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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

Even though I had to work during the Winter Solstice, I made the most of it by greeting the sun from my darkened office.  I put on “Here Comes the Sun” and sang along.  It was an offering and a devotional. When the song ended, I stood in quiet contemplation at the blue sky streaked with yellow and blush.  Later, I poured wine, gave bread, lit candles, and had a lovely feast with my family before opening gifts.

Today, I once more thought of the sun as I rose for work.  Today, he was hiding behind gray clouds.  I was reluctant to go in since it was snowing a lot and the roads were dangerous.  When I reached work, I was distracted by prayers of gratitude for making it in safely.

In keeping with our 12 Days of Solstice, we’re honoring the Nature Spirits today at my home. It’s hard to ignore the beings of the season when they’re literally smacking you in the face and piling up in front of your home.  The spirits simultaneously threaten our lives with ice and kiss our cheeks with cold.  Now that I’m home safe and off the roads, I look forward to taking a walk  in the woods later.  There’s something calming about the frosted, still trees in such weather.

When I returned home yesterday, I saw a deer at the entrance of the trail.  She was eating a pumpkin left there.  I immediately knew where I would later make offerings to An Cailleach.  This morning, I left my home to hear the call of an owl before I headed out into her storm.  The Winter Crone is definitely all around us. She is on my mind quite a bit this time of year.  She calls, as she does each wintertime, demanding my attention.  She teaches humility.

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Three Cranes Grove is doing their annual 12 Days of Solstice-Along starting tomorrow!  Like other ADF Druids, I try to follow along in some capacity each year.  Now that my daughter is a little older and more aware, I wanted to do something different to make it very kid-friendly and also help us keep track of the days.  Browsing the internet, I saw that several people make paper chain advent calendars, so I thought – why not!?  It’s something the two of us made together using some of her construction paper.

It was also a fun way to review numbers with her. I wrote a number (1-12) on each strip of paper. She added decorations of suns, snowflakes, and happy faces. Inside each loop, there is a very short description for the day’s focus. I basically followed past “Solstice Alongs,” but I changed the 11th night from “Bringing in the Boar” (which I always struggled with) to a night to honor the Ancestors.

Here’s my plan this year:

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil – Call my mother, make offerings to ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and make a point to discuss darkness when we turn off all the lights before bed. Vigil? On a work night? Haa…. I wish.  Maybe we’ll make some paper suns tonight.

12/21 Solstice Day – I will rise and get ready for work, but take some time to greet the sun with prayers and offerings.  We’ll later have my family gathering with feasting. I told my daughter we will celebrate the sun’s birthday today. We will exchange gifts.

12/22 Nature Spirits – We’ll take a walk outside and give offerings to the spirits.  Perhaps we will wassail the trees?

12/23 Feast of Fools –  I think we’ll emphasize doing fun, goofy things, and in the spirit of Saturnalia, we’ll let our daughter make some big decisions. Oh boy…

12/24 House spirits – We’ll make offerings to the house spirit (first time here!) and tidy up a bit.  We’ll also give an offering to the spirit of generosity in the form of Santa Clause.

12/25 Sun Child – I read that the original creator of the Solstice Along tweaked this day to honor the sun child. We will make offerings to Angus this day and visit family for their other celebrations.

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – We’ll plan to take another walk outside and make offerings to An Cailleach.

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – We’ll make special offerings to the trees. If we didn’t wassail earlier, we’ll do it today for sure!

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – We’ll honor Brighid and thank her for keeping our home warm.

12/29 Shining ones – We’ll honor the gods and goddesses our tribe honors at the main altar.

12/30 Honor Ancestors – This was the “bringing in the boar” day, but I’ve decided to make this an occasion to honor all my ancestors.

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, and saining the home.

I hope that making the chain will help my daughter feel more involved.  I’ll share some reflections later!  Best of luck as you prepare for your own celebrations.

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Tree Spirits as a Birthday Gift

I know they aren’t Irish, but my understanding of animism started to mature when I was exposed to the award winning anime “Princess Mononoke.” I was delighted to receive these wee kodama from my sister and niece as gifts. They seem at home in the lemon tree. 

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I was brushing off my car, the wind whipping my hair around my face, when I caught myself silently grumbling about winter.  I actually really like winter, but I dislike driving in lake effect snow, and I don’t know of anyone who enjoys brushing off their car. As true as that is, I stopped the moment I realized that I was mentally whining and started to think about what I enjoy about the season.

  • Walks in a quiet, frosted forest.
  • Seeing animal tracks.
  • Big, fluffy flakes.
  • Feeding the birds in the cold of winter.
  • How prominent the evergreens become in our landscape.
  • The way the light hits icy water just right, making it look like crystal.
  • Frosty patterns on glass.
  • Dusty snow that easily falls away from the car on busy mornings.
  • How most insect pests hibernate or die from the cold.
  • Clear, gelid starlight.
  • Making snow people and snow fairies with my daughter.
  • Throwing snowballs at my husband, and dodging his retaliations.
  • Cozy evenings in with my family.
  • The anticipation and celebration of snow days.
  • The way my daughter’s eyes grow wide with wonder at the sight of snow.
  • How tough I feel for surviving Upstate NY winters every year.

Reflecting in this way made the challenges more bearable.  I hope I can still do this when January, February, and early March inevitably challenge us with even colder, icier days.

What are your favorite aspects of winter?

 

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An Cailleach is wide awake and busy! We woke to a winter wonderland.  My daughter got that excited, magical look in her eyes, and her chief goal for the day was go go outside and sled.  As for myself, I knew I had to make offerings to An Cailleach and get into the trees.

I had already made an offering of bread yesterday.  My UPG is that the goddess loves homemade bread, and she often demands it.  I thanked her for the upcoming beauty and lessons, and I prayed that she would be gentle to my family this year.

Today, after making some offerings at my altar as part of my daily devotional, I brought some maple whiskey outside and poured an offering to her.  I have a bowl in my garden shrine area.  It was full of snow, so it felt very appropriate. I then brought offerings of birdseed, peanuts, and apple outside for the nature spirits, including something for the deer who are sacred to An Cailleach.

The forest pulled me, so I let my feet carry me onto the ATV trail.  There were fresh tracks, but it was delightfully quiet when I was there – quiet save for the pleasant chirp of birds seeking food and a small, gurgling creek I hadn’t known was there before.  The silence of winter gives us the opportunity to explore forests in ways we can’t, or won’t, in the warmer months when they are filled with thorns, tall grass, ticks, mosquitoes, and such. I’m still getting to know the woods around my new home, and I’m glad I gave in to my wanderlust just a bit.

A gurgling stream created a meditative spot in the woods.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

 

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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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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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