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Posts Tagged ‘nature walks’

The big news in the North Country this week has been the weather. It was really disruptive of peoples’ work and school schedules, and it ended up forcing my family to change our grocery shopping habits. It also changed my devotional routine. After we were able to safely drive into town for food, and by the time we returned, it just wasn’t prudent to venture into the forest for my devotional rite. I miss my shrine and the cathedral of trees, but I don’t feel secure trudging through thigh-high snow after dark while the temperatures are so frigid.

I decided to do my ritual beneath the ash tree in front of my home. The result was a very quiet and quick rite. My neighbors were either away or busy in their kitchens. Everyone’s blinds were down, and I think the only one watching me was my black cat, Doyle, peeking through the window. The ritual followed the usual simplified COoR of the ADF tradition. The tree was the sturdy ash, the fire was the setting sun, and the water was the snow piled all around me, chilling me to the bone.   It was very easy visualize cold water flowing up through my legs. Taking deep breaths and letting tension and worry slip away, I felt the distant warmth of the sun slide down my body. Quiet prayers were said, offerings of fruit, grain, and whiskey were given, and I drew an omen for the week. The Kindreds gave me the salmon, which I interpreted as wisdom. I got a sense that there may be some challenges this week, so I will need to jump a little higher from the pond to get what I need, but it will help me on my journey.

Although I missed the forest, standing below the ash tree brought a great sense of peace. For the first time since moving in, I thought I even saw a bit of a face in the tree. Perhaps, through more frequent interactions, I’m opening up to its spirit, it is opening up to me, or both. Not that I expect trees to have human faces, but you know how our minds work when it comes to relating…

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December is such a busy month.  Despite my best efforts every year, my Druidic studies and routines become disrupted because of family celebrations.  Thankfully, my little tribe celebrated the Winter Solstice, but my usual morning routine of prayers, grounding, and shielding kind of went on the back burner…  Which is a shame because, Gods know, I need that shielding during such stressful times!  Furthermore, I started to feel disconnected from protogrove friends.  Everyone gets so busy in December, and not everyone had been able to attend our last ritual.  Even though I’m celebrating the season with people I love, I’m not often with individuals who understand me spiritually like my grovies.

All of this was weighing on my mind when I decided that I would get back on track today.  That meant a trip to the forest!  Oh, how I had missed it.  As soon as I crossed the threshold of bare thorn bushes and burdock, I felt all of my cares just float away, carried by the wind through the hemlocks.  The woods bring a certain clarity which is necessary during such busy times.

I made offerings of seed, grain, fruit, wine, and song.  I opened myself up to the energies of the forest.  I let the fires of the upperworld shine upon me, the waters of the underworld flow within me, and the strength of the oak grow beside me and support me.  I reflected on the protogrove omens from Samhain and the Winter Solstice.  There was a definite sense that people needed some time to rest and attend to their own matters.  We can’t always focus on protogrove matters, after all.  The group wouldn’t function if we didn’t also have time to ourselves, to tend to our own hearths and homes.  Rather than let that bother me, I needed to accept it as I do the quiet of the garden and the forest during the winter.  All things naturally wax and wane.

Today’s devotional omen really gave me some hope, though.  I drew the dog, cu.  To me, this signaled loyalty and friendship. I’m going to focus on that this week, and even cultivated it this evening when I briefly saw a couple of grovies to show support for them during a difficult time.  After all, Druidism isn’t all about ritual – it’s also about living a virtuous life.  Part of that is supporting friends in good and rough patches.

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Offerings of love, corn, oats, tea, and an apple at the foot of the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As promised, I brought An Cailleach fresh, homemade bread. I wanted to make it extra special for the Winter Hag, so I stamped it with a snowflake cookie cutter before baking. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Despite what the modern calendar tells you, winter is here in Upstate NY.  We’ve received snow.  An Cailleach is wide awake, shaking the dust out of her skirts and cloaks.  While she has yet to show her full power, it’s coming.  You can feel it in the chilly air.  While the snow isn’t sticking for long in most places, it clings longer in the forest shadows.  I went there today to visit and take in the sights and sounds.

Snow on the ferns. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The oak tree was bare save for a few straggling, brown leaves, clinging on for dear life. The forest seemed very gray today except for the hemlock and lingering ferns. Although the plant world is very sleepy, the animals who share the realm were quite awake! Some blue jays got into a shouting match while I was doing my devotional ritual. I couldn’t help but stop and observe. Smaller birds darted through the evergreens – one bearing some broken branches that could betray the position of a porcupine. In the distance, red squirrels tittered.

Offerings at the shrine on a chilly November day. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I left my offerings at the base of the oak – fruit, seeds, oats, and sweet red wine poured on rocks.  I also left a crow feather I found on my way there.  It felt right to give it back to Nature.

As I left, I promised An Cailleach some bread next time.  UPG I’ve experienced the last few years I’ve made offerings to her have taught me that our regional winter hag loves fresh bread.  Good thing I enjoy making it!  What’s more, it adds some extra warmth to our home while An Cailleach dances outside.

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When life gets busy, I tend to feel that my spirituality comes out of focus. Socializing, driving from place to place, and my day job all distract me from my studies. Being a mother and keeping my home is exhausting. So often, I find myself snuggled in a bathrobe, on the couch, watching something on Netflix.  When I log on to the internet, I see others in my tradition discussing the various ADF study programs that they’re working through, and I think of how long it’s taking me…  I’m about ready to give up on trance and magic for now.  I just can’t seem to adhere to a routine with my fussy toddler teething so frequently.  It can be really discouraging…

When I went into the forest to do my devotional on Sunday, I found myself dwelling on everything I wasn’t doing enough of: practicing meditation or trance, magical work, studying Irish, studying herbalism…  My ritual itself felt a little melancholy.  It was such a chilly, overcast day. All the lovely autumn colors from the last couple weeks had blown away. Ravens chuckled in the distance, reminding me at once of An Morrigan and her connection to death.  The veil is thin, Samhain is coming, and the natural world both dies and prepares for slumber.

Once inside, I gradually began to realize all the ways that I am living and growing spiritually.  I am doing my best to maintain a positive relationship with the Kindreds by giving offerings and saying prayers of gratitude.  I practice simple, practical forms of magic – folk magic, kitchen magic, basic shielding and grounding.  I may not be actively studying Irish each day, but I’m learning when I can.  I may not be reading as much as I used to, but I’m fitting that in when I can as well.  I’ve started to journal each Sunday afternoon, and my liturgy journal shows growth and reflection.  Most importantly, I’m sharing the joy of life’s most basic magic with my daughter.  We sing and dance to music, delight in simple stories, and enjoy expressing our creativity with art.  We explore nature together, and her complete awe in everything has awakened something deep inside me.  Lately, a majority of the books I read are my child’s.  We read them together – fiction and non-fiction, verse and prose.   She hears my prayers and sees me make offerings.

My Druidism is growing as fast as an oak, which is okay.  The experience of tending to my little acorn is just part of my journey.  It is teaching me to be patient and nurturing, and to reconnect to the world’s most primal and joyful magic.

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A lovely, moss-covered rock I encountered on my walk today.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A lovely, moss-covered rock I encountered on my walk today. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Today I went to the forest to do a devotional. It’s a perfect day for that. The sky is clear, allowing the sun to hit the changing leaves. It makes them look like a brilliant flame!

As a precaution against hunters and bears, I donned a red jacket and, once I was in the forest, sang “We Approach the Sacred Grove” on my way to my little nemeton. When I got there, I circled clockwise, stopping before the oak tree. I then allowed myself to breathe and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I felt so at peace and thankful to be there. It’s something I look forward to each week. If I miss my walks for some reason, I do my devotionals inside, but there’s something extra special about doing them in the forest.

I called to Brighid as a Goddess of inspiration and as a gatekeeper. Like others in ADF, I have been experimenting with this portion of ritual and looking to the fire as the beginning of a ritual working upon reaching the sacred space. While I do not start fires in the forest, I look up to the sun as the great bonfire in the sky. I prayed to Brighid:

Lady Brighid, Goddess of flame,

I pray that your fire sparks the flames in my mind

Inspiring me to speak with truth, beauty, and eloquence.

I pray that your fire shines a light into the darkness,

Chasing away the negativity.

I pray that your fire’s smoke carry my prayers to the Other Worlds

And that you open the ways.

Lady Brighid – let the ways be open!

 

It is a work in progress. I feel that I tweak that process and prayer a little each time, but I like how it is working out.

I attuned with the fire, well, and tree, meditating on their symbolism and power. This is always very visceral for me when I’m outside. I focus on how I sense them. The sun’s warmth and light touches my face, the creek nearby often gurgles, or the sun glints off the raindrops on the leaves. The oak tree, which I lean on when I focus on the Two Powers, gives me strength and stability. The firm earth gives me a foundation on which to stand.

I sang to the Earth Mother, then bent to give her a kiss. Next, I prayed and gave offerings to the Three Kindreds, followed by special offerings for my spirit guide and patroness.

When I am in the woods, I meditate, but not the way I do inside. Being out in a forest, off a path, I need to be mindful of the possible dangers. I relax but generally don’t close my eyes. I stand against the oak tree and soften my gaze. I let myself truly open up to the sensations of the forest. My purpose in going to the forest is to commune with the land, with the Nature Spirits there, and praise the Kindred among the trees. I’m not trying to escape that in some way by visualizing an alternate grove. When I meditate in the forest, it is to fully immerse myself in that environment. When I leave, I carry that with me for all the times I pray and meditate inside. Going into the woods is like recharging a battery.

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Offerings at the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

When life gets busy – go to the forest.

When there is drama at protogrove events – go to the forest.

When you question why you are trying to build community – go to the forest.

When your thoughts won’t let you be – go to the forest.

The oak tree will teach you how to reach to the upper and lower worlds.

The oak tree will teach you to weather your storms.

To oak tree will inspire strength.

The secrets are there in the forest. Your purpose is there in the forest.

You will catch your breath in the forest.

Life will make sense again.

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