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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

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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Sigil of the Cosmos wall hanging.

I’ve been reviewing Dedicant Path submissions for several years now. Since I already feel stretched thin with life’s demands and acting as a Senior Druid for my grove, doing this feels like a good way to give back to my religious community.  While I had a couple frustrating ordeals, the overall experience has been positive.  I learn something from each submission, even if it’s only gaining new perspective on familiar topics.  Viewing photos of peoples’ home shrines always inspires me.

Today I got a thank you letter and handmade gift from the author of the last DP I reviewed.  It meant so much to know that my feedback was helpful.  I’m going to treasure the letter and wall hanging.  I have so much gratitude to be part of this community.

 

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My altar as of Dec 2017.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

Many people reflect on the year upon entering its final hours. I’ve made a point to set some time aside and do so on my blog for many years, so here I am, keeping the tradition alive!  I try to maintain various traditions in my home. It’s become even more important to me as my daughter grows. I find value passing on customs from my family as well as my religious tradition. One such tradition is cleaning the home, as best as we are able, on New Year’s Eve. This year was the first that she took part, manning the duster. She seemed proud to assist, although I know I have to go back and get all the corners she missed due to her height or playful negligence.

As I scrubbed and swept, I reflected on one of my greatest achievements of 2017 – buying a home. Although it was not what I originally envisioned, I’m very proud and glad to have a place of our own. We have land to befriend, to plant, and I cannot wait to get started in the spring. It’s taking time, but we’re making it our own. I refinished a cabinet a couple months ago and set up my altar in the kitchen area. It’s still very much a work in progress. I intend to hang my Tree of Life tapestry above it, and I would like to install a shelf or two to display important images while tidying the surface of the altar itself. I need to organize other areas of the home, but I thought my readers would be interested to see my new altar space. Some may even take solace in the fact that it’s taking me time to get it where I want it – and even that will change as I do.

As I reflected on my joy and gratitude for buying a home, I couldn’t help but think of the difficulties many in my generation face in grasping similar dreams. Like other millennials, I continue to struggle with paying off student loan debt, but, somehow, I’ve made it this far. I find myself pondering how I can give back to my community and help those who do not have shelter, especially in these frigid temperatures.

My other great accomplishment this year has been completing a novel. I’m very proud of it. I’m still waiting for my husband to finish reading it, but I hope to share my story with a few others before I decide how to proceede. This year has found my creative spark reinvigorated. I’ve been writing stories and poetry, I delved into the world of cosplay to challenge and improve my sewing skills, and I even started to make candles here and there. It allowed me to connect with Brighid as I once did – as a creative person. For awhile, her mothering qualities eclipsed all others, so it’s been a bit of a rebirth for me.

2017 found me leaving certain aspects of my Druidism on the back burner, however. My formal studies have stalled. My flamekeeping has been on-and-off, something that riles up my old Catholic guilt. While I’ve maintained morning devotionals, my weekly rituals and meditations have been sporadic. No doubt, much of this was due to the disturbance and stress of moving. In all honesty, though, I’ve been exhausted from work, the news, and the seemingly ceaseless march of dishes and laundry. I chose, instead, to escape into fiction – my own and others’.

I am hoping to restore balance in 2018. I want to continue my creative pursuits, but also renew my Druid studies, especially trance, magic, and divination. I need to set aside time for myself, but prioritize so that I’m truly doing activities that feed my soul and elevate my skill set so that I may better serve my family, my grove, my community, and my Kindred. I hope to take better care of my body and exercise more so that I’m not so damn tired all the time. Especially after work… And somehow, as I do that, I need to involve my daughter so that she feels included and sleeps better herself.  Then I can have more quiet me-time when I need it.

Ah, the difficulties of motherhood…

It’s difficult not to think of 2017 and the greater challenges our society faces. There are many shadows that will stretch into the new year. Many are too large for us to tackle individually. As I prepare my home and family for another year, I think about what I can do to make a difference. Just as I contemplate spring’s garden, I will plant seeds to make the world a better place in my little corner. Each of us has some power, some influence. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, a teacher, a writer, a sewist, a Druid – a person – may I be better, make better, and do better in 2018.

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From sundown on July 27 to sundown July 28, I kept Brighid’s flame.  It wasn’t a continuous, literal flame.  As the daughter of a former firefighter, cat owner, and mother, there are times when I need to put it out.  I always say a prayer when I do:

Though I put the flame out in the physical realm, it is always lit in my heart.

Some people will turn their noses up to that, but Brighid has not shown any displeasure with it.  As a protector of children, domesticated animals, and homes, being practical and not tempting fate makes sense.  Part of learning about the magic of her flame is respect, after all.  And I don’t have extra money to spend on anything that could safely allow me to burn an unattended candle.  Maybe in the future.

There are areas I’d like to improve upon.  There was a time, five or six years ago, where I would treat my flame keeping time as a retreat.  I stayed away from electronic entertainment (although I would sometimes allow myself to watch educational documentaries related to my Druidism).  I read and studied.  I spent a lot of time outside.  All of that changed, especially when I became a mother.  My quiet moments come early in the morning and at night.

Right now, my biggest focus is keeping track of my times to keep the flame, and to have some intention.  I decided to blog about it this time because a Twitter friend inspired me when she posted about her own creative work during her flame tending night.  I cannot remember who that was, but she really got me thinking.

Except for Naturalist studies and continued practice with divination, most of my more intense Druid studies have halted.  I only have so much time as a mother, teacher, and Senior Druid of a grove.  The last several months, I’ve given my spare time to writing a fictional book.  I tried my best to do that during my flame tending shift.  I also made a point to give gratitude for Brighid’s blessings of talent and inspiration.  I always ask that she continue to guide and help me nourish that to improve.

I set aside some quiet time to go through my Druid Animal Oracle cards to basically renew my relationship with them.  I thought about which of the Nine Virtues each card mostly embodied, and then thought about whether the cards where mostly connected with spirituality/intellect, creativity or fertility of the land, warfare and death, or family and community.  It was a fun exercise and I got a lot out of it!

I also used some of my time last night to do a bit of candle magic.  It’s one of the first forms of magic most of us learn, but it’s continually a favorite of mine.  It’s tried and true for me, and I can really feel my focus and the energy when I’m doing it.  It feels especially appropriate to engage in candle work in conjunction with Brighid when I’m already keeping her flame.  Added a bit of extra power.

My next shift begins August 16th.  I’m hoping the magical working I did will manifest then and help me set a new focus.  I have a good feeling.  Slowly but surely, I would like to move towards once more treating those shifts as days to focus on anything related to Brighid and my Druidism.

 

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Between the impending move, FAE Fest, and the upcoming school year, August is going to be insane.  In an effort to help me stay rooted in my spiritual practice, and in the spirit of reflection, I’m going to try my best to participate in #30DaysMagicalRoots Challenge that Plentiful Earth is facilitating.  

If you’re interested in participating, click the above link to see the prompts.  I think it’s a bit strange that there aren’t 31 days considering the length of August, but I’ll try to use that last day to look back on my ability to work through the prompts.  Some look like they’ll help me with some of my ADF studies, too!

I may miss a day or two…  Chances are I’ll combine several in one blog post.  It’s all good, though.  The point is to reflect and deepen my spiritual practices *despite* the chaos.

 

 

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I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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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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