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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Rivers Grove’

The actual Autumn Equinox felt more like Summer’s last gasp.  The leaves were changing, but the heat was intense for September in Upstate NY.  It makes me glad that my grove decided to celebrate a week later.  Yesterday was perfect.  The air was finally cool; the wind had a bite.  The sun shined through flocks of happy clouds.  It was the perfect day to stand around a bonfire surrounded by standing stones.

Before ritual, my daughter had seen me working on offerings throughout the week.  I embroidered a token and an ornament.  I decorated a stone.  She saw me go into a liquor store to get Brighid’s favorite.  She decided she wanted to make offerings, too.  Without any prompting, she started to draw pictures for Brighid and the Nature Spirits.  It was so precious.  She even wanted to roll them up and tie them with pretty yarn.  It made my chest swell with pride to see her so interested in giving back to say thank you for all our blessings.  My husband and I even saw her singing along to some of our chants during ritual.

My friend Cassandra lead the rite.  She did a remarkable job, as always.  I’m so proud of her.  She recently completed her Dedicant Path, and now I have a study buddy for the Initiate Program!

Our ritual honored the Earth Mother and gave thanks for the harvest.  Our magical working was to send healing wherever it was needed, and to keep that light with us so that we could remember ways to help.  With everything happening in the world, I feel like I went to a dark place with my ritual parts. We called to various Indo-European Earth Mothers.  I called to Gaia and Macha – both goddesses who were mistreated by others, be they other gods/Titans, or kings and other men.  Gaia was in an abusive relationship.  Macha was betrayed and forced to hurt herself while pregnant, resulting in a curse on all the men of Ulster.  I spoke of outwitting oppressors, and escaping victim-hood.  I spoke of  the Earth as the ultimate mistress, who will always have the last laugh if we mistreat her.  When I called to the Gods, I felt compelled to talk about how we strive to emulate their better qualities rather than their failings, much as children should do with their own parents.  Clearly, the news is getting to me, but I always see ritual as an important time to reflect on the lore, how it relates to what is happening in the now, and how it all translates to our Druidism.

I see the darkness, but I also see my daughter’s growing involvement.  Like a little candle herself, she gives me strength and hope.

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Daniel’s Memorial Dragon Garden – Photo by John Crump, 2017.

The transition from winter to spring was marked by a tragedy within my own community and grove. A friend, someone I started studying Paganism with back when I was in college, suddenly passed away.  It was very sudden and heartbreaking, especially as he left my friend (his wife), and their daughter on the corporeal realm.  After discussing his wife and daughter’s wishes, the grove (of which he was a member) came up with the idea to create a memorial dragon garden in his memory.  The Yoga Center, where we have most of our rituals, allowed us to keep it on their land near the fairy gardens.

We gathered for the Spring Equinox and created it as a magical working.  It was part to memorialize our friend, part to heal our hearts, and part to strengthen our bonds.  In addition to studying Wicca with him when I was in Utica, he attended Muin Mound Grove for many years, then joined Northern Rivers Grove last year.  The two groves came together to honor him in our working.  It was probably the hardest ritual I ever lead.    As we took turns placing stones or figurines in the garden, we shared memories.  There were many tears and hugs.

I spotted these daffodils growing in the hedge.  I wonder if someone tossed a potted plant and now they’ve gone feral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We focus so much on rebirth at this time of year. The death of a friend and grovemate has had me focusing on the death part that is so necessary for the cycle to renew. We get caught up with the flowers in the spring that we can forget the decaying leaves that nourish the plants. Honestly, thinking about how I will go back to the Earth and contribute to that gives me a strange comfort. All the same, it doesn’t make these partings any easier.

No buds, but the wildflowers were growing in late April.  I need to go back and visit…  Red trilliums are such a beauty to behold.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I collected big, heavy bag of trash in the woods for Earth Day.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I went into the woods around Earth Day to keep with my tradition of picking up some trash that time of year. I usually try to pick up some trash whenever I go into the woods, but I put in extra effort around Earth Day. The effort is my offering to the local spirits. I wondered if any of the Dead lingered in the woods, watching me remove the garbage…

We celebrated Bealtaine with laughter and joy. We danced around a Maypole and we jumped the embers for cleansing and good luck. We missed old friends, those who moved away, and our friend who passed beyond the veil. We called on the fertility of the land, and I contemplated the role our Ancestors have in abundance.

Shortly after Bealtaine, I took part in my friend’s very small and private funeral. We met up with his family, another grovie, and a friend from the eclectic circle in Utica. There were elderly people and babies gathered in a small circle of mud boots and umbrellas.  We were surrounded by trees that held great significance to my departed grovemate and the most magical balancing stones. The sky cried buckets.  While others moved soil, everyone chanted:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
And fire my spirit…

I thought of all the Dead around us, mingling with the soil, the waters, the air, and in our own spirits…  It was a sublime moment.  One that will stay with me forever.

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It’s been quite a week, but I’ve been meaning to write a more substantial update here for some time.  I figure I should finish and publish this as I move into another week and a new lunar cycle.  Much of this entry has been hanging out in my draft folder for several days.  Why the delay?  My Grove has been saddened by the loss of a grovemate and friend, so we’ve been coming to terms with that. I will write more on our friend and the transition another day. Northern Rivers Grove will honor him during our Spring Equinox celebration. It’s bound to be one of the hardest rituals I’ve ever lead, but it’s important to mark this passage.  My thoughts have been dwelling on death, rebirth, and how to best support my grovemates.

Today I want to share some of the other work I’ve been doing to deepen my Druidry. I’ve continued my slow progress through Trance-Portation by Paxson.  I’ve forced myself to take time on the initial exercises.  I think it’s important to revisit the basics once in awhile, and I know there’s much I could improve.  Shielding, grounding, centering, and visualizing are foundational, and I think I’ve really strengthened these areas since January.  Sometimes I falter, and emotional upsets crack the shell I wrap myself in each morning, but on a whole, it always makes me feel confident and strong.

My new oak leaf and Herkimer diamond pendant from Stellar Creations.

For the last few weeks, my work within Trance 1 and Magic 2 of ADF’s study programs has heavily revolved around creating talismans. It just happened that way, and it’s helped me jump back into the practice after stumbling in my routines around December. One talisman was for a friend.   The other, a custom-made oak leaf pendant with Herkimer diamond, is for myself. It was lovingly crafted by the local artist of Stellar Creations.  I highly recommend her work, and she put a lot of love and meditation into it.  I could definitely feel the energy upon receiving the pendant.

I had been meaning to consecrate a creativity talisman for some time – ever since I started Trance 1 and Magic 2, actually.  It seemed like the perfect working given my many talents and hobbies.  In addition to sewing and crochet, I recently delved back into creative writing.  Since November, I’ve been working on a novel, something I haven’t done since I was in high school.  It’s still a work in progress, but I’m having so much fun.*  And no, I’m not ready to discuss the plot!

I’m a big believer in mental keys.  The smell of incense relaxes my nerves and tells me that it’s time to meditate or ritualize.  Yoga poses signal my body to relax and heal.  Certain pieces of clothing and jewelry can also help us to access parts of our brain, inner realms, or spirit allies.  Ideally, we can grow beyond the need of such talismans, but they are extremely useful to me as a harried mother who works full-time outside of the home…  Sometimes I feel too mired in the demands of this realm, so these tools help me relax, let go, and, in the case of my oak leaf charm, focus on my creativity.

 

*Someday, I will write about how writing has become a form of trance for me…

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Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby.  It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid.  A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really.  She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not.  I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me.  A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away.  I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.

This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores.  I used some of the money toward a candle making kit.  It was a very simple kit  with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders.  I broke into it today and had a lot of fun.  Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.

The kit was very easy to use.  I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels.  Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use.  I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me.  I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit.  I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients.  As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.

I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try.  I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week.  The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly.  That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.

My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.

‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.

 

 

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Our Winter Solstice altar – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I’m finally enjoying a somewhat lazy day today.  I slept in and have very little to do besides clean and work on some personal projects.  I did take advantage of my freedom and caught up on some grove business.  It gave me some time to reflect on what Northern Rivers Grove accomplished by offering our Winter Solstice ritual online rather than cancel due to threat of poor weather.    I would have preferred to enjoy a more physical gathering complete with our annual gift exchange and usual, delicious potluck, but doing this enabled us to keep with Isaac Bonewits’ vision of offering public rituals, even broadcasting them.  You can read more about the experience in the link above.  It was amazing to connect with a couple people, including a distance member, from other states.  We’re discussing the possibility of streaming more of our rituals.  Considering that older, more experienced groves (like Three Cranes) are doing it, it makes me really proud of what we are able to accomplish.

As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development.  I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced.  My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year.  I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing.  I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental.  It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination.  Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.

My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip.  I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part.  I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part.  I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills.  I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less.  Why?  Some of it has been laziness.  Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook?  Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently.  I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years.  Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.

I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice.  Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order?  I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with.  I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more.  All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.

Be it so!

 

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2016 has been a strange one for many of us.  It feels disingenuous to type that, though, when I’ve lead a very comfortable life all year.  Considering the atrocities faced by people in Syria, for example…  Yet 2017, as most years, will also throw some difficulties at us, challenges that can feel insurmountable.  Sometimes they will be, and they will crush us mentally, physically, and spiritually.  More often, though, I think we can take the challenges and ride them with grace, learning the required lessons and, perhaps, teaching others along the way.  2016 saw us lose many heroes and inspirations.  Some of us lost family members or friends to various circumstances.  Many of us saw 2016 as a battering ram of defeat, and the tumult reached me on a personal level right at the very end.

I have not done my annual saining and divinatory reading for the New Year.  I have not yet looked for insight into what is coming, but I am optimistic.  Typical to my Sagittarius sign, I always look on the bright side, even after a painful situation.  To me, every hurt is a lesson.  I realize I’m showing a lot of privilege in saying that given that I’m not in a war zone or scared to use the bathroom at night…  I have gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given and I want to do more to help those in need.  It’s a theme that’s continued to show up in my magical work.  I’m looking forward to growing as a person in 2017.  I’m looking forward to growing in my spirituality and strengthening my grove.  My grove!  We became a grove in 2016.  I must focus on the successes and learn from the failures.  I will continue to work through the Nine Virtues to be the best I can be!

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – performed by the Byrds and written by Pete Seeger – came to mind today.  Despite its biblical origins, I’ve always felt the song is very Pagan.  Life is full of comings and goings, beginnings and endings, as painful as that can be.  Perhaps our paths will cross again one day, but for now, all I can think of is the wheel turning… and the work that I must continue.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
Wherever you are, whoever you are, I wish you a very blessed 2017.  May we all grow and improve in our paths and in kindness to each other.

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In my last post, I briefly mentioned that the ADF group I founded a few years ago grew into an official Grove.  I’m so proud of my grovies.  We have all worked so hard to get to this point.  I definitely could not have done this by myself.  Whenever I lead rituals, I make a point to have multiple people in major speaking parts so it’s not just me.  I love when grove members step up to lead rituals or workshops.  I love how we have taken turns coming up with activities, sharing supplies, making favors, leading magical workings, hosting private gatherings, offering extra eyes to keep track of kids, donating art and time…  Despite some occasional bumps and growing pains (which are inevitable), we’ve continued to grow intellectually, spiritually, and we grow closer as a Druid family who truly love and support each other.  I look forward to many years with my beautiful grovies. Hail to Northern Rivers Grove!

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Our info table at the 2016 FAE Fest.

Last weekend, my Grove participated in the 3rd annual Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown, NY.  Originally scheduled in August, organizers moved the date to October 1st due to stormy weather.  This “sun date” was a great success!  It was a perfect early autumn day.  Northern Rivers Grove, ADF, had an info table, offered hospitality to workshop presenters, built our ever-evolving Earth Mother shrine, and lead the closing ritual for the second year in a row.  It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding to take part in.  The closing ritual, in particular, is a great way to showcase the ADF tradition, our own ritual skills, and our grove character.  Just as last year, we received a lot of positive feedback.

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A view of our Earth Mother Shrine.  Many of our artisans have contributed pieces over the last three years.  It continues to evolve into a beautiful devotional space.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Personally, this was an opportunity for me to grow closer to the local Pagan community outside of my grove.  I’ve become one of the FAE Fest organizers after volunteering to coordinate workshops.  One of my favorite parts of the CNY PPD are the many educational opportunities, and I felt that the FAE Fest needed that extra bit of magic.  However, I knew that the founders were spread thin (reserving space, organizing art and food vendors, and paying entertainers…) so I stepped up to help make it happen.  I’m a big believer in volunteering when I see a need!  It was a challenge, for sure, and I learned a lot on the way, but it was worth it. We had workshops on a variety of topics – British fairy lore, herbal tea, tarot, deepening your Pagan faith, hoop dancing, belly dance, and the Native American medicine wheel. Education is important to me as a Druid, so it fits into my spiritual calling.  I was so happy to help, and I look forward to doing it again for 2017.

Reaching out to local Pagans to offer workshops gave me an opportunity to reconnect with dear friends and teachers, get to know acquaintances, and meet other Pagans with different backgrounds, traditions, and skills.

It’s funny.  I founded Northern Rivers years ago because other local groups weren’t meeting my needs.  I wanted something specifically focused on Druidism – the ADF tradition in particular.  I was younger then, and perhaps I said or did things that created distance between myself and the other groups in the area.  I reflected on this after I was invited to take part in CUUPs’ main ritual and help call the quarters – something I hadn’t done in 7 or so years!  Through my involvement with the FAE Fest, I’m finding that I’m working with other groups, other Pagans, who come from different traditions and experiences.  Sometimes very different.  I’m building bridges, focusing on our commonalities, and that’s the way it should be.  PPD and the FAE Fest is about coming together and celebrating our diverse community.  It’s interesting to me that Northern Rivers, a group that is more polytheistic and recon-oriented, matured and became an official Grove as I have also matured as an individual with regards to working with other, often very eclectic, NeoPagans.

Groups won’t always appeal to everyone.  We all have different needs.  The local Pagan community is like a forest – it is dynamic, with many different species.  Each is linked in some way, but all are required for the health and vibrancy of the forest.  When we come together, we celebrate each other – our beautiful similarities and differences.  We will support each other, our right to exists in an environment that is at times hostile to alternative religions. We are stronger together, and I’m so proud to be a part of that community building.  Hail to the local Pagan community!

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