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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

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I posted this on my private FB feed today, but I decided that I wanted to share it here too.  If you are a friend or you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been very supportive of the Water Protectors in North Dakota.  You know I’ve been sharing news stories that, otherwise, many may not be exposed to on television.  I have not done anything on my blog, so I wanted to share this because, every year, I seem to do an annual grumble about Thanksgiving.  So ’tis the season!  Seriously, though, I feel very strongly about this.  It feels hypocritical.

I shared this link to “The Women of Standing Rock are Midwifing a Global Movement” and said this on it:

“A nation isn’t defeated until the hearts of their women are on the ground.” Powerful words. Watch the videos in the link.

Going into the month of November, ideas swirl in my mind. I think of Thanksgiving, something that has, symbolically, become more unsavory as I grow and learn. Autumn Equinox is when my immediate family and my people get together to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest – literal and metaphorical. This other day of gratitude in November is so tied up with the dominant culture’s damaging lies, perpetuating the idea that everyone got together and it’s all okay. I don’t think I can do that this year, not anymore, not even as a facade to make family happy, when this is happening. Even if it only gets my family to think about it more… but imagine if more of us said no. We didn’t go to or tune into Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; we didn’t buy all those turkeys and canned sweet potatoes; we didn’t fuel the greed machine by participating in Black Friday. Imagine the message that would send… I think that’s something I need to consider doing and sticking to this year. If not now, when?

Know that I will not judge those of you who still want to gather with your family. Being with family is always a good thing. Giving thanks is always a good thing. Do use the time to discuss and meditate on the cultural symbolism of the day, though. You cannot ignore that, especially with everything going on. I can’t leave my home, my family, and my job to join the protest – even somewhat local gatherings.  I have responsibilities in the form of loans and rent to pay.  I keep lamenting that I don’t have enough money to send the Water Protectors to help them maintain their camps and pay their legal fees, but what if we didn’t spend some money on factory farmed turkeys (or Tofurkeys in my case) and, instead, sent that to the camp?  What if we all did that act?

Either way, if you support the Water Protectors like I do, let’s send a strong message this November and show our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters that our love of the Earth, the Nature Spirits, and Ancestors of Place is not just lip service.

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I traveled to Lake Placid with my husband and daughter this past weekend. On our way, we stopped to climb Mt. Arab near Tupper Lake, NY. It’s a small mountain, but the trail is maintained, it’s very family-friendly, and the view is worth it.  Plus, it’s part of the Tupper Lake Triad!  Completing it will motivate us to hold onto our dream of becoming 46ers (someday)!


We had a picnic lunch near the summit. We were blessed with a beautiful autumn day – it was even a little warm.  Something about sitting on bare mountain makes me feel closet to Mama Earth.

There’s a fire tower at the top, allowing for even more spectacular views of some of the high peaks of the Adirondacks in the distance. The photos doesn’t do it justice, unfortunately!  Bee grew fearful of the wind up in the fire tower, so I didn’t get to gaze out as long as I would have liked. Luckily, there are plenty of rocky areas with views such as the first image I shared. I could have sat there for while; I would have loved to meditate. Unfortunately, due to the agreeable weather on a weekend, it was a busy destination. Between that and Bee’s antsy toddler antics, I didn’t have a lot of time for quiet contemplation.

Still, it was a great opportunity to get outside and commune with nature in one of my favorite places on Earth. Bee did a fantastic job climbing the mountain. My husband carried her for a bit to the summit, but she did most of the mile round-trip hike independently. I’m so proud of her!  There was plenty of nature to inspire all of us – huge boulders, some with interesting patterns, tiny mushrooms, woodpeckers, and, or course, the magnificent autumn foliage!

Even though I didn’t get to treat the hike like a spiritual, stress-free retreat, I realize how lucky I am to take my family on such excursions. We are healthy, we have transportation, and we have weekends off to enjoy the outdoors together.  We live relatively close to the amazing Adirondacks!  This is the foundation, and I hope it helps Bee continue to form a meaningful relationship to the natural world.

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There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the Adirondack Mountains. I used to spend just about every weekend of my childhood summers swimming in lakes, fishing off docks, climbing small mountains, and hiking through forest trails.  It was where I first learned to truly treasure the wild places that have, in many areas, vanished. It was where I grew into an animist. I always felt a sense of something there – spirits.  Very old spirits.  I felt how sacred and connected it all was, and I felt it flow in and through me.  It is different from the forests around my childhood home and my new home.  They are very special to me as well, but they are less wild.  There is more sound and light pollution. Roads interrupt their power.   Not that the Adirondacks lacks that, but there’s a greater effort to reduce it. (Although I could be romancing it as someone who does not live there…) When I’m away for long, I feel it calling.  I feel the mountains and lakes calling.  When driving on Rt 11 through Lewis County, I always look towards the Adirondack Mountains in the distance, rising beyond the rolling hills.  Last week, we returned to answer the call and renew our wild spirit.  Here are some of our experiences.

Decay never looked so magical.  My husband and I mused on the nature of animism, life, and death while hiking near the Raquette River in Tupper Lake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

It’s a bit blurry, but I was proud to stumble upon some Indian Pipe flowers in the forest.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I learned a little more about a new spirit ally at the Wild Center.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Some of the High Peaks as seen from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.  We all enjoyed our time there.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We also visited the Ausable River.  There’s a place to pull off on the road and a very short trail into the trees.  It’s a catch and release area, but we just wanted to see the river.  I had to sit quietly for a bit to take her in, then sang a song of offering.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

On a whim, we decided to explore a trail across the street from the Ausable River.  It lead to the Copperas Pond.  I wouldn’t call it an easy hike, as it went up some slight inclines and involved some scrambling over very rocky terrain.  It was challenging with a three-year-old, but she was so determined to do most of it by herself.  The end result was worth it – an isolated pond free from motor boats.  It was so quiet… we couldn’t even hear the traffic on the other side of the wooded hill we climbed over.  It’s apparently a popular hike, as there were other people in and out, but the traffic wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to enjoy lots of peaceful moments.  I definitely had to take off my hiking shoes and put my feet in to fully immerse myself in the Three Realms. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We didn’t run into too many wild animals on our hike – mostly squirrels 
and chipmunks.  I also spotted this immature frog sunning himself on a rock in the pond.  If you look closely, you’ll see his tail. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I already look forward to returning, possibly in the Autumn.  We hope to climb a small mountain now that Bee has officially caught the hiking spirit.  With any luck, she feels the pull of the mountain too, and the family tradition of exploring and honoring the Adirondacks will continue.

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As Lughnasadh starts to turn us towards the Autumn Equinox, and as it is the beginning of the major harvests, I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of our little container garden. Each year, we learn more about our plant allies. Each year, through a mixture of experience and research, we recognize opportunities for growth and improvement.

I harvested several red potatoes this year. This is a better yield compared to last year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I also picked our onions and hung them to dry out a little. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We gave offerings to the local spirits in gratitude for our bounty. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2016.

Not pictured is the basket of tomatoes we gathered, mostly from my husband’s hydroponic buckets. In addition, I also gathered some basil and sage which I hung to dry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our own cupboards. 

I’m also thinking on my metaphorical harvest. I’ve had a fairly productive and joyful summer. My family hasn’t faced as many struggles this season. I have had more opportunities to do things that make my soul sing. I have room to improve, but the harvest is stil good. As we move toward Autumn, I’m already preparing a fall garden. I’m also making new goals – things to sew, books to finish, essays to write… May my next harvest be just as, or more, successful! 

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Wild 
Grain – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

Each Lughnasadh, I strive to harvest some of the wild grain from the hedges. Not only is harvesting grain traditional at this time of year, but I save it so my protogrove has something with which to weave Brighid crosses during Imbolc, six months later.  With the amount of snow we get in January and February, we won’t have any access to the nice green reeds traditionally used in Ireland!   So preparing for Imbolc is part of my Lughnasadh.  It makes sense – we harvest so that we are prepared for the coming months, after all!

My daughter was such a big help this year.  She’s learning to use scissors, so I let her use a child’s pair to cut the grass.  Bee enthusiastically embraced the task. It’s so nice to share seasonal traditions with her.  (I also found some blue vervain while we were out – a happy find!)

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It was difficult to get into any deep trances this past week.  We went away to a camp with some family members for a few days, which will always throw me off my routine.  However, compared to going away to a hotel, it was easier to maintain my typical devotional practices.  I set up a temporary altar and even did a little working on Lughnasadh.  In addition, my daughter and I picked some raspberries and we offered them to the local spirits.

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A temporary altar on the windowsill at camp.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Like I said, I didn’t engage with any deep trances, but I did do some meditation.  I woke up and left my husband and daughter to rest.  After my morning toilette and devotional, I went outside to the dock where I sat towards the water, relaxed, and breathed.  In my opinion, the best way to engage with the Two Powers or the Three Realms is to sit on the shore of a lake, river, or ocean.  It’s all right there for you to soak up and contemplate!

One day, I noticed a beautiful spiderweb on the dock and just stared at it for awhile.  I was struck by how delicate it was, how dainty, and yet it withstood heat, rain, and wind in order to assist the spider’s killing.  Life and death… all part of the cycle.  I realized it was Lughnasadh, and contemplated the nature of harvest.

After meditating, I did some yoga.  I would love to live on a lake or river one day.  I would go out as often as possible to do yoga on the shore!  How invigorating.  I kept it simple.  I started in child’s pose on the dock, looking through the wooden planks at the shimmering water below.  Behold the waters of life!  I then stretched my arms and fingers upwards in a sun salutation.  Hail to the sky!  I moved into a tree pose, fixating on a pine directly across the lake.  I stand like the World Tree rooted deep, crowned high!  The whole process was a moving meditation, and I felt deeply at peace and connected with the world around me.

While I’m on the topic of trance, I’ve had to put Harner’s book on Shamanism down for a bit.  While I liked the beginning, both for the author’s experiences with Shamanism and indigenous people, and for the “Journey to the Underworld” exercise, I’m starting to find the book worrisome.  The following exercise, about meeting your spirit animal, seemed… well… for lack of a better phrase, it felt like “playing Native.”  I’m all for respectfully learning from other cultures, finding parallels, etc… but it just felt too much like ripping off Indigenous people. Besides, I’ve done a variety of “meet your spirit guide” exercises before, and have been working with spirit guides for awhile in the context of modern Paganism…  Not that I don’t have more to learn (I totally d0), but I just was not feeling that exercise at all.  Amazingly, I started to see a lot of criticism of Harner and his Core Shamanism popping up among my ADF and Reconstructionist friends.  I’m sure there’s some more to learn from the book, and I’ve already grown in trance from the first exercise, but I’m not as enthusiastic about that title anymore…  I’ll pick it up again at some point.  Ah well.  It’s part of the process.

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