been able to add to it whenever we’re out on our walks.  She gets really excited when she finds new acorns, acorn caps, and cones. I ask her if she’d like to take one to her nature table.  This activity shows her that she has choice and that her opinions matter to me.  We also say “thank you” to the Earth Mother and trees whenever we bring a new friend inside.  Of course, it’s also added to her vocabulary!

Knowing your child is definitely important when it comes to making new treasure baskets.  Bee is past the age of putting random things in her mouth.  We’ve had many discussions about what is and isn’t food.  (We’ll save the fact that many of our ancestors used ground acorns and pine nuts in meals for another day…)  For the last few months, she’s demonstrated an understanding that only food should go in her mouth.  Her last treasure basket was filled with different shells, and we introduced some smaller specimens towards the end.  Last year, I wasn’t able to let her play with anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.  It’s amazing how quickly little ones learn!

I’m planning to retire the pinecone and acorn treasure basket for a bit (I’ll bring them out again in the future), so I’m excitedly thinking about what the next basket will be!

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The old shrine. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Sometimes we have to take a pilgrimage to where it all began – to the source of our spirituality.  By that, I mean the places where we first felt the stirrings of spirits around us, observed the interconnection of everything, and where our soul first learned to dance.  For me, that place is my childhood home – in particular, the forest behind the house.

I grew up able to play in the shade of white pines, sugar maples, red maples, black cherries, crab apples, and aspens.  I learned the name of many plants, native and invasive, and whether or not I could eat them.  I learned how to recognize numerous birds by shape and call.  I often woke up to find herds of deer or flocks of turkeys outside my bedroom window.  Once I even saw a pine marten.  I meditated below those trees, poured my first offerings there, and hailed the moon on that land.  On summer nights, the song of crickets and spring peepers was my lullaby.  On winter mornings, the happy coo of mourning doves was a gentle alarm clock.  Although I was baptized a Roman Catholic, I always felt the most spiritual out in the forest.

As moved into Paganism, and as that grew into Druidism, I started to visit a particular spot often.  I made an Earth Mother statue, placed a small, porcelain teacup below her, and brought her interesting stones, seeds, flowers, etc.  The shrine is still there, although I have to gently remove the pile of leaves blanketing it each visit.  I always feel a mixture of gratitude for where I’ve been and an extreme nostalgia for the childhood that is gone.  I can almost imagine the ghost of my childhood self playing around the trees.  Perhaps that is a different type of Nature Spirit or ghost – the positive energy we left behind in our old haunts?

I wonder what will become of my old shrine should my family ever move. Should I take those relics with me, or should I leave them there for a new child to wonder at?  Who knows if I’ll ever have to cross that bridge. It makes me a little sad to think of all the childhood homes that are now inaccessible to others because they moved away.  Such is life, though.  We can always return in our minds if we quiet ourselves long enough and unlock the memories.   For now, the shrine remains, a special landmark I occasionally pilgrimage to.

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Happy New Year, readers!

We’re having a quiet day in because of the lake effect snow in Northern NY. We definitely needed some rest. I feel like I say this often, but December is so darn busy!  It’s pretty cold and windy today, so while we enjoy watching the snow through the window, Bee hasn’t expressed an interest in going outside today, and I don’t blame her!  What to do instead?

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Inspired by a “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episode we watched this morning, I let Bee explore some shells from my Nature Spirit shrine. She really likes the bumpy textures. We talked about the beach and how fun it will be to visit in the summer.  One of my goals for this year is to make a nature table/play altar for Bee.  The way she interacted with the shells showed me that she’s ready. (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

 

 

 

 

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We’re also enjoying the many gifts we received for the holidays. Handmade gifts are such fun, and I hope they inspire my daughter’s sense of creativity as she ages. Bee’s aunt refinished an old children’s rocking chair for her. Bee loves rocking in it while hugging her stuffed animals.  Speaking of plushies, she also likes the Waldorf doll I made for her as a Solstice gift.  Grandmama gave her a metal tea set, so we may have an herbal tea party later!  (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

Another thing to do on a snowy New Year’s day? Do some magic, of course! By the time I finished doing the physical purification on New Year’s Eve, it was time to crash and watch the ball drop then bang drums out the door to scare away naughty spirits. I was exhausted, and so was Bee. So first thing today, we did a simple saining ritual. My husband sprinkled purified and lunar charged water around the home while I held Bee and smudged with a handmade juniper bundle. As I stated in my recent post about winter activities for young toddlers, I believe that including little ones in family rituals is very important and helps teach them expectations for group rites.  It lays the foundations for later, when Bee can take a more active part in our family traditions.

Wherever you are, I hope you and are family have a very blessed 2015!  Look forward to more posts as I explore my Druidic path and how to share it with my little one! Thanks for continuing to read my random thoughts.  I’m so happy to have inspired some of you!

 

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