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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

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I decided to walk the hedge near my apartment to see what the plants were up to.  I also hoped to find certain specimens for my herbal stash.  Alas, they were not around.  It’s funny and interesting how they’ll be present one year and not the next.  I won’t be here long enough to figure out their rhythm.  Soon I’ll start to establish a relationship with new land – one that will hopefully last much longer.

As I walked the hedge, I reflected on all I’ve learned from doing just that.  I understand the blackberry’s life cycle thanks to a somewhat hidden patch nobody but me seemed to know about. I learned about jewel weed out of an obsession to identify it.  I refined my ability to distinguish between different trees.  That sort of wisdom comes from the marriage of experience and study.  Some days I walk then hit the field guides and herbal books out of curiosity.    “What was that plant?  I didn’t recognize it.”  Other times I like to look through my books.  I’ll have moments of clarity.  “Oh wow!  I saw that flower once!  Where was it again?  Time to find it.”

Learning the land’s rhythm has been essential to my growth as a Druid.  In addition to increasing my understanding and wisdom, I try to pick up trash along the way.  Today I found some discarded plastic toys – a crushed sand castle mold and an empty bubble container.  Kids.  Sheesh.  Cleaning is usually my offering to the land in exchange for the teachings.

I’m excited to really introduce myself to a new yard, new hedge, and new forest.  I’ll take the lessons I learned here and build on them.

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Forest memories.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We’re in the process of buying a home!  We’ve been looking for a few months, and it seemed like we weren’t going to find anything for awhile.  I had a vision of what I wanted, and many homes just didn’t have the right layout (or a dry basement).  One property seemed to have what I wanted, but closer examination hinted at serious foundation issues.  I reached out to trusted seers for insight in addition to my own divination (gratitude to Lady Althaea for the bone readings, and to Melstery   for the runic spread.  I highly recommend them!)  Everything indicated a need for patience.  One reading advised me not to be blinded by an ideal vision, and to be open to other possibilities – while also sticking firm to what I knew I wanted.  That was so on the mark.

The home we are hoping to obtain has a lovely yard with raised beds.  There’s a peaceful shaded area with happy trees, and a stately oak in the back.  The current owners have done no landscaping, so it’s a blank canvas for me to populate with all sorts of magical allies.  There’s a wooded trail across  the street to fulfill my need to wander around green areas.  While the forest may not be “mine,” and the home is smaller than we initially sought, it checks all the boxes.

Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes according to plan with the closing, etc.  The inspection was fantastic (very grateful for my friend’s recommendation).  I cannot wait to move out of my apartment and have more control about what happens around me.  Obviously, it will entail more responsibility – but it will be “mine.”  No maintenance crew coming in to inspect; no unwanted contractors hacking the plants around me; no obnoxious people sharing the same backyard; no more ridiculously high rent.  I can build a permanent shrine outside and form a deeper relationship with the land!

I will miss the forest near my apartment. A proper farewell ritual is in the future, for sure.  I’ve been working with this land for nearly a decade.  I experienced some of the most profound growth of my life among these trees.  I was able to watch more wildlife here than my childhood home.  The land gifted me with many stones, feathers, acorns, and bones.  I saw spirits in my periphery a few times.  Many little treasures have made their way to my altars and shrines.  The forest will always be with me in these memories and gifts.  I look forward to new lessons and experiences as I turn to a new chapter and a new home.

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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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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

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Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby.  It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid.  A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really.  She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not.  I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me.  A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away.  I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.

This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores.  I used some of the money toward a candle making kit.  It was a very simple kit  with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders.  I broke into it today and had a lot of fun.  Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.

The kit was very easy to use.  I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels.  Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use.  I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me.  I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit.  I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients.  As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.

I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try.  I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week.  The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly.  That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.

My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.

‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.

 

 

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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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