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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Rivers Protogrove’

Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I spent Saturday celebrating early with my lovely protogrove.  We sang, honored the Earth Mother, and feasted on our bounty.  I was honored to lead a friend and grovie’s mother blessing as our magical working.  It was wonderful, and definitely a post for another time.  Today marked the actual Autumn Equinox, and I had a quiet observation with family in the form of dinner – a soup made with homegrown potatoes and locally grown beet greens, a shared bottle of hard cider, and a bit of time outside with my garden.

Many of my plants have gone through their lifecycle, yielding small but enjoyable bounty.  It’s easy to get discouraged by how little I grow in my containers, but I always learn something new, so it’s worth it.  For example, this year I learned a better way to start tomato seeds indoors, had success growing lemon balm from seed, grew a bunch of snap peas (and have started another crop since they’re cold hardy), grew onions from starters, and even had a tiny success experimenting with okra.  Along with a small pile of potatoes, a few tiny cucumbers, a little kale, some small eggplants, five large sunflowers, a surprise pumpkin, and a few pots of herbs, I think I did pretty well for a wee patio garden!

I’m grateful for so much other bounty, though.  My daughter is growing well.  Maybe I can’t grow enough food to feed us all winter on my own, but I’m raising a smart and sassy little girl!  I’ve continued to support my family in many ways, even though times are occasionally difficult.  We pull through together!

Intellectually, I learned how to knit socks, I’m improving my Spanish (yes, my Irish is on hold), growing in my profession, in my understanding of the local ecosystem, and in my understanding of Irish history and lore.  I’m no Morgan Daimler, that’s for sure, but I apparently know enough to have respect in my protogrove*!

Speaking of my protogrove, it’s been a year since Northern Rivers Protogrove experienced a bit of drama in numerous forms.  We persevered and learned from it.  Members who had to take a step back due to health reasons have returned, we’ve gained another new member, and yet another was raised to Folk status after an initiation ceremony.  We are a small group, but we’ve managed to stay active, continually improve our ritual skills, and have become an even closer family.  We’re moving towards full grove status!  Cheer for us!

Spiritually, and related to my role as a grove organizer, I’ve continued to (slowly) work through my various ADF study programs.  I find myself growing in roles that help my community.  Writing and leading rituals has done a lot for my liturgist skills.  My divination skills have been improving too, and one of my protogrove members actually asked me to do a reading for her, which, again, honors me.  I love giving back to my community, and it validates all the hard work I’ve been doing.

While I may not have a cornucopia brimming with tons of homegrown fruits and veggies, I think I’ve done pretty well with this year’s harvest.  What are you thankful for this year?  I hope you take time to count your blessings as you celebrate.

*I seriously admire Morgan Daimler.  I would love to know a quarter of what she does!  Read her books!

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I was up late preparing for my protogrove’s Autumn Equinox celebration, and I woke up earlier than usual on a Saturday to continue my preparations.  I’m not even leading today’s ritual, although I am performing several important parts.  I’m also leading the magical working: a grovemate’s mother blessing/saining ceremony.  There’s a buzz of excitement in the house.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m truly excited.

Remember when you were little and the holidays filled you with so much anticipation?  You could barely contain yourself as the day approached?  For me, I have vivid memories of planning Halloween costumes,  getting up early on Thanksgiving to watch the parade on TV, or impatiently counting down the days to Christmas.  Ah, the magic of childhood…

That never has to go away.  You may celebrate different holidays now, but you can approach them with that exuberance.

It’s hard when you first step on a spiritual path that is different from your family’s, but I think that’s especially so when you’re embracing a minority religion and you are clueless on the community around you.  During my days as a solitary eclectic practitioner, finding my way, I would honor the holidays by myself in my bedroom or, sometimes, in the forest.  The initial buzz of taboo a converted Catholic might feel wore off, and I was left, instead, with a bit of sadness.  Sometimes, it felt too much like an obligation.  Of course, those of us who walk these paths embrace a self-imposed obligation to revive and maintain the old ways, but it shouldn’t be begrudgingly.  We should leave behind the “12 Pains of Christmas” attitude when moving over to the Earth-Centered paths.

Finding community changed everything for me.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone.  I found a spiritual family!  Of course, I’m sure it’s perfectly possible for a solitary practitioner to celebrate the holidays with joy, but for me it didn’t work.  I needed that community.  As a child, I planned Halloween costumes with my parents.  I watched that Thanksgiving parade with my sister.  I counted down the days to Christmas with my family and friends.  Each was followed by celebrating with others, and I crave that community. In my humble opinion, since Druidism is a tribal religion by nature, these very community-centric celebrations are experienced best with others, sharing in the joy.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that, even if my family isn’t Polytheistic or Pagan, we all connect in our appreciation of picking out pumpkins, drinking apple cider, making snowmen, planting in the spring, and that first dip in the river after a seemingly endless winter.  You may not have ritual with your biological family, but you can still celebrate together.

Whether you are part of a grove or not, find your joy and excitement.  Really meditate on what you’re doing and why.  Create an appropriate playlist and fill your home with mirthful sound.  Plan a special, seasonal meal and decorate with plants and harvest to connect with the land.   Plan important magical workings for the day and truly anticipate it.  Embrace the day as a child would.  If you’re like me and you have a child, think about what he or she will remember down the road.  What pleasant nostalgia will fill her heart when she sees the seasons change?

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Mama and Me Corn Dollies – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Every so often, Pagans around the blogosphere post about whether or not various high days make sense to them based on their path or climate. I definitely agree with the need to pay attention to what your bioregion is doing at certain times of year. It’s how we learn the cycles of our local Nature Spirits, after all. However, as someone who follows an Irish hearth culture, the seasonal lore remains very important to me.  I honor three Kindreds, after all, not just the Nature Spirits.  Keeping the tradition of playing games to honor Lugh and his foster mother’s sacrifice honors the Gods and Ancestors I work with.  Perhaps if I followed a different path, one not infused with Gaelic customs and lore, celebrating Lughnasadh wouldn’t make any sense. Honestly, why people who aren’t honoring Lugh would want to celebrate some hodgepodge of Lughnasadh seems strange to me anyway…

Back to the Nature Spirits.  Referring to Lughnasadh as the first harvest festival sometimes seems a bit strange in light of the previous, smaller harvests that have been occurring.  Greens have been available since spring, and our strawberry harvest occurs around the Summer Solstice, for example.  Yet Lughnasadh marks the time when there are an incredible amount of crops to harvest.  In our neck of the woods, farm stands are loaded with tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, summer squash, plums, peaches, berries, and corn.  The latter becomes available right around Lughnasash, which is perfect for the grain-centric traditions.  While corn is a major cash crop in NY, other grains are also harvested around this time.  The oat harvest starts around now, and the winter wheat harvest finishes in August.  Thus, for someone who works with Irish cultural traditions, upstate NY is a great place to be!  I made a loaf of bread for our feast which consisted of many locally grown veggies.  My daughter and I also used the corn husks to make corn dollies. Yes, corn husk dolls are more of a New World custom, but in that we we are also learning about and appreciating the land we live on now.  We offered these to our Ancestors during ritual, thanking them for all the knowledge about the harvest that they passed to us.

My family and protogrove had a wonderful Lughnasadh celebration.  Whatever you celebrated, I hope you had a joyous time, and that you were able to connect to the Three Kindreds in a way that made sense to you and your region.

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Tanya's crystal workshop at a local park.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Tanya’s crystal workshop at a local park.  We sat in the shade of a pavilion, put all the materials on picnic tables, meditated together, and enjoyed a feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Planning the location of a group ritual may be as simple as “inside or outside” for some, especially if they rely on utilizing each others’ homes, but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Furthermore, not everyone has enough space to accommodate more than a few visitors. Traditions like Ár nDraíocht Féin emphasize public rites, so that can further complicate things.  There are many Groves and Protogroves that meet at one or two individuals’ private property, but that seems rare.  If you’re thinking about starting an ADF study group or protogrove, but you’re worried about having an unknown number of strangers in your home, you may want to look at other options.  This may seem overwhelming at first, but you have a variety of paths to explore!

    • Public Town or City Parks

      This is an obvious place to start.  Scout out local parks with accessible bathrooms (very important), shade, and a variety of shelter in case of inclement weather.  Pavilions may even have power outlets if you’d like to have crockpots or kettles plugged in for a potluck following the ritual.  Call the appropriate city or town office to look into a reservation if you’re concerned about having tables or the possibility of shelter from rain.  My group, Northern Rivers Protogrove, rented a small pavilion at one of the largest parks in the area.  All I had to do was look up the park office online and contact them.  They required a $15 fee (which I paid by check with group funds) and asked for some basic information, including a reason for the reservation.  If you’re nervous that a park will reject you for wanting to have a ritual, you could simplify your explanation.  For example, you could say that you’re having a fall celebration while maintaining your integrity.  A ritual and a celebration are the same; it’s just word choice based on audience.   Do check with local and state laws.  I’ve heard from some in other states that parks don’t always allow religious activities.  Looking to save money?  Just meet at the park and find a free place, but be prepared with a plan B in case others beat you to all the sheltered areas.

 

    • State Parks
      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015

      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015


      Northern Rivers Protogrove recently had a ritual that we called “A Feast for Manannan mac Lir” at a local state park along the St. Lawrence River.  For a group named after the local rivers, it seemed important that we arrange this and “pay the rent” to Manannan!  The information about city or town parks also applies to State Parks, but there may be additional concerns about what you bring in and take out.  For example, a park on a protected lake won’t be an appropriate place to leave certain offerings out of environmental concerns.  Other state parks are more developed.  The location we chose had newly renovated bathrooms, a clean beach with lifeguards on duty, marina, campgrounds, pavilions, and a huge playground.  It was also more expensive to rent a pavilion here ($60), and every car had to pay a $7 parking fee, but the park is immaculate and the pavilion we rented included clear signs as well as garbage and recycling receptacles.  Since the group made a day of the event, it was worth it in my opinion.  We’re about three-four years old now, so we can afford this from time to time, but smaller groups just starting out may want to to save a bigger park for another time if there are high fees.  Also consider the accessibility of the site.  Since ADF rituals are supposed to be open, having events in a more rustic park that might not be handicapped accessible could be a bad option.  You just never know who will show up!  Look for parks with wide paths, ramps, and accessible bathrooms.

 

    • UU Churches
      Parks are great places, and of course many Druids and Polytheists want to gather outside as much as possible, but if you live in a climate with four seasons, shelter and plumbing become very attractive amenities!  This is especially so with open rituals since some people may not want to (or be physically able) to attend rituals in inclement weather.  Think the handicapped, small children, the elderly, and pregnant women.  Many Pagan groups utilize Unitarian Universalist churches.  In the past, when I lived in Utica, I belonged to an eclectic group that often rented space at the UU church for rituals, workshops, and even a couple Pagan Pride-type events.  However, this was made possible because a few of the group’s leaders were already active members of the UU church, so they were trusted with the keys.  When my protogrove was seeking ritual space, we decided to look at other options because the UU church nearest us already has a CUUPs group, and none of our members went to the UU.  Without the connections, and with time and space already needed by the CUUPs group, we decided not to pursue that option.   Having said that, if you are already active in a UU church, you should look into using that space.  You’ll have access to bathrooms and, usually, kitchen space.  Depending on the specific church’s policies, and your involvement, there may be a fee, and you may need to coordinate with another person who has a key.  Scheduling in advance will be important here due to other programing.

 

    • Metaphysical ShopsIf you’re lucky enough to live near an established magical shop with enough space, you may be able to have some rituals there!  Back in Utica, there was a shop that hosted bimonthly gatherings, and they were opened to having other groups utilize the space.  This may be a good option for new groups that don’t have an established “home base.”  It could also be a winter solution for groups that usually meet in parks.  Here in Northern NY, a few metaphysical shops have informed me that they would be happy to have us should we ever need space.  They either have a set rental fee, or merely ask for a donation.  One shop even said those who rent a space will get a special discount the day of the event.  You’ll need to consider scheduling in advance because other groups, readers, or presenters may be using the space.  One big plus is free publicity! Many people will come to your group simply because the shopkeeper knows who you are and that you’re already meeting there!

 

  • Yoga and Holistic Centers

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow.  Photo by Weretoad,  2012.

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow. Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

     

    Northern Rivers Protogrove’s base is at the beautiful Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  Not all Yoga centers will be an appropriate choice for NeoPagan groups to approach for ritual space, but don’t rule it out.  Ours is not just a studio space in a building – it’s a whole property that includes a yoga studio, kitchen, bathrooms, barn, labyrinth, nature trail, gardens, and a fire pit surrounded by a stone circle.  That last point, as well as the location’s monthly drum circles, encouraged me to ask.  This path is for those who are patient.  I didn’t have an established relationship with the center at the time, and their board wanted to know all about us.  I supplied them with links to ADF, explanations on modern Druidism, and a step-by-step guide to our rituals so that they would see that we’re working with positive energy and not trying to do any harm.  I think my openness and insistence that we are an Earth-centered path really earned us some trust.  We’ve never used the space without their live-in VP in attendance, but he’s very open-minded and loves to take part in our workings.  Our relationship with the yoga center continues to grow and improve, and in the spirit of hospitality, we try to give back when we can.  We always pay a rental fee, often giving more than required when we have highly-attended rites.   We’ve helped with yard work, painting, and occasionally attend their other functions, including fundraising to update the facilities.  We also promote each others’ activities.  Just as with the other examples, you’ll have to do a lot of cleanup when you leave in order to maintain the trust you’re building.  Northern Rivers is lucky in that we have several dedicated members who stay until the floors are cleaned, the tables and chairs put away, and the dishes are done.  We also have to schedule a year’s worth of rituals in advance because they have many other programs beyond their yoga classes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near such a facility, and have the energy and/or funds to give back, I encourage you to explore this option!

The moral of the story?

It would be nice if each Pagan group could have an established temple that meets all their needs, but new groups should spend their energy establishing themselves and having group rituals where they can.  Whether you’re starting a group, or you’re looking for a new ritual space to meet your growing needs, I encourage you to look around your community and think about what’s available to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, and never forget the virtue of hospitality when exploring these possibilities.  In fact, emphasize that virtue, letting others know that you will clean up at least, or help in other ways if possible!  Renting spaces for ritual will often bring up the question of money and how groups obtain it, but that’s a post for another time.  For now, I hope those thinking about starting a study group or protogrove will find this encouraging.  If any of my readers have found other solutions for open group rituals, please comment so those seeking options can get more ideas!

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Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

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I’m not planning to do the “Easter Bunny Tradition,” but I do have a wee basket of goodies for my little Bee – including my first ever peg doll! It’s a daffodil-inspired gnome. Perfect for her growing play altar/nature table.

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On Saturday, Northern Rivers Protogrove will gather to celebrate and drum back the slumbering Nature Spirits. I can’t wait to gather with like-minded friends and honor the return to the green half of the year!

However you celebrate, blessed Spring Equinox!

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I started to explore the concept of crane bags back when I was pregnant.  I made a small bag specific to my pregnancy and desires for delivery.  The linked post is also where I shared the basics of what a crane bag actually is and where it comes from in Irish lore.

Later, I decided to make a larger crane bag to carry with me during ritual and outdoor treks to the forest shrine.  I looked to the oak tree as my inspiration.  I’m still quite fond of how it turned out, and I continue to add special pins to the strap.

My latest crane bag is actually a commission for a friend and member of Northern Rivers Protogrove.  She picked out and purchased the fabric (complete with actual cranes!) and we looked at different types of bags for inspiration.  I ended up making my own pattern based on a photo we liked.  I’m so happy with how it turned out, and I love the colors she chose.

Crane Crane Bag by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

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