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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

My work through the Initiate Path of ADF has been slow but steady this past year. I may not always be “studying” in the traditional sense, and I may not be as prolific as others in ADF, but I’m always doing something. Writing prayers for my practice is one such something.

The very practical prayers preserved in the Carmina Gadelica inspired me since I first read them.  There are prayers and songs for all manner of mundane but very important activities such as herding cattle and weaving.  These chores become imbued with sacred purpose when you add that extra focus and energy. Song and prayer is also an excellent offering.  I’ve been working to infuse my own life with small acts of magic, blessing, and thanksgiving.  Not only does it keep me connected to my tradition, the land, and the spirits, but it buoys me up during difficult times, helping me feel part of something greater, even when life becomes overwhelming.  (And believe me… September has found me feeling detached at times…)

On this Autumn Equinox, I share with you a prayer I started around the Summer Solstice, and tweaked throughout the season.  I now say it while tending my garden, or harvesting food and herbs as I did today.  I usually sing it to the tune of “Now the Rite is at an End.”  It just fits!

 

The image includes a photo of some herbs I collected today while singing the above.  My hands smell like the mugwort, calendula, and sage I harvested.  Here’s text for those who’d like it:

Spirits of this plant, I pray
And give thanks for this great crop.
May you heal and nourish us,
And the cycle never stop.

– by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

 

May your harvest be bountiful, and I hope you get outside to enjoy the seasonal changes.  As for my family, we are joining with our grovemates to celebrate!  Feel free to utilize the prayer in your own celebrations and gardening work.  Or, even better, perhaps it will inspire you to write your own!

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Like most Americans, I grew up hearing people moan about weeds. My grandmother, an avid gardener, was fussy. She didn’t want anything growing between the cracks of her sidewalk. When she still lived at home, she often poured boiling water over unwanted plants. Old fashioned, effective, relatively eco-friendly in terms of chemical use, but laborious. At the same time, she was the first to teach me about foraging and herbalism. She had a respect for the plant world, but wanted control over what grew where in her yard, as many do.  Myself included to an extent! My mother and father have been more relaxed about it. They prefer hand weeding and mulching, but don’t get hung up on dandelions and other diversity in the yard. My mother was always delighted to get bouquets of dandelions, and she taught us to make wishes when they went to seed. Her tolerance transferred to me, but magnified to a deeper respect for plants like dandelions – plants that not only are beautiful in their own ways, but very nutritious for us and pollinators like bees.

Since my early forays into gardening, I’ve been reading about herbs, and that also lead me to foraging. I’m in no way an expert. I have so much to learn about living in harmony with the natural world while also keeping my “territory” safe for my family and veggie patch. You can imagine my horror as I looked out my window to see my new neighbor spraying chemicals on the dandelions and clovers this spring. I’m, shall we say, friendly with weeds?

I actually dislike the word “weed,” but it’s easier than saying “plants growing where I don’t exactly want them.” I suppose I should just call them “wild plants.” The more I learn, walking through my yard is like browsing a grocery store. It’s not just “grass” or “lawn.” I can name much of the flora. Not all, and don’t ask me for Latin names… like I said. Not an expert. Weeding my veggie patch is an interesting mental process for me. It must be done. Just as I do not want fleas on my cats, I understand that my veggies will be less successful with too much competition. And yet, I have internal conversations like this:

“Oooh, lamb’s quarters! I’ll let you grow for now, but I’m coming back for you later. You’re going in a stir fry…”

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My sandy, yet flourishing, herb spiral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I made a deal with the crabgrass today. I know it will die off in the autumn, but for now, its roots are helping to prevent soil erosion in my fledgling herb garden. The soil here is very sandy in places. I have my work ahead of me, but for this year, I’m accepting the crabgrass in the bare spots to keep things together when I water. I told the grass, “I’ll let you grow here for now, as long as you aren’t right next to the herbs. In exchange, you need to accept my haircuts!”  Yeah, I’d rather not have seeds settle in there.  I’ll plan to fill those areas in with something else next year.

I did tear plenty out around the lavender, though.

While my family is cultivating parts of the yard for food, we understand the importance of buffer zones for native species and pollinators. The back of our yard, right up by the stone border separating us from the cemetery, is filled with all manner of plants. I needed to see who was there before making decisions about what I want to do with that area. However, one corner is for the pollinator garden (or the “fairy garden” as my daughter likes to call it). We’ve dedicated it to the local spirits. Unless guided to do so, we are not taking anything from it for ourselves. I’ve since learned there are raspberries growing there. They are for the birds. We’ve planted bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop. Some other plants are starting to grow there, too. I’m carefully weeding so that the native varieties are able to flourish.

Elsewhere in the yard, we also leave patches of clover alone for the most part. The previous owners had a big dog, and he dug massive holes around the yard.  Before we finalized the purchase, they helpfully filled those in for safety, but we had big sandy patches all over.  We let crabgrass and flowering plants take those areas for now and just let them go nuts.  It’s better looking than sandy spots.  I’ve noticed many happy bees, and they bring their joy to our veggie and herb patches. It’s a win-win!  In the meantime, I continue to study foraging, learning what I can eat, how it impacts everything else in the yard, and am even dipping my toes into permaculture.

That said, if we get something really dangerous, I’ll probably follow my grandmother’s lead and bring out the tea kettle…

 

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June 2018 Garden Update

July is nearly here, and it promises to be bountiful! I’m grateful for the growth in my garden throughout June.

I love how the cabbages spiral. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

The peas seemed to blossom later this year. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

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It’s interesting to look back to last summer. At this time, we were preparing to make an offer on our home. We were heading into new territory and some of the worst stress I remember experiencing. It was a lesson on patience and austerity, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Here we are, a year later, transforming our yard into beautiful gardens, shrines, and pollinator habitats. (And a few play areas for the little one!) Last summer was all boxes and uncertainty. This summer, as I stand on my porch to gaze at the small batch of abundance I’ve been cultivating, I feel a sense of peace. I feel that I’m  rediscovering my niche after a long period of stress and flailing.

My nasturtiums are very happy in their herb spiral garden home.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Having the freedom to garden as I desire has been wonderful. Even when I returned home from work riddled with stress and fatigue, a little time in the garden always restored my connection to the Kindred and my own sense of self. Working to form a lasting relationship with this new land has been rejuvenating. It’s reawakened my love of herbalism, and I’m throwing myself back into my casual studies with gusto!  Just a couple months ago, it seemed summer was a distant dream.

I inherited my late grandfather’s map of Ireland and related books.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I’m looking forward to furthering my Druid studies this summer. When I visited my family in the Utica area, these heirlooms from my late grandfather seemed to further point me toward that. He worked tirelessly on my family’s genealogy, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older and started to honor my ancestors. My sister told me she felt my taking these would make him happy, and as I walked around the hallow home where he lived and died, I spoke to him of my intentions, and I got a strong sense of approval.

In addition to the map and books, I also picked up some old artwork for my home, and was given permission to transplant some plants in my garden. I brought some of my grandmother’s lily of the valley for the shade garden, and some comfrey for my herb garden. The lilies seem to be taking well. The comfrey looks a tad wilted with the stress of the move. I’ve not lost hope, though. I’ve read they are quite prolific, and even a little section of root can grow. This particular plant is one of the first that my grandmother, an herbal enthusiast herself, taught me about, so if I can establish a patch from her own garden, it would be very meaningful to me.

Burning grove offerings in my backyard fire pit.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Speaking of Druid studies, my grove is growing strong! My friend and grovie, Cassandra, lead our Summer Solstice ritual. We honored Manannan, and asked him to help us as we reestablished our open doors to communities who need safe places, such as the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. It was a moving ceremony, but also one with much joy and laughter. Some of our members identify as part of the former community, including one of our elders who proudly told us about some of the first Gay Pride marches he attended.

It was a rainy day, so we held the ritual indoors. I brought many offerings meant for the fire to my home, and I made sure they got to their intended destination last night under the light of a waxing moon. I poured a libation to Brighd to help me with the work – the work of a Senior Druid. Hearing the way Northern Rivers Grove has positively impacted people gives me so much hope. I’m working to improve my practice so that I can serve my community.

As I reflect on where I was at this time last year, I feel excited for the relative peace this summer promises.  I will continue to work with my new plant allies and the land spirits.  I will throw myself further into my Initiate Studies with ADF.  Right now, I’m working on Trance 1 and Divination 2, but I know I will have to augment some of the previously completed courses as the whole study program is undergoing change.  It’s all good, though.  It will all help me become a better Druid and a better person in general!

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I accomplished quite a bit in the yard today. I came in covered in soil, exhausted, but I feel amazing. There’s still much to be done, but we’re transforming the yard one plant at a time! My husband and I have a vision. It will take years, but it’s part of establishing a relationship with the land, and working with the local spirits to create a magical sanctuary.

I finally started a project I’ve been fantasizing about for years – a spiral herb garden!  My dad helped me till the soil, but I spent a bulk of the afternoon and evening hauling rocks, building a mound, and starting a spiral.  I need more stones, but the basic outline is there.  Hoping to put some herbs in this weekend.  This is woo for many people, but I actually used my pendulum to help me figure out where to start the spiral.  When I got out my compass to figure out where the starting point was oriented, I confirmed it was exactly west.   Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

The pollinator garden is taking shape.  The border is temporary (made out of panels from an old planter that bit the dust after moving).  Some native plants now have a home here – bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop.  It’s a start!  Dad tilled this as well, and we found some really interesting things… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

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We suspect the corner was an old trash heap.  Our home was built in the late 1800s, after all.  We’ve found various old things in the back – doll arms, parts of tools, broken jars, and these aged gardening shears.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Around the side of the house, my dad found this old compact with his metal detector.  He cleaned it up until it shines.  Such a pretty piece! There’s the remains of an old powder puff inside, but it’s mostly decomposed. Not sure why it was buried where it was…  I plan to do some spiritual investigating, for sure.  I feel like I have the start of a museum.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

In other fun news, I found wild violets and lily of the valley growing in the shaded part of the yard!  I’m thrilled as these are plants I’ve wanted to work with for years!  Finding these after doing so much work today felt like a positive omen from the local spirits.  

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Emerging hyacinth.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

For the last decade or so, my Bealtaine celebrations have been punctuated by an explosion of green. Every year, I dance the Maypole, all the while taking note of the leaves finally reaching out in praise of sun and rain. This year, I did not dance the Maypole until the weekend after, but I spent the 1st welcoming signs of spring at my new home. This was our first Bealtaine here. My daughter helped me greet the flowers we planted in the autumn. We spent so much of March and April looking at their bed with longing; it was very satisfying to see them emerge and eventually blossom into a colorful display!  The bees certainly approved of our efforts.

Giving offerings to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

When working with my garden and the plants who grow around my home, my mind and heart swing to Airmed, a goddess fraternally connected to our plant allies. We made a space for her. Bee helped put offerings of gratitude in the little bowls we put out on her stone.

Outside shrine for spirit allies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

My husband helped me move this half barrel into a corner of our yard. This followed us from our last two apartments. I’ve been placing offerings into it for years, and I even buried my ferrets in it. Renting, I had no other choice! So the little ones follow me, joining our spirit allies. I usually plant foxglove or woodland tobacco in it.

Our May Bush.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

This is a new tradition for us – it’s something we couldn’t easily do at our apartment – make a May bush! Ours is slightly different from traditional Irish May bushes, mostly that it’s not Hawthorn and isn’t something we paraded around. However, we tied some cloth to the branches of this established bush – mostly ribbons Bee helped me choose. We danced around it, thanked the local spirits, and prayed for good luck upon our home, especially in regards to the productivity of the land we live upon.  It was a show of love and gratitude for the patch of land we call our home.  The bush has since burst into life.  We have decided to treat the ribbons as we do those of our grove’s Maypole – which is based on the tradition of my first grove, Muin Mound – we will remove the ribbons around Samhain and put them into the fire, thus returning the fertility to the land.

Each High Day, I think back to how I spent it as a renter.  I looked forward to owning my own home and having space to establish deeper relationships with the land.  I did what I could before, with container gardens, a failed attempt at worm bins, and delving deep into the apartment complex’s wooded land to make peace there… but now I can finally live out more of my dreams.  We planted seeds in the earth.  We planted trees and blueberry bushes in the earth.  We have a compost pile.  Finally, finally, I can start interacting with the yard I was so excited to work with when we moved in at the end of August last year.

 

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Mysteries

It’s officially spring, but we still have snow on the ground here.  All the same, signs of spring abound if you look!  There are buds on the trees, the chives have sprouted, and several song birds have returned.

Having only lived in this house since the late summer, this is our first spring here.  The process of moving in delayed us from getting acquainted with the local nature spirits as thoroughly as I would have liked.  I’m excited to work more at that this year.

I already started over the weekend.  My daughter and I walked around the backyard to look for signs of spring.  The snow is melting, so we could explore some of the plants.  I was intrigued to discover that what I thought were bushes last year are actually sprouting tree stumps!  My husband and I have been talking about planting trees in the back. There’s one large oak tree on the other side of the fence separating us from the cemetery, but we want more shade and privacy. Turns out, we already had some trees!  I’ll be interested to see the leaves after they appear.  For now, these are little mysteries. I’ve been reading about how to care for them so they grow as strong as possible.  I wonder why they were cut down in the first place?

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