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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

Photo Mar 27, 2 30 22 PM

The beautifully colored St. Lawrence River at Alexandria Bay, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I went with my family to an Easter Brunch near the St. Lawrence River.  It felt like a homecoming in many ways; I hadn’t seen the river in a few months, and my heart swelled to see her.  Like a vibrant ribbon against brown fabric, the bright blue-green of the river certainly gave a spring feel to an otherwise sleepy land that hasn’t quite woke up after winter.

As I took in the majesty, I reflected on how lucky I am as a Pagan.  Sure, there were times in the past where I resented celebrating my Christian family’s holidays while they could barely remember mine.  Things have changed.  We’ve all grown.  My family has worked to show respect to me and my path.  I think it’s cute how my mother gives me Easter cards but crosses out her holiday’s name and writes “Spring Equinox” in its place.  It’s the little things, right?  It’s helped me feel more accepted, and I’ve become less threatened acting; more accepting myself.  I’ll be the first to wish them a “Happy Easter,” and I gave my niece Easter stickers in a basket with other goodies.

I thank the Kindreds for how lucky I am.  I sometimes get annoyed that my family doesn’t celebrate my holidays more, but they make gestures.  Honestly, I’m just happy to be together.  So many in Pagan traditions live in fear of their family finding out, or they’ve actually been isolated because of it.  Meanwhile, tempers are flaring in the Pagan and Polytheist communities, and the world at large is so full of hate and chest thumping…

I’m not sure how the world could become a more peaceful place, but I’m glad that my daughter and niece get to experience different traditions and see that we can still love one another and find commonalities.

 

 

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

 

Although it’s started to feel like Spring in Northern NY, there aren’t any flowers yet. If you’d like to get your little ones excited about the coming season and want to add some color to your altars and nature tables, here’s a craft I came up with.  It will take a few hours or a couple of days depending on how long you let the stems dry, but that lesson in patience can easily relate to waiting for real flowers to sprout and bloom.  It also encourages hand-eye-coordination and practice with colors.  My daughter is almost three, and she really enjoyed this activity.  She loves seeing her art on our family altar!  It makes her feel part of the celebration.

Materials:

  • popsicle sticks
  • non-toxic green paint
  • brushes
  • lots of rags or paper towels to clean up (inevitable!)
  • a variety of colorful ribbons cut into small strips (older children practicing their cutting skills could help with this part)
  • tacky glue
  • a vase, flower pot, or basket for display

Process:

  1. Give your little one a few popsicle sticks, green paint, and a brush.  Encourage him or her to paint them, and talk about stems and their color.  Let these dry for a few hours or overnight.  Discuss patience and what that means.  Maybe use this time to plant some seeds for real flowers!
  2. Once the stems are dry, show your child all the pretty ribbon petals.  Maybe look at some photos of flowers for inspiration, and show how the petals look.
  3. Adults can put a small dot of glue at the top of each stick.  Toddlers can then place a petal.  Keep adding glue and petals until the child feels it’s done.  If your child is anything like mine, they will look a bit wabi-sabi.  That’s okay!
  4. Repeat for each stick and let dry for a few hours.
  5. Display on your altar or nature table, or give as seasonal gifts!

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I recently shared a list of some favorite Pagan-related movies, and “My Neighbor Totoro” was on there.  Creating that list reminded me that the movie was part of my collection.  My daughter watched it several months ago, before her attention span was ready for a feature-length film.  I took it out again and she’s obsessed with it.  Of course, she calls the titular forest spirit “Totyoh,” witch is adorable. We’ve probably watched it every day.  Once more, I think it’s a fabulous film for children.  It shows the childlike joy of exploring nature right outside your door, a deep respect for local spirits, and relishes in the everyday magic of growing plants.

I decided to put my talents to the test and make a little Totoro plush for my daughter.  I mixed crochet with sewing, and I think he came out really well!  Bee absolutely adores him.

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My first ever Totoro plush.  Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

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In preparation for the upcoming Spring Equinox gathering next month, I’m experimenting with making paper mâché eggs for an egg hunt the little ones can enjoy. I would rather do something a little more sustainable than using cheap plastic eggs.

The Spring Equinox is a strange high day for me. It’s historically not very Celtic, but the authenticity of Norse traditions are also a bit contentious. My Protogrove uses it as a time to wake up and honor the Nature Spirits, with an emphasis on new life. For this reason, we do as the dominant culture and decorate with eggs. They are a symbol of spring and new life, so it works for us for now.

Making eggs and thinking about spring is a fun way to pass the time on a snowy February day…

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An offering of locally made whiskey for An Cailleach.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We had an unseasonably spring-like Imbolc, but An Cailleach isn’t done with us yet!  Northern NY will experience some seriously frigid temperatures tonight into tomorrow, and we’re experiencing lake effect snow today.  Visibility has been pretty poor around my home.  Many local businesses and offices closed or never opened today, and I was fortunate enough to stay home.  Perhaps that colors my judgement today, but I try to stay positive about the winter weather.

Since I’m an animist and a polytheist, I find it really difficult to moan too much about what Nature does. It just feels seriously disrespectful. Sure, I grumble a bit when I have to brush and scrape the car, then drive in potentially hazardous conditions… but if I want to maintain a healthy relationship with Nature and the spirit realm, I need to find the silver lining and give gratitude for blessings known and unknown.  I need to accept Nature’s rhythms to truly learn and grow in my Druidism.

An Cailleach surely blesses us with snow.  Northern climates need this as it will help with the later harvest.  It helps to control populations of parasites and disease carrying critters.  Many seeds require cold to germinate later.  Furthermore, the snow and cold teachers us humility and patience.  In our modern world, so full of conveniences, few things shake humanity out of the illusion of control like difficult weather!  And really, I feel quite blessed to live in a place that experiences an occasional ice storm or blizzard compared to hurricanes or tsunamis.  Man oh man, it must be hard to find the blessings in that! (I’d be curious if readers in other climates and locations have found blessings and would be willing to share.)

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Snow Day Snowman – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

A snowy day is a great day to get in touch with your inner child, too.  Having a little one forces me to reconnect with the whimsy of winter!  Taking the time to catch snowflakes on our tongues, make snow fairies, and build snowmen is still so much fun!  (Although rolling balls for snowmen really makes me feel my age.  Choose the pain you’d like to experience later – knees or back!)

After making offerings to the Nature Spirits and playing in the snow, it’s so nice to come inside, peel off those wet gloves, and enjoy some hot cocoa.  My husband makes a delicious batch from scratch!  As I hold the mug, I feel Brighid’s warmth flowing into me.  I feel gratitude for the lessons and blessings that come with enjoying An Cailleach’s wintry weather and Brighid’s warm, sheltering hearth.

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It’s “Small Business Saturday,” so I went to one of my favorite villages to support the local shops as I prepare for Winter Solstice giving. Supporting local businesses is so important when it comes to living more sustainably. Making such efforts is important to me on my path.  If you’re going to spend money on material goods, why not keep it in your local economies and help regional artisans, farmers, herbalists, etc?  If at all possible, help talented local Pagans!

As I browsed, I thought about the many times new Pagans ask where one can get “supplies.”  Usually, they’re looking for metaphysical shops.  Yes, they can be great places to start, but what if they’re gone?  Many communities have lost brick and mortar Pagan shops due to the poor economy.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have one or two, they may not be in convenient locations.  Or perhaps they carry some items but not others, or they just aren’t up to your ethical standards.  We all know the places I’m talking about: mass produced statues made in China, cheap incense that makes you gag, paraffin candles, gem stones of dubious origin that were probably raped from the Earth Mother…  Get the picture? So what’s a tree-hugging dirt worshiper to do?

My suggestion is always to look at three categories of local shops: artisan co-ops, heath food stores, and local food producers.  Let’s take a look at each category.

Artisan Co-Ops

These are places in which artisans from around the region each pay an entrance fee and cooperatively work together to sell their goods in one location.  There are usually a variety of mediums represented.  There are a few in the Northern NY region around the 1000 Islands area, and I know they exist in other places.  They’re often the most impressive shops in otherwise touristy areas.  (Who really needs another plastic snow globe?) What would interest a visiting Pagan?  The shop I was in earlier had a plethora of hand dipped candles (including black, believe it or not), wooden and clay bowls, incense holders, blended oils, soaps (think purification), tea, and my favorite handmade incense. Heck, you could even buy a woven or dyed scarf and use it as an altar cloth if you want!  Don’t see exactly what you want?  Chances are, there’s an artist there who could make it for a commission.  Sure, things are a little more costly, but walking an Earth-Centered path means making more ethical choices.  Saving up for a handmade wooden bowl may cost me more, but there’s more integrity there than buying a cheaper, mass-produced bowl in a big box store.  Think of the act of saving and supporting an artist as an offering to the Earth Mother! The beauty of co-ops is that you get to meet the different artists, so I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the people.  I know that the woman who makes the incense, for example, doesn’t use some of the harmful ingredients that other brands use, like saltpeter.  She also grows or forages for many of the ingredients.

Health Food Stores

Does your hometown have a small health food store?  Try to support them when you have herbal needs!  Many sell organic herbs in bulk.  I can get just about everything I could want at my local shop – dry herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, and, occasionally, beeswax.  Some even carry clean-burning candles and incense.  If I can’t grow it or forage for it myself, chances are my local health food store will have it.  If not, they can often order it for me.  If you’re advancing in your studies and want to make your own herbal goodies, or you simply want specific herbs for an offering, start here!

Local Food Producers

I’m referring to farm stands, wineries, and distilleries here. Eating local is a large part of my Druidism because it forces me to pay attention to the agricultural year, hence the Wheel of the Year.  Locally grown food or flowers could be in your calming tea, your healing pot of soup, your group potluck, or your offering bowl.  Interested in making herbal goodies in your magical rites?  Get your hands on some local honey!  That stuff is already brimming with healing energy.  Similarly, your wineries and distilleries will offer different alcohols in which to infuse herbs.  Unless you’re specifically looking for some energy from another land, alcohol made with grapes, grain and other ingredients from your region will be flowing with the blessings of your local Nature Spirits.

The next time you meet a new Pagan who wonders where to get supplies, I hope you’ll refer the seeker to an artisan co-op, health food store, or local food producers.

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Elderberry syrup in progress. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I write this, the year’s first real snowfall is blanketing the land. It’s a time of rest and introspection. Spiritually, it’s a new year. As with our secular New Year, it’s custom to reflect on various aspects of our lives, how we’ve changed, and where we’re going. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my path and why I blog about it. Some of this came about through discussions with Lady Althea via Twitter, specifically about how motherhood has changed our paths, and how our spirituality should be more about doing than keeping up with appearances. Some of my thoughts came through an interview I did with my friend Corinne for her upcoming podcast – Who’s Your Mama? The focus of the podcast is on mothers and how they find a balance between their mamahood and various life passions. Corinne is interviewing friends from around the country first to get into the groove, as it were, and thought my story about finding time to further my Druidic pursuits and found a protogrove, all while raising a little one, was inspiring. I felt that I rambled a bit, but she said it was great! I’ll be sure that share that when it comes out in January.

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My little one joins me at my altar for a daily devotional. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My religious practices haven’t changed much in the last year, but the way I engage with them has.  The same time restricting forces that limit my blogging also limit the amount of time I have for involved ritual, magic, meditation, and trance. I’ve had to get creative in how I engage with my spirituality, and that’s only deepened my understanding of something I already knew to be true – magic and ritual is in everything. When we approach our daily tasks mindfully, aware of the interconnections, we are engaged with our spirit allies.  I’ve also worked on my self-discipline.  While accepting my limitations in time and energy at this point in time, I’ve managed to strike a balance.  My trance studies are on hold for the time being, but I’ve worked hard to maintain the devotional practices I revitalized through ADF’s liturgical study program.  I’m also working on my divination journal, focusing more on the practical work until I have a little extra time for the academic side of my Druidism.  As a result, my understanding of the Druid Animal Oracle and ogham is improving.

One area that I’ve improved on in the past year is my hearth or kitchen magic.  I’m working on incorporating more holistic approaches to cleaning and health; and I’ve continued to make mostly home-cooked meals, often utilizing local ingredients.  This has helped me grow in my herbal knowledge and connection to the land.  Sharing these processes with my youngster, and showing her how to put love and intention into all we do, only strengthens my own focus.

Including a toddler in seasonal and daily religious observances can be tricky, especially when they involve fire, but, in retrospect, I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to share with her. Bee is learning how to calm and focus her breathing.  With my assistance, she uses a candle snuffer to assist in our symbolic smooring rite each evening.  I explain to her what is a good task for her, and what is definitely a grownup job. She can snuff, but she cannot light the candle.  These realities may be upsetting to her at first, but with repetition, she accepts them. This is teaching her respect for fire, that she has skills to grow into, and that there are times for quiet and action in ritual.  Best of all, she’s learned to say “thank you” for abundance, inspiration, and beauty.  It warms my heart when she reminds me that it’s time to do our “Brighid prayer” or when she randomly thanks the Earth Mother on our short walks outside.

So while I sometimes feel that I’m not doing enough, or sharing enough – in reality, I have a lot to celebrate about the last year!  I hope you take some time to reflect on your own practice and growth over the year.

 

 

 

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