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Posts Tagged ‘shrines’

Emerging hyacinth.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

For the last decade or so, my Bealtaine celebrations have been punctuated by an explosion of green. Every year, I dance the Maypole, all the while taking note of the leaves finally reaching out in praise of sun and rain. This year, I did not dance the Maypole until the weekend after, but I spent the 1st welcoming signs of spring at my new home. This was our first Bealtaine here. My daughter helped me greet the flowers we planted in the autumn. We spent so much of March and April looking at their bed with longing; it was very satisfying to see them emerge and eventually blossom into a colorful display!  The bees certainly approved of our efforts.

Giving offerings to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

When working with my garden and the plants who grow around my home, my mind and heart swing to Airmed, a goddess fraternally connected to our plant allies. We made a space for her. Bee helped put offerings of gratitude in the little bowls we put out on her stone.

Outside shrine for spirit allies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

My husband helped me move this half barrel into a corner of our yard. This followed us from our last two apartments. I’ve been placing offerings into it for years, and I even buried my ferrets in it. Renting, I had no other choice! So the little ones follow me, joining our spirit allies. I usually plant foxglove or woodland tobacco in it.

Our May Bush.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

This is a new tradition for us – it’s something we couldn’t easily do at our apartment – make a May bush! Ours is slightly different from traditional Irish May bushes, mostly that it’s not Hawthorn and isn’t something we paraded around. However, we tied some cloth to the branches of this established bush – mostly ribbons Bee helped me choose. We danced around it, thanked the local spirits, and prayed for good luck upon our home, especially in regards to the productivity of the land we live upon.  It was a show of love and gratitude for the patch of land we call our home.  The bush has since burst into life.  We have decided to treat the ribbons as we do those of our grove’s Maypole – which is based on the tradition of my first grove, Muin Mound – we will remove the ribbons around Samhain and put them into the fire, thus returning the fertility to the land.

Each High Day, I think back to how I spent it as a renter.  I looked forward to owning my own home and having space to establish deeper relationships with the land.  I did what I could before, with container gardens, a failed attempt at worm bins, and delving deep into the apartment complex’s wooded land to make peace there… but now I can finally live out more of my dreams.  We planted seeds in the earth.  We planted trees and blueberry bushes in the earth.  We have a compost pile.  Finally, finally, I can start interacting with the yard I was so excited to work with when we moved in at the end of August last year.

 

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March melted away like all the ice we had. Spring is officially here, but it doesn’t yet feel like it. In fact, a chill remains in the air, and we had more snow this afternoon. I find that these transitional times are always a bit messy around Upstate NY. It can also be draining as we look forward to the the coming season with optimism even while we grow dreary of the old.

For that reason, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend a yoga retreat for mothers (of all ages). The focus was on loving kindness, first to ourselves, and then to others. When we stop to care for ourselves, we can project that love outward. I definitely welcomed an opportunity to go somewhere quiet to meditate and do some restorative yoga.  The teacher had such a peaceful presence that I immediately felt at ease.  She had a very eclectic approach that was very informed by a grounding in Yogic and Hindu tradition, but it was also very inclusive, allowing us to explore our inner worlds, speak to our inner guides, etc.  I left feeling refreshed and inspired.  I’ve incorporated some of the meditation into my daily devotionals.

My daughter and I welcomed Spring by building an Equinox shrine.  She was very excited to help.  Before that, we stopped at a gardening center and I let her pick out a pot and some flower seeds.  We planted them and invited Spring to grow.  We’re very excited to start the rest of our garden.  Now that it’s April, soon I will start more seeds and clean the yard in preparation.

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Warrior Shrine

Many ADF Druids participated in the recent Shrine a Day Challenge facilitated by Rev. Jan Avende. While I did not create a shrine every day, I did participate. I intend to post a gallery of the altars and shrines I submitted, but for now, I want to share one I forgot to upload previously. I’m not sure why I failed to add it to the official #shrineaday album, but here it is now. It’s not very fancy. I actually made it on my bedroom windowsill which has a dark curtain, so it’s a bit difficult to see.

I present my warrior shrine!  It’s actually very significant to me because, for the first time, I actually feel that I’m tapping into warrior energy.  Sometime last year, I started to think about what it would be like to take a martial arts class.  If you’re a longtime reader or friend, you know that I’m very interested in anime.  Some of my favorites involve martial arts, and I even started to cosplay a beloved ninja character last year.  I really admire the character.  In the process of transforming into her physically, I started to think about her personality and how she worked hard to transform herself into someone courageous and able to protect her loved ones.  I realized that I no longer wanted to feel weak and vulnerable myself.

This year I decided to stop wondering what it would be like, and I actually signed up for a martial arts class – Muay Thai kickboxing.

A year ago, if someone had told me I was going to enroll myself in a class full of punching and kicking, I would have laughed at that person.  Now here I am, learning how to block, how to do a roundhouse kick, and conditioning my body to some of the most intense physical activity I’ve ever experienced.  Some days, I don’t want to go to class, but I always feel amazing after.  As Imagine Dragons sing in their song, “‘Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins.”  It’s truly addictive, and I grow in confidence with myself each class.

I try to go into each session with an awareness and gratitude to my body, the Earth, and An Morrighan.  I strive to listen to my body and its needs.  I touch the ground and thank the Earth Mother for supporting me before we warm up.  When I feel my body starting to slow down, I imagine An Morrighan, her wings spread as she flies into battle.  Suddenly, I feel lighter, I feel stronger.

On my shrine, you’ll see a wooden dagger my dad made me when I was younger.  I used to read “Redwall” books, and was always inspired by the Redwall warrior.  The dagger was made in that spirit.  The cards represent An Morrighan, but also qualities of the warrior – an eagle for courage, and a boar for the fighting spirit.  I also included my fighting gloves and focus mitts (the later blend into the curtains).  I built this shrine, meditated on An Morrighan, and blessed them.  It was a meaningful experience, and it has encouraged me to go on.

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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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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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Forest memories.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We’re in the process of buying a home!  We’ve been looking for a few months, and it seemed like we weren’t going to find anything for awhile.  I had a vision of what I wanted, and many homes just didn’t have the right layout (or a dry basement).  One property seemed to have what I wanted, but closer examination hinted at serious foundation issues.  I reached out to trusted seers for insight in addition to my own divination (gratitude to Lady Althaea for the bone readings, and to Melstery   for the runic spread.  I highly recommend them!)  Everything indicated a need for patience.  One reading advised me not to be blinded by an ideal vision, and to be open to other possibilities – while also sticking firm to what I knew I wanted.  That was so on the mark.

The home we are hoping to obtain has a lovely yard with raised beds.  There’s a peaceful shaded area with happy trees, and a stately oak in the back.  The current owners have done no landscaping, so it’s a blank canvas for me to populate with all sorts of magical allies.  There’s a wooded trail across  the street to fulfill my need to wander around green areas.  While the forest may not be “mine,” and the home is smaller than we initially sought, it checks all the boxes.

Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes according to plan with the closing, etc.  The inspection was fantastic (very grateful for my friend’s recommendation).  I cannot wait to move out of my apartment and have more control about what happens around me.  Obviously, it will entail more responsibility – but it will be “mine.”  No maintenance crew coming in to inspect; no unwanted contractors hacking the plants around me; no obnoxious people sharing the same backyard; no more ridiculously high rent.  I can build a permanent shrine outside and form a deeper relationship with the land!

I will miss the forest near my apartment. A proper farewell ritual is in the future, for sure.  I’ve been working with this land for nearly a decade.  I experienced some of the most profound growth of my life among these trees.  I was able to watch more wildlife here than my childhood home.  The land gifted me with many stones, feathers, acorns, and bones.  I saw spirits in my periphery a few times.  Many little treasures have made their way to my altars and shrines.  The forest will always be with me in these memories and gifts.  I look forward to new lessons and experiences as I turn to a new chapter and a new home.

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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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