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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Rivers Grove’

It’s interesting to look back to last summer. At this time, we were preparing to make an offer on our home. We were heading into new territory and some of the worst stress I remember experiencing. It was a lesson on patience and austerity, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Here we are, a year later, transforming our yard into beautiful gardens, shrines, and pollinator habitats. (And a few play areas for the little one!) Last summer was all boxes and uncertainty. This summer, as I stand on my porch to gaze at the small batch of abundance I’ve been cultivating, I feel a sense of peace. I feel that I’m  rediscovering my niche after a long period of stress and flailing.

My nasturtiums are very happy in their herb spiral garden home.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Having the freedom to garden as I desire has been wonderful. Even when I returned home from work riddled with stress and fatigue, a little time in the garden always restored my connection to the Kindred and my own sense of self. Working to form a lasting relationship with this new land has been rejuvenating. It’s reawakened my love of herbalism, and I’m throwing myself back into my casual studies with gusto!  Just a couple months ago, it seemed summer was a distant dream.

I inherited my late grandfather’s map of Ireland and related books.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I’m looking forward to furthering my Druid studies this summer. When I visited my family in the Utica area, these heirlooms from my late grandfather seemed to further point me toward that. He worked tirelessly on my family’s genealogy, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older and started to honor my ancestors. My sister told me she felt my taking these would make him happy, and as I walked around the hallow home where he lived and died, I spoke to him of my intentions, and I got a strong sense of approval.

In addition to the map and books, I also picked up some old artwork for my home, and was given permission to transplant some plants in my garden. I brought some of my grandmother’s lily of the valley for the shade garden, and some comfrey for my herb garden. The lilies seem to be taking well. The comfrey looks a tad wilted with the stress of the move. I’ve not lost hope, though. I’ve read they are quite prolific, and even a little section of root can grow. This particular plant is one of the first that my grandmother, an herbal enthusiast herself, taught me about, so if I can establish a patch from her own garden, it would be very meaningful to me.

Burning grove offerings in my backyard fire pit.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Speaking of Druid studies, my grove is growing strong! My friend and grovie, Cassandra, lead our Summer Solstice ritual. We honored Manannan, and asked him to help us as we reestablished our open doors to communities who need safe places, such as the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. It was a moving ceremony, but also one with much joy and laughter. Some of our members identify as part of the former community, including one of our elders who proudly told us about some of the first Gay Pride marches he attended.

It was a rainy day, so we held the ritual indoors. I brought many offerings meant for the fire to my home, and I made sure they got to their intended destination last night under the light of a waxing moon. I poured a libation to Brighd to help me with the work – the work of a Senior Druid. Hearing the way Northern Rivers Grove has positively impacted people gives me so much hope. I’m working to improve my practice so that I can serve my community.

As I reflect on where I was at this time last year, I feel excited for the relative peace this summer promises.  I will continue to work with my new plant allies and the land spirits.  I will throw myself further into my Initiate Studies with ADF.  Right now, I’m working on Trance 1 and Divination 2, but I know I will have to augment some of the previously completed courses as the whole study program is undergoing change.  It’s all good, though.  It will all help me become a better Druid and a better person in general!

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I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and it’s largely because I’ve been so busy with projects. For one, I’m all about costumes. As a large part my family’s celebration involves dressing up, I put a lot of time and energy into costumes for my daughter and myself. I’ve also needed to finish editing and revising the book I had been working on for about a year. As today is November 1st, NaNoWriMo kicks off, and I’m participating! I wanted to finish the first book before beginning the sequel. It feels very appropriate to start a new spiritual year with a new writing project to feed my soul.  An omen from my Ancestors spoke directly about listening to my inner call, after all.

I also completed refinishing a cabinet that became my altar in our new home. I made it my goal to have it up and ready by Samhain, and it feels good to have accomplished that. It is in our kitchen, the spiritual center of the home. There are still things I want to do to improve the area. I intend to hang my tree tapestry over it, and I would like to install a small shelf or two nearby to act as shrines.  But having it up, painted, and filled with all my tools helps me feel more settled.

Our jack-o-lanterns kept away all the mischievous boogies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We kept our tradition of carving pumpkins. I also carved a turnip for inside and outside our home. I brought one up to the border between us and the cemetery, but I waited until sunrise Samhain morning. Last night, after my sleepy trick-or-treater fell asleep, I went outside to peek at the land under the light of the moon. I could just barely make out the headstones, but something kept me from going up there. They wanted their space, it seemed.  When I placed the turnip at the border, I made sure to also bring offerings of drink and apple for the dead who wish us no ill.  I still need to go for a walk in the cemetery itself.

 

Set up our Ancestor shrine just in time!  Photo by Grey Catsideh, 2017.

Along with my main altar, I also got the Ancestor shrine sorted. I have some photos to hang, but it’s mostly the way it was at the old apartment. My daughter helped me make offerings, both last night and this morning. I made pancakes for breakfast today, and she got a little bowl for all of us to put some in. She also stood with me before the shrine to welcome the beloved dead and thank them for their continued guidance and protection. While she slept, I did divination as is traditional. It looks like a good year is in store for us. I certainly pray that comes to pass!

Our Samhain festivities will continue this weekend when we gather with our grove to celebrate.  It’s always an emotional ritual as we call to the newly deceased.  I think I should add a box of tissues to our supply box…  Still, it will be cathartic.  If we don’t confront death head on, life is unbalanced.  Besides, we have much to celebrate, too!  Our beloved dead come back to us, and we have much to learn from them.

I hope my readers have a blessed Samhain as well!

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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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