Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

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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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.


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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Making Mugwort Smudge Wands

Fresh from the garden!

So excited to have mugwort as a plant ally in the garden. This is my first time using them for smudge wands. We’ll see what happens!

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

This year, I’ve started to notice how many Nature Spirits interact with my garden. I’ve always observed frogs, toads, birds, sometimes snakes, and a variety of invertebrates in and around my garden pots, but this year there’s greater significance to their presence.  Upstate NY is experiencing a drought watch, and our family garden, watered once or twice a day depending on the heat, has become a refuge for several, such as the frog pictured above.  This guy has been in our garden for a couple weeks, hiding in the shade, and enjoying the moisture.  I suppose he would rather hang out in a very sheltered environment with plenty of food and water rather than risk crossing the very dry, very scratchy, very open yard that separates my garden and the marsh.  Honestly, that’s looking awfully dry this year as well…
Someone at work gave my husband a bird feeder as a gift a couple years ago.  Last year, I didn’t notice any birds using it.  I continued to add water and clean it as best as I could.  I’ve kept that up this year, and I have noticed so many birds taking advantage of the water.  There’s a robin family who lives in a cherry tree near our garage.  The mother and father frequently visit.  We also have a hummingbird feeder, a gift my husband gave me, and there’s a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds who often stop for a drink.  There’s even a sap-sucker woodpecker who likes to have a sip every so often!   It makes me happy to see animals benefiting from our garden, especially when there’s been so little rain.

My garden is also a shrine to the local spirits.  Our fairy garden grows as a representation of this.  My sister introduced me to Fairy Garden Chest, and we decided to try it out for something fun.  My daughter was so excited to get the box.  I usually don’t go in for mass-produced things for my fairy garden, but my sister was really excited about it.  I like to make houses and buy handmade, most of the time.  Those factory-made-things we have are often given to us, although I have a soft spot for gnomes and sometimes can’t help myself…   Creating this little pot was a project for me and Bee.  We transplanted some chicks and hens, and added some blue aquarium rocks.  A neighbor got rid of a fish tank months ago, and he spilled some of the stones in the driveway.  They sat there forever, so we decided to repurpose them.  Bee added some pretty stones she liked, and then the fairy moved in with her gazebo and watering can.  While making it, Bee was very concerned about making the garden fairies happy.  This brings about a lot of age-appropriate discussion on The Good Folk, respect, and safety.  I don’t actually see the tiny winged statues as accurate representations of them, but I like the whimsy it adds to my garden.  I suppose, if anything, I see them as more representative of the plant spirits.  It provides a nice focal point, something that I see as valuable for toddlers who may struggle with abstract concepts.  And, again, pretty.  We make offerings in the fairy garden.  We only put things out that are safe for Nature Spirits – a bit of something we baked, some milk, bird seed, herbs…  Each time, Bee either gives a hug to the trees, or waves to the statues.  It’s adorable.  I can’t help but think of how I interacted with statues of Mary and St. Francis at my old Catholic church…

As I witness more corporeal Nature Spirits in and around the garden, and as the plants are productive and happy seeming, I get the feeling that the Good Folk and other local spirits are happy with us, or at least we haven’t offended them much.  There have been a couple times where I saw what looked like a person standing in the garden. Each time, they vanished when I fully turned to see.  There weren’t any neighborhood children around, no sound of their coming or going, and Bee was either inside or with me.  Both times it happened, I was very shocked and felt my body buzz.  Neither time did I feel threatened. Since this doesn’t happen often, and I am able to complete everyday tasks, I don’t think I’m losing my mind. There have been occasions in the wood where similar happened, and I instantly felt that I needed to leave.  This has been very different… more positive.  I hope I can continue to please or, at least, not upset the local spirits.

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