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Posts Tagged ‘rituals’

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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A perfect berry makes for a perfect offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Ok, everyone, it’s officially summer in my point of view! Solstice be damned; the actual start of summer is when I taste my first, local strawberry. That happened a few days ago. First, I collected a few wild strawberries at my childhood home. Of course, the plants are few and far between, making ripe and intact berries rare and edible jewels. I felt like a child again connecting with the first plant I ever learned how to forage.

Yesterday, we picked strawberries at a local farm. The sky was gray, and there were scattered showers, but it was perfect berry picking weather! We were comfortable, didn’t get sun burns, and we were the only people picking most of the time we were there! We felt comfortable letting Bee run back and forth between us, stuffing her face with delicious harvest. I spent much of the afternoon and early evening preserving what we picked. Today I made offerings of berries and incense. I thanked the Nature Spirits for their wonderful blessings, and I thanked the Ancestors for the wisdom they passed down that allowed me to preserve the harvest.

People who are new to Druidism may wonder how to engage with it.  Seriously, it can be as simple as saying “thank you” and giving back some of what you have.  It could be the most beautiful berry you picked, or a simple prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for what those before you allowed to occur in the present because of what they shared.

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I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

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

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

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

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Happy New Year, readers!

We’re having a quiet day in because of the lake effect snow in Northern NY. We definitely needed some rest. I feel like I say this often, but December is so darn busy!  It’s pretty cold and windy today, so while we enjoy watching the snow through the window, Bee hasn’t expressed an interest in going outside today, and I don’t blame her!  What to do instead?

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Inspired by a “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episode we watched this morning, I let Bee explore some shells from my Nature Spirit shrine. She really likes the bumpy textures. We talked about the beach and how fun it will be to visit in the summer.  One of my goals for this year is to make a nature table/play altar for Bee.  The way she interacted with the shells showed me that she’s ready. (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

 

 

 

 

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We’re also enjoying the many gifts we received for the holidays. Handmade gifts are such fun, and I hope they inspire my daughter’s sense of creativity as she ages. Bee’s aunt refinished an old children’s rocking chair for her. Bee loves rocking in it while hugging her stuffed animals.  Speaking of plushies, she also likes the Waldorf doll I made for her as a Solstice gift.  Grandmama gave her a metal tea set, so we may have an herbal tea party later!  (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

Another thing to do on a snowy New Year’s day? Do some magic, of course! By the time I finished doing the physical purification on New Year’s Eve, it was time to crash and watch the ball drop then bang drums out the door to scare away naughty spirits. I was exhausted, and so was Bee. So first thing today, we did a simple saining ritual. My husband sprinkled purified and lunar charged water around the home while I held Bee and smudged with a handmade juniper bundle. As I stated in my recent post about winter activities for young toddlers, I believe that including little ones in family rituals is very important and helps teach them expectations for group rites.  It lays the foundations for later, when Bee can take a more active part in our family traditions.

Wherever you are, I hope you and are family have a very blessed 2015!  Look forward to more posts as I explore my Druidic path and how to share it with my little one! Thanks for continuing to read my random thoughts.  I’m so happy to have inspired some of you!

 

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

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

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

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

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Blessing seeds at my altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Having moved my altar into my bedroom for improved child safety and privacy, I decided my next task would be blessing seeds prior to planting.  Gardening is one of my favorite activities.  It’s very fulfilling and feels deeply spiritual.  Growing my own herbs and what food I can is magical.  I know exactly where my plant allies come from and it deepens my relationship with the Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother.  I don’t have a huge garden, and what I do have is relegated to containers on my patio – but it’s a start, right?  Every year, my container garden grows and improves, as does my experience!

I placed the seed packets on my altar and did my usual  devotional rite, but made special offerings to Airmed, a Goddess associated with herbalism.  I asked her and the Kindreds to bless my seeds.  Although I am growing fruits and veggies as well as herbs, Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” so it seems appropriate.  My impression is that Airmed is happy to work with gardeners, and I would love to deepen my relationship with her this gardening season.

After making offerings, I prayed:

In the name of fire, well, and sacred tree,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
In the name of the land, the sea, and the sky,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
In the name of the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and the Gods and Goddesses,
Let these seeds grow healthy, beautiful, and fruitful.
So be it!

I drew an omen after and the blackbird and cow jumped out of my Druid Animal Oracle deck.  My intuition tells me that this means I will have a bountiful year if I listen to my inner voice.  I’d say that’s both a promising omen and good advice!

Next I started my first round of seeds indoors.  I’m doing my best to garden according to the moon.  It’s a bit difficult to hit the time right and have a moment to do everything because of the baby and working during the week.  According to local herbalist and magical practitioner, Sue-Ryn Burns, the first quarter is a good time to plant aboveground crops like greens, flowers, and herbs.  The second quarter is a good time for starting fruits and veggies.  We’re nearly to the 2nd quarter.  Now seemed like the best time when considering the month, usual last frost date, and farming almanacs.  It’s a good compromise all around!

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