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Posts Tagged ‘North Country Druidic Study Group’

A unakite Goddess figurine from a dear friend.

 

A couple days ago, I came home and discovered a little surprise at my door – a package!  I soon realized it was from my friend Daughter RavynStar.  What makes this gift extra special is that she is leaving the North Country tomorrow, moving to warmer climates.  I’m very sad to see her go, but we can’t always control the changes life brings.  I met her in the summer of 2012, so we only had a few months to get to know each other.  The circumstances of our meeting and parting give me such warm feelings about friendship and the North Country Druidic Study Group.

You see, RavynStar and I probably wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for the study group.  And even then, she might not have found out about it if I hadn’t reached out to her on Witchvox.  Ah, that old networking site…  It’s an oldie but a tried and true goodie!  Her bio stated that she had attended an ADF grove in Alaska and remained interested – so I sent her a message and she responded!  I know how dodgy it can be meeting people and making friends online, but things are so spread out in Northern NY.  It’s difficult to meet like-minded people.  If you play it safe, it can be worth reaching out.

RavynStar was with the North Country Druidic Study Group from the very beginning.  She made it to just about every gathering, opened her home up for ritual planning, and helped prepare for and clean up after our events.  She has a great personality – grounded while, at the same time, very passionate and spiritual.  We clicked and it was so easy to talk.

Originally, she was supposed to come to our upcoming business meeting and social outing, but plans changed and she’s leaving earlier than anticipated – hence the package.  Inside I found a book called “Birthing From Within” by Pam England and Rob Horowitz.  It’s supposed to be about a holistic approach the childbirth – not just labor, but the whole paradigm shift I am experiencing.  I am very much looking forward to it.  RavynStar has two children of her own and I trust her experiences and thoughtful addition to my library.

She also sent the Goddess stone pictured above.  It came in a purple organza bag covered in golden stars.  Within was a prayer from RavynStar and information about the stone, unakite.  She felt the stone was appropriate for me because of it’s association with healing and healthy pregnancies.  She also liked the fiery, watery quality of it – reminding her of Brighid, my patron Goddess.  Apparently, she started a tradition when she left Texas (coming from a military family, she’s experienced many comings and goings in the Pagan community).  Before leaving, she gave little Goddess figurines to her “soul sisters.”  She’s continued that tradition, and now I’ve received one!  To her, it is a symbol of our friendship and the deep connection we’ll always have no matter the distance.  I cried when I read her letter.  What a beautiful, moving tradition!  Not only did it speak of the power of sisterhood and friendship, but it confirmed something I have been feeling strongly – the core of the North Country Druidic Study Group is becoming a group of friends – a spiritual family, even!  We all work together, share our thoughts and emotions, and support each other.  It’s the sign of a healthy group, one that has the potential to mature into something even more special.

RavynStar’s gift reminded me just how precious friendship is.  Individuals may only cross paths for a short time and may never see each other again, but the impact can be tremendous.  I believe this is especially so when you experience  spiritual growth together.  You are forever connected by that time and those lessons.

I plan to make a special pregnancy crane bag to hold various charms important to me for labor.  Even if I can’t hold it during that time, I will keep it near me or have my husband hold onto it.  That lovely Goddess charm, so full of feminine magic, healing, and friendship will definitely have a place in the bag! For now, it’s on my altar near Brighid.

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Well, here we are – the end of 2012!  Before we move into the new year, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on all the personally significant events of 2012.

1) I Spent A Lot of Time Outdoors

Although I make a point to do this every year, it’s always a highlight!  I love being outdoors, and this year I revisited a favorite mountain, kayaked and swam in lakes and the St. Lawrence River, picked blueberries in the Adirondacks, gardened on my patio, and took leisurely strolls behind my home.  I saw all sorts of plants and wildlife, and learned many new things.  Nothing connects me to the spirit world quite the same way as a hike in the forest! Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

2) I Returned to Niagara Falls

After over a decade, I finally returned to Niagara Falls.  Weretoad hadn’t ever been, and we had a wonderful vacation together.  We admired the falls, explored a tropical butterfly garden, humbly stood in awe of a Buddhist temple, and got in touch with our inner child at goofy museums and funhouses.  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

3) More Arts and Crafts!

I continued to sew, felt, spin, and crochet.  I once more tried my hand at knitting, successfully completing two hats for Solstice gifts, and started some basic cable stitching!  My doll making improved, and I worked on some lovely pieces for artisan competitions, commissions, and vending.  I participated in a couple shows this year – the Krebashia Kingdom, a medieval faire in Northern NY, and the Liverpool Pagan Pride Day!  Both were pretty successful and I had a ton of fun.  Although I plan to keep crafting in 2013, I’m turning inward and focusing more on personal projects.  I’m going to take a break from vending for the next few years.  I won’t have time with the little one on the way.    It was fun while it lasted, and perhaps I’ll get back to it again one of these days.  In the meantime, you can still expect me to share some of my work here on the blog!  Local folk may be lucky enough to attend a workshop – I’m hoping to once more teach how to felt Ostara Eggs in the spring.  Doll and photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

4) More Family Involvement

I performed my first ever High Day rite for my family this summer.  I would have attended Summer Solstice at Muin Mound Grove, but different things came up with the family and they begged me to stay, insisting I perform the rite with them so we could all be together.  I obliged and it ended up being a very positive experience.  Some of my family even gave offerings and expressed an interest in doing it again.  Since the North Country Druidic Study Group picked up, my family has expressed an interest in visiting the Yoga Center sometime to celebrate a High Day.  I don’t expect any conversion experiences, but it’s wonderful that they opened up to my beliefs more.  It meant so much to me.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

5) I Attempted to Exercise More!

Over the summer, Weretoad and I started to run using the Couch to 5K program.  I learned a lot about endurance, what I’m capable of, and how to make homemade electrolyte drinks!  It was a lot of work and, even though our fall schedules brought our running to an unfortunate end, we were proud of what we did and hope to start again down the road.  In the meantime, I need to find low-impact ways to exercise while pregnant.  My sister gave me a pregnancy belly dancing DVD, there are yoga classes, and my old friend – walking!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

6) Another Successful Year of Gardening!

Although I still have a long way to go, this year’s garden brought many successes and lessons.  I learned more about growing squash and hope to use my knowledge towards a better harvest next year.  No surprise pumpkins or sunflowers this year, but we did have a surprise leek!  Another wonderful achievement was getting a dwarf lemon tree and having it bear fruit!  Although my ability to garden will be a bit hindered in 2013, my husband is planning to take up many of the responsibilities.  We’ve already started by looking through seed catalogs together and dreaming about next year’s garden!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

7) We Lost a Beloved Family Member

In mid July, we lost one of our ferrets, Puck.  She was such a sweet, mischievous little imp.  We still occasionally find things that she hid.  I felt her very strongly around Samhain, but now she’s quieted down and seems to be at rest.  I still miss her eager face each morning, and take heart in the joyful attitude she possessed right up to the very end.  I learned a lot from her, will always love her, and will continue to remember her.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

8) The North Country Druidic Study Group is Born!

In June, after finishing my graduate classes (huzzah!), I decided to finally start a Druidic study group.  I posted about it on a local FB group dedicated to Pagans and got some nibbles! I wasn’t sure where it would go, but decided it was worth trying if only to make some friends within the Pagan community. Suddenly I’ve got a core of very dedicated, interested members.  Some even joined ADF!  We’ve formed a relationship with a local Yoga Center and started to perform public rituals for the High Days.  In 2013, we’re hoping to become an official ADF protogrove!  I’m very excited for us!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

9) I Became Pregnant!

In November, I found out I’m having a baby!  Weretoad and I had been trying for a few months and poof!  Suddenly it happened!  Everyone in my family is very excited, and we’re happily preparing for the little one’s birth in 2013!  I won’t gush too much about it here because I seem to do that enough every other post!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

10) I Stepped Down from Muin Mound Grove

Muin Mound has been my spiritual family for several years.  I grew as a Druid, a woman, and an artisan with them, and I know my faith is what it is in part because of these wonderful people.  Weretoad and I love everyone there, but I had to step back in order to focus on my pregnancy and support the hopeful protogrove here in the North Country.  We will always be a part of Muin Mound and they support us in our decision.  We plan to visit as often as we can, and my hope is that the North Country Druids will be strongly linked to them.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

As the day turns to evening, and as you prepare for your house blessings and parties, I hope you bring in much luck and happiness for the New Year.  I think Teo Bishop said it best on his blog post, and I second him in every way.  I thank you for reading my blog in 2012, sharing your opinions and insights, and all the positive feedback.  I’ll see you in 2013!

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Our Winter Solstice Altar.  Each time we set up, it gets a little better.  My goal for the next ritual is to add more seasonal embellishments!    Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

On Saturday, the North Country Druidic Study group gathered to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  It was our third ever public ritual and, although it was the lowest attended, it went really well!  Some last minute changes threw us off a little bit, but we bounced back and made the most of it!  For the last time until spring, we gathered at the beloved stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga Center*.

A bit of snow around the stone circle.  The Winter Hag was there!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

The sun was shining and there was only a sprinkling of snow on the ground.  Despite a warm start to the day, it grew cold as the sun set.  Determined to celebrate among the elements, we toughed it out!  By the end of the rite, our fingers felt clumsy and our tootsies were chilled!  Really makes me appreciate the warmth!

A chilly night presided over by the waxing moon.  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

We honored An Cailleach and An Dagda – the Winter Hag and the God of abundance (among other things), respectively.  We also paid tribute to the sun and did a working to send peace and healing to the victims of the tragedies the week prior.  These moments were very moving, and yet we also managed to fit in a festive spirit here and there.  We chuckled with An Dagda a lot and sang “Deck the Halls” as we ended the rite.  We acknowledged the finite nature of the sun, but that there is hope attached to it – hope that it will rise another day.  We equated that hope with our wish that the world will become a more loving place.

The blessing garland the group put together.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

We transferred those wishes into the garlands we made and a white candle Daughter RavynStar brought to charge.  The garlands were to be hung on the Yoga Center’s blessing (clootie) tree, and the candle was burnt during and after our feast to send healing to those in need.

A Winter Solstice feast!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Although the group was small, there was an abundance of food (Thanks An Dagda!) – including a birthday cake one of our members made for me!  I feel truly lucky that our little study group is turning into a real spiritual family.  We care about each other, support one another, and have become real friends!  Just as important, everyone is willing to lend a hand.  Without asking, people were setting up, vacuuming at the end, putting things away, washing dishes – how spectacular is that?!  I so often read about organizers feeling as if they have to do everything.  I feel very sorry for those groups.  When ours becomes a grove, it will truly belong to everyone involved!

Winter Solstice gifts!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Gifts were exchanged as is the spirit of the season.  I came up with a tag system so that those participating selected an ogham from a metal tree.  A small part of the tag was put into a basket which we drew from to find our gift as well as the ogham which carried a message for us the coming season!  There are some kinks to be worked out, but I hope to utilize it again next year!

Though it was small, our Winter Solstice ritual was wonderful.  I’m looking forward to the new year and the growth of our study group!

The Yoga Center’s altar, including the healing candle charged by the group.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

 

* We still plan to have our Imbolc ritual at the Yoga Center, but it will be held just behind the building for ease of setup, proximity to warmth if needed, and light.  Huzzah for portable fire pits!

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First of all, I’m very excited to announce that the North Country Druidic Study Group has been welcomed to perform our High Day rituals at the Kripalu Yoga Center here in Northern NY!  They have a lovely little stone circle with a fire pit that is just perfect for us.  What’s more, they have an indoor facility with heat, electricity, bathrooms, tables, chairs, and a kitchen!  As I’ve told everyone, I like to perform rites outside surrounded by Nature and in the elements, but I understand the importance of having indoor space, especially for a group of people.  Individuals can suddenly feel ill, babies can become too cold, and people want to feast in comfort come winter.  Access to this lovely, sacred space comes as a particular stroke of good fortune in a month that has been largely stressful and disappointing in other life areas. Of course, it hasn’t happened without much effort – phone tag, many messages over FB, letters, meetings, and much explanation.  I’m very grateful to the Yoga Center’s board, in particular Kimberly Ward, who has been communicative and supportive since the beginning, and Steve Williams, who has been very helpful and welcoming over the phone.  I pray this is the start to a wonderful, positive partnership!

Of course, being a facility that has a vast lawn to maintain, electricity, heat, water, etc…  It should not be a surprise that the group will have to pay a little to utilize this space.  This brings up the question about money.  Ah, that necessary evil that permeates our life…

Like others in the group, I rent an apartment lacking a private lawn or sufficient space for large group rituals.  What’s more, since we are aiming to become an ADF grove, our rituals must be open to the public and accessible, yet we also want more privacy than a park can offer.  Although there are many people in ADF comfortable with such a high level of hospitality and open their home to complete strangers, I’m on the more protective side of my property and, especially, pets.  There are other members who have children and I would be the same way.  Renting a ritual space at an established property just makes sense.  We aren’t alone in the ADF community.  As it turns out, a great many groves and protogroves rely on the hospitality of spiritual and community centers – UU Churches, libraries, camping lodges,  and even Masonic temples.  Because of this need for space, other groups also deal with the annoyance of money.

As the study group matures and moves towards our first anniversary in the summer, acquiring access to this space has solidified our desire to move forward with becoming an actual grove.  We will not stagnate over the winter without a good place for ritual!  Yet we are suddenly faced with business.  Who pays for this space? Will a request for donations be enough? Should we start collecting dues?  Who pays the dues? What constitutes a member of the study group?

Most people probably recognize that we’re moving into bylaws territory.  Even though protogroves aren’t required to have any, it seems like something is necessary when money comes into the equation. I’m no stranger to bylaws.  Muin Mound Grove has some that we’re currently in the process of reviewing.  The Mohawk Valley Pagan Network I used to belong to had them.  I was actually involved in the process of writing them!  Like money, bylaws are a necessary evil.  It is unfortunate that spiritual communities have to have these rules, but due to the imperfect and sometimes unpredictable nature of humanity, rules are a form of protection.  The key is not letting the rules take over the function of the group, and being open about their necessity and formation.  I’m hopeful that people who were very interested and involved before don’t become discouraged by this development.

I’ve been spending some time looking over other grove bylaws for ideas.  The study group’s second business meeting is tonight and I plan to start at least discussing some of the issues at hand.  The group is growing up.

 

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I’m very proud to say that the North Country Druidic Study Group’s first ritual went well!  We celebrated the autumn season and honored the Nature Spirits, thanking them for the harvest.  There were 11 of us in total.  For 7 attendees, this was their first time joining the group.  It was also a first exposure to ADF Druidic ritual in many cases.  This made things a bit awkward at times, simply because everyone is learning – including myself with regards to properly explaining roles, chants, and expectations.  My usual ditziness reared its ugly head, of course, but I like to think it makes for a more relaxed environment.  😛  We have some growing to do, but our first ritual went well and several people told me afterwards that they loved it and are so excited to be involved.  Some have also expressed gratitude that I’ve started this group since finding things alternative to Wicca is very difficult in the North Country.  I’m happy to oblige.

Washing local potatoes for a vegan, gluten-free potato salad!  No Druidic gathering is complete without a potluck.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012
The finished product.  It was delicious!  Everyone who came was very generous.  I wish I had taken a photo of the spread.  There were scrumptious homemade rolls, cake, pies, apple flatbread, apple  strudel, veggies, teas, and salads.  Mmmmm!  Just about everyone remembered to bring their own plates, cutlery, and cups.  I’m really trying to cut down on waste out of respect for the Nature Spirits.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
The group’s first ever altar!  Because everyone is learning, I took charge of bringing all the ritual tools – including a cornucopia to house our key offerings.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
A closeup of the offerings in the cornucopia.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
Later, I brought the offerings into the forest near my home.  I carried them to the shrine I visit and carefully laid the items out.  Look at the group’s generosity – tomatoes, squash, peppers, flowers, herbs, berries, and pumpkin seeds!  They go back to the Earth Mother and the Nature Spirits.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Future gatherings are already in the works! We’re planning a coffee hour this month and we will be celebrating Samhain early November. Wish us luck as our acorn of a group germinates into a sprout!

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If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year, you know I’ve been working towards building an ADF Druidic community here in the North Country.  It started in June with a “coffee hour,” and progressed into a few study group meetings – the first in Watertown and the second in Carthage.  Our Facebook group has grown and, while discussion comes and goes, the interest remains.  We’ve even attracted someone right across the border in Canada!

Our next gathering is coming up this weekend and it is going to be a bit more than a study group meeting – I’m actually planning a ritual to frame the opening and closing of our time together.  The purpose is to celebrate the new season and honor the Nature Spirits for their bounty.  Since the group has been discussing Nature Spirits, it seemed right to make them the focus of this ritual.  We’ll also discuss our next planned ritual, Samhain.

Last weekend, I met with two of the study group members.  They have both been very involved since the very first meeting – I felt they were ready to help me organize something bigger.  The Autumn Equinox rite coming up is going to be very casual so as to “blend in” at the public park we’re meeting in.  Since it’s our first ritual, I don’t want it to be too involved.  Everyone is still learning and the less they have to keep track of, the better it will be.  All the same, I will be sure everyone is involved in some way so they experience a sense of ownership and I don’t feel alone on stage.  I’m hoping this only grows at Samhain.  We’re still working on finding a more private yet accessible location for that rite… and we have a possibility in the works.

When Weretoad and I left Muin Mound’s Autumn Equinox rite, he lamented the possibility of growing apart from them through forming a new group.  I worried the same thing.  We discussed it some as we took the long drive home.  I asked him if he would be happier if I abandoned the possibility of starting a protogrove, but he insisted that I shouldn’t because he knows it’s important to me.  I found myself asking why is it important.  Am I just looking to play leader?

Reflecting on my life, I always end up in such positions.  I dare say it’s natural for me.  I started clubs as a child, was elected president of a literature club in college, and was elected scribe in two Pagan groups.  I naturally like to facilitate and organize, especially when I see a desire in the community.  Someone has to step up and help make things happen.  I like to make things happen, even when it stresses me out.  (Don’t even get me started on organizing parties – I love doing that too…)

But it isn’t just my desire to make things happen.  There really is a desire in the North Country for something other than Wicca.  Not only that, but there’s a desire for open community.  Covens are hard to find, but ADF Druidism is all about opening its doors. This doesn’t come without some complications, but it’s necessary for such a group to be out there.  I think most Pagans are into security and safety, but not everyone is into extreme secrecy.  Some of us just want to come together, form friendships, educate/learn, work magic, and worship the Kindreds.  I read about other groves who meet every month – sometimes twice a month! – to share discussion, healing, and fellowship.  I used to be part of such a group in the Utica area and I loved it.  I still get excited to see the people I met through that group.  It’s not that I don’t get excited to see my grovemates in Syracuse – but I can’t see them as often because of proximity.  I miss being able to meet without it being a big day trip.  I miss being able to say, “Hey, who wants to meet for tea and casual Pagan discussion tonight?” without worrying about gas prices and getting home at a decent time for bed.

I truly hope this study group turns into something more.  Like my husband, I will miss seeing Muin Mound as often when the study group matures… but I know we won’t lose touch.  Hell, I’m already plotting ways for the North Country group and Muin Mound to get together!

At the same time, I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.  The study group still has a lot of work to do to become something more.  I don’t want to embark on the protogrove boat alone – I need to know everyone has my back and that we’re in it together.  Perhaps by next June, we’ll be ready.

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I haven’t written about the North Country Druidic Study Group in awhile.  We had our third meeting last weekend and it was very successful!  There were less people than the second meeting, but many had family obligations which is understandable – especially in the summer when everyone wants to visit and have fun!  We have been talking about Nature Spirits – who/what they are, how we impact each other, and how to work with them.  It’s mostly focused on the physical realm – what is corporeal and readily experienced by the average person’s senses.  I firmly believe that, even though the more mystical side of Druidism is very interesting and rewarding to study, you won’t gain much without feeling connected to the “here and now.”  We started to tap into magic and energy last time with a Two Powers exercise.

The group is still in its infancy.  Who knows who will stay?  Druidism won’t be for everyone, so I’ll understand if some people decide to part ways amicably.  There seems to be a core group of people – individuals who have been to each meeting, are very active on the Facebook group, and who really seem happy with what they’re discovering about Druidism.  One even joined ADF!

There’s been some discussion about the possibility of starting an actual grove in the North Country!  I did explain that we need to take baby steps toward that since it’s a lot of work.  My biggest concerns, at this point, are where we can meet and how involved everyone will be.

The meetings have been in three different places.  I’ve been communicating with a Yoga center in the area about the possibility of having our rituals there and we’ll see how that turns out.  If that doesn’t work in our favor, there are various parks in the area.  But in winter?  I don’t really feel the UU Church is the answer since I’m not a member and there’s already a CUUPs chapter there.  I am opened to having people I know in my home, but ADF rituals are supposed to be opened to the public.  I’ve always admired the Ellisons’ hospitality at Muin Mound Grove.  It’s on their property and new people come in and out of their house each high day.  I’m not as comfortable with that, at least right now.

So, we’ll see what happens with a location, but I’m taking steps.

With regards to group involvement, the “core” I described seem willing to work with me.  I’m hoping the core only grows.  I’ve never been a part of a Pagan group that didn’t have a dedicated core and then more casual members on the periphery who show up when able.  Muin Mound is the same way, as was the Mohawk Valley Pagan Network.  The local CUUPs too.  A good four or five people seem key to making sure things get organized.  I have heard of new protogroves having difficulty with members, though.  One person will feel like he or she is doing all of the work and nobody volunteers.  I know from being a president in a college organization that sometimes a leader has to delegate since people aren’t always aware you’re seeking volunteers.

For now, the group is small and everyone is learning.  My husband and I have the most experience with ADF Druidism followed by one of the core members.  I can’t honestly expect more involvement until people gather more experience. As the group grows, I’m hoping others become more involved as they grow and feel comfortable in Druidism.  Although I’m organizing and facilitating everything at the moment, I do want the group to feel comfortable making suggestions and even leading meetings in the future.

Before our last study group, I used my Animal Oracle to draw an omen and pulled the goose which can mean parenthood.  The second meeting’s omen was a wolf which I interpreted to mean pack.  The cards seem to aptly describe the situation right now.  I’m forming a pack and have to nurture those who are interested.

I’m hopeful for my little group – hopeful that we grow into a pack – a family 0f North Country Druids.

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