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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

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Sun shimmering on ice. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

As my path is bound to the land, I continually work to pay attention to the seasons. In Druidry and other polytheistic paths, we tune into the cycles. Tradition emphasizes agricultural shifts, but they are always linked to whatever song the bioregion is singing at the time.

In elementary school, teachers taught us about the four seasons. I don’t doubt that my parents taught me first, but I distinctly remember dividing a circle into four equal parts and filling it with different colored balls of scrunched up tissue paper in a primary classroom. Yellow flowers, green leaves, orange leaves, and white snow. As I grew up and embraced a polytheistic view, everything become more complex. In a good way!

Many of us modern Pagans subscribe to some form of the Wheel of the Year. I’m not here to untangle that cultural knot, but there’s no denying many of us celebrate roughly eight holidays. Some may practice more or less depending on cultural focus. Then there is the emphasis some place on the lunar cycle.

This time of year, where I live, it is still winter. While others around the globe post photos of flowers or spring floods, we have a foot or two of snow on the ground. In my opinion, February is the hardest month. Many of us in Upstate New York are at our limit of tolerance for the white stuff. Even while I strive to find the silver lining and embrace the Winter Crone’s lessons, her teaching is arduous and painful at times. February brings more daylight. The sun melts the snow, but the temperatures drop below zero at night. Each morning, there’s a new layer of ice. The photo above is my driveway. It’s a sheet of hazardous winter glass hungry for broken bones. To get to my car, I’ve started wearing a pair of ice fishing cleats.

Our winter is more nuanced than a picturesque Christmas card. December, January, February, and March each have their own defining characteristics. The Winter Crone performs a different spell for each and alters her teachings. Paying attention to the subtle changes can enrich our daily practice. As we develop a ritual of mindful observation each month or lunar cycle, we should start to notice patterns – seasons within seasons. These will fuel our traditional practices and perhaps inspire new customs.

 

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Locally found or made magical objects. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

Valentine’s Day brings a focus on relationships. Though I don’t observe the holiday with my husband (my daughter is obsessed with it), I’ve spent the week thinking about my connection to the land. Perhaps it’s the lingering winter and my desire to garden and forage again, or maybe it comes from my discipline kicking in when I don’t want to trudge through frigid snow with offerings.

My spirituality is very much concerned with the earth, and so it makes sense that most of what I work with is locally grown and made. Whenever I go through bouts of “distance” with my path, I always restore it in the garden or forest.

When I took the recent Imbolc course on Irish Pagan School, author and teacher Lora O’Brien discussed her issue with pipe cleaner Brigid crosses. My grove has done them in the past – mostly because they’re easier for the little kids – yet I’ve always preferred using actual wheat or local grasses. O’brien really hit the nail on the head for me when she described the plants, traditionally reeds, as a way to connect with the symbolism of the goddess and holiday. She was really critical of adults (without any mobility issues) taking a shortcut that is normally so rooted in nature’s seasonal changes, yet she tempered this with compassion. We are all learning. To paraphrase, she challenged those without access to reeds or something similar to begin planning for next year to secure a local source. (Provided you have permission, it’s a sustainable source, etc)

In Northern NY, where the windchill was -20 last night, now is a perfect time to contemplate the warmer half of the year. What do we need to do to deepen our relationship with nature? What are your long term magical goals, and what allies do you need to cultivate? What tools or offerings do you wish to procure for the upcoming holidays? When will the plants be ready to harvest? What do the spirits you wish to work with desire in return?

When I look back at some of what I’ve gathered, it fills me with warmth. Rowan branches collected on a nearby island following a storm. Stones from rivers and lakes right here as opposed to a distant pit and mined by child laborers. Beeswax candles from local keepers. Mugwort wands from my own garden. I’m excited to strengthen my bonds with the spirits of this place, but it must be done thoughtfully.

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Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

1) Hagstone Publishing recently released a little interview with me. In it, I share one of the most significant, spiritual moments of my life. It actually inspired part of my recent short story, “Through the Brambles,” which you can find in issue 2 of “Stone, Root, and Bone” magazine. It’s part of their “Meet the Authors” series. I’m thrilled to be included, and it’s been fun reading about my fellow creative polytheists. I know it’s not the greatest photo, but it’s the first I shared with Hagstone when I participated in the Plant Spirit Challenge last summer. I really need to hire one of my photographer friends to get some decent shots.


2) I spend an inordinate amount of time inside slouched over a keyboard as I write, revise, and edit. For my own sanity and health, I need to get outside. Many of my characters are polytheists, so it’s important to me that I stay connected with my spirituality and remain authentically tied to my stories. My short walks are meditative affirmations on what I do and why. They provide me an opportunity to breathe in fresh air and make offerings to the land. The last time I made my circuit, I caught myself admiring the brown and gray remnants of our pollinator garden. Many people seem to cut their gardens back. The dead, dry ends of spent flowers offend them, I suppose. Perhaps they clashed with their Christmas decor. I’ve learned to leave them. The seeds provide food for wildlife, and they may propagate and fill the garden out more in the spring! The stems and leaves also provide nesting materials for hibernating insects and then birds when it’s time to lay eggs. I love my gardens in all seasons!

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3)Pagan Parenting with Waffles! Due to illness, transportation issues, and other conflicts, my grove canceled our public celebration. Though I was sad to miss my grovemates, and uncomfortable due to a health concern, I soldiered through and made the most of the special day! We kept our tradition of weaving Brigid crosses (Cros Bríde) and adding on to our Brigid cloaks (brat bhríde). We did those activities on Brigid’s eve. On February first, I gave my daughter the choice of pancakes or waffles for breakfast. As you can tell from the photo, she chose the later. She was enthusiastic about helping. The night before, we talked about three as a magical number, so we stirred three times for each of the Kindred and prayed for their blessings. We then discussed the importance of discipline with magic, and I did the old “visualize the apple” lesson. Big ritual with other druids is wonderful, but my path is also about those small, quiet moments with family – with my daughter. Teaching her about folk magic and carrying on our ancestral traditions is so beautiful. It warmed my heart.

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Today it was 1° Fahrenheit in my neck of the woods. The air hurt my face. While knowing that temperatures can and will dip lower didn’t make it any more comfortable, a delivery raised my spirits.

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Unboxing succulents! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020

A pagan acquaintance recently posted about her subscription through Succulent Studios. In an age where there are subscription boxes for everything under the sun, the concept of receiving baby plants intrigued me. I don’t need any more plastic, shirts, jewelry, or candy, but I always want plants. I think it’s my nostalgic longing for gardening that sets in each winter.

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A “blue burrito” succulent. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020.

I didn’t subscribe until I read more. The company strives to be as earth-friendly as possible. They don’t use plastic in their packaging which is something I value. They grow their succulents organically, and the pots are biodegradable. All the same, I’m eager to find them new containers. Follow my Instagram to see where I ultimately place them!

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Elegant blue chalksticks. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020.

I tried to be really hip and video my unboxing, but I was seriously awkward. My final take begins with a really inappropriate sounding sigh. Then my husband pointed out I filmed it vertically. I guess I live up to my blog title! Perhaps I’ll record next month’s arrival. I’m already excited to welcome more green friends to my home!

EDIT: If anyone is interested, I have a referral code from Succulent Studios. It’s good for $5 off a box. Code = HQduA8slwwB

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I tweeted this a few weeks ago, but I really should share it here, too! I’m proud to post that my short story, “Lemon Balm Tea,” is going to be published in issue 1 of the new eZine Stone, Root, and Bone!

Shannon has struggled with public speaking since she was a girl in school. Poised to give an important presentation as an adult, she reflects on the lessons she learned in her grandmother’s garden.

It’s a contemporary realistic fiction piece, and I hope you enjoy it. I love stories about actual Pagans, polytheists, and animists. Sure, I enjoy the Hollywood interpretations, but I find myself most drawn to writing about who we really are and how we interact with the world around us.

In addition to my story, you’ll find other pieces (including non-fiction!) from fantastic authors. Just check out the headlines on the cover reveal! Intrigued? You can pre-order a copy for $5 here and support an indie publication made by and for polytheists.

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Earthy gems – dried peas to plant next year. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

I was working in the garden this afternoon. Specifically, I was pulling out the dried pea plants and shelling the pods to save seeds. No matter how frequently we pick and eat fresh snap peas through June and July, the plants are usually tired and brown a few weeks following Lughnasadh. The final harvest is a meditative experience filled with intermittent chanting and prayerful gratitude.

I randomly remembered a comment on my blog years and years ago. I’d posted something about my then container garden. One reply basically asked when my blog switched over to gardening instead of Druidry. It left me confounded.

Years later, my relationship with my garden has deepened. It’s a major part of my Druidry, and I can’t imagine it any other way. I enjoy speaking about mythology and liturgy as much as the next Druid, but I’ve noticed myself blogging more about how I live my Druidry everyday. Druidry isn’t simply philosophy divorced from life – it’s an experience intertwined with everything. Not all magic occurs in a fire-lit circle. This time of year, for me, it revolves around the garden.

Mornings and evenings have felt particularly autumnal these last few days. Some leaves are changing, and apples blush on the branches. The cider mill is open. My garden is moving into a new phase. The late summer crops ripen, and the fall plants embrace the cool air and rise to prominence. The final pea harvest always marks a turning point for me.

If you’re still reading my blog, I hope you enjoy seeing my garden. I hope it inspires you to get your hands dirty and join me in the ritual of life and renewal.

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A few pea pods aren’t dry enough to shell, so they’re hanging on my fence. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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I killed a bird today.

I never meant to, but it happened. Earlier this summer, I bought some netting in an attempt to protect some berry bushes, and I also put it over my squash after a chipmunk got the only fruit on the vine. I was discouraged and just wanted to protect my harvest. With all the awful news about climate change, I often worry I’m not growing enough food for my family just in case…

So I put the netting up. I was ambivalent about it from the start. It was plastic, and I’ve been trying to avoid that when possible. Yet I hoped I could use it each year. I envisioned it as a shield.

Instead, it has more in common with fly tape. Shortly after putting it up, I had to free a tangled chipmunk. The little guy was fine, but it left me shaken. I started checking every day until it seemed that all was well.

Until today. I found the sparrow while watering the garden. The poor bird struggled to escape. Using garden gloves and scissors, I carefully snipped the net and spoke calmly. I hoped that would be all, just like the chipmunk. Then I noticed its bloodied wing. She couldn’t fly and struggled to stand. Fighting against the sinking feeling, I called the local wildlife rehab and prepared to transport the sparrow. I opened the box I put her in just before we left and found her stiff, lifeless body.

I felt awful. I still feel awful. I cried and my husband hugged me.

The thing is, I kept pulling regular omens relating to warnings from the land spirits. I couldn’t figure out what it was. The consistency was alarming, and I started to wonder if it could be a larger warming due to everything else going on in the world. Today, when I held that tiny lifeless bird, it all solidified.

They’d been telling me, begging me, to take it down. I should have done it after the chipmunk. I should have known…

When I called the rehab to let her know what happened, she comforted me and shared a similar story. Only she listened to the first one. She said the bird bit her, telling her to take it down.

The netting is gone. We buried the bird beneath the birch sapling, a symbol of new beginnings. I promised to get rid of it, and I did. I ripped it all off and put it away. I have to figure out what to do with it. Perhaps I can re purpose it elsewhere in the home to keep it out of the landfills. The thought of other creatures, especially ocean animals, getting tangled in it, horrifies me. I felt so guilty while I untangled the bird. It wasn’t fair. She wasn’t even going after my squash – she was eating the bugs! Thinking of the many, many animals tangled up in garden and fishing netting … it breaks my heart. And I just contributed to that atrocity.

It’s not worth it. I need to find a way to share. I think of the vineyard where I went blueberry picking. Nothing is covered in netting, but there’s enough to go around. I just need to add more blueberries, plant more squash, and plan to share with my wild cousins.

There has to be a better way. We all have to find a better way.

We all need to be better listeners…

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