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Posts Tagged ‘tradition’

As part of my work on the “Learn the Lore” course in the Irish Pagan School, I’m tasked with reflecting on my knowledge of the file tradition in Ireland as well as my current feelings on poetry. Next, I’m to share my thoughts and feelings on the story studied in days 1 and 2, “Echtra Condla” (The Adventures of Connla the Fair”).

At this point in my spiritual journey, I’m somewhat familiar with what the file tradition is. I have seen the Irish word fili before while reading through mythology and history books about Ireland. (A quick search helped me to linguistically understand that file is the modern Irish word, and fili is plural.) My understanding is that the fili are the bards. In this tradition, words have power. Music also has power, as we know through stories about An Dagda’s harp. To me, poetry is the marriage of language and music, so poetry is incredibly potent. To be a file is to tap into, and channel, that power.

Poetry is also difficult to create. At least in my experience. I try to write it, and often struggle. Prose comes easier to me, and yet I continue to do my best with poetry, especially when I write prayers and chants for my Druidry. I’m excited to learn more about the file tradition in this course. Perhaps this will inspire me?

I found the story of “”Echtra Condla” interesting. I vaguely remember reading it before. I recalled the fairy woman giving Connla and apple, followed by his wasting away, and going with her to the Otherworld. I forgot, or possibly decided to disregard, the woman’s prophesy about the coming of Christianity. In light of yesterday’s reflection, it’s interesting to think about the story as a young man’s conversion experience, and the Otherworld as heaven. As Lora pointed out in the video, while the coming of Christianity to Ireland did bring some problems, it was largely peaceful and positive compared to many other places. And thanks to the monasteries, we have stories like Connla’s. Personally, in my humble, novice opinion, I can see how easy it would be for Christian monks to alter the story for their purposes.

So what is my takeaway as a polytheist? The apple is a symbol of the Otherworld. It shows up in other stories, and I’m sure it will appear again in this course. Tales of Fairies luring away young men and women are also common. It’s interesting that she promises to take Connla to an island populated only by women. It is supposed to be a peaceful place. Take that as you will, I guess! Also of interest to me is the limitation of the Druids. This could very well be Christian propaganda, but it’s also a good reminder that the spirits often have more power than us humans. It’s a lesson in humility.

 

 

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Bealtaine is one of my favorite holidays.  One reason is simply because, unlike the Spring Equinox, Bealtaine truly brings the warmer weather to Northern NY.  Another reason for my fondness is that it’s basically my unofficial Pagan anniversary.  I don’t know exactly when I started the conversion process, but my first experiences with two Pagan groups that shaped my practice occurred on two separate Bealtaines.  I get really excited about the High Day.

 

A small coven invited me to celebrate with them this weekend, but that didn’t work out for health reasons.  My husband and I contemplated visiting our friends at Muin Mound Grove, but we ultimately decided to stay closer to home and rest.  A marathon Bealtaine would have been fun, and would have taken me back to my college days when such a feat would energize rather than exhaust me.  Nowadays, I’m a little more subdued, and my daughter keeps me so busy that I’m worn out before we even leave the house!  I know many Pagan families with older children who are able to take long trips in order to attend multiple gatherings or festivals – I look forward to doing that again down the road.

So, staying home, I focused on the home.  I cleaned it as best as I could, although I admit it’s never entirely clean.  There’s always something in progress in my kitchen… I’m very hearth-centered, so I suppose that makes sense! I cleaned my altars, which Bee found fascinating as it gave her a chance to look at everything.  We decorated our family altar with symbols of the season.  We even made a little May bush with fallen birch and apple branches.  We each picked colored ribbons to tie to the branches.  It looks very festive!

In addition to making dinner, I made some scones on Bealtaine eve.  We offered some to the Good Folk.  This morning, I made pancakes as my mother told me my grandmother always made pancakes on the first of May.  I love learning about and continuing family traditions, especially when they somehow line up with my High Days!  Of course, an offering of said pancakes was made.

We did a little ritual the night before in which we gave offerings to the Kindreds and the Good Folk.  We jumped over our altar candle for blessings and purification.  Bee thought this was great fun.  She wore the flower circlet I crocheted, a tutu, and her new ballet slippers – she’s quite the performer!  This morning, it’s raining, so I just collected the rain water for purification and healing work.  I made offerings to the only flowers blooming right now – lovely purple ground ivy – and picked a few sprigs to offer to the Good Folk on my doorstep.

Simple and sweet, but certainly inspired by tradition and full of fun and meaning for my family.  Now we will look forward to the big protogrove celebration next weekend!

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In preparation for the upcoming Spring Equinox gathering next month, I’m experimenting with making paper mâché eggs for an egg hunt the little ones can enjoy. I would rather do something a little more sustainable than using cheap plastic eggs.

The Spring Equinox is a strange high day for me. It’s historically not very Celtic, but the authenticity of Norse traditions are also a bit contentious. My Protogrove uses it as a time to wake up and honor the Nature Spirits, with an emphasis on new life. For this reason, we do as the dominant culture and decorate with eggs. They are a symbol of spring and new life, so it works for us for now.

Making eggs and thinking about spring is a fun way to pass the time on a snowy February day…

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Despite how sick I was feeling last week, I decided we ought to decorate our tree. We bought a potted tree this year, with the intent to keep her around. My husband brought our box of decorations out, and we hung all our memories. This is the first year that my daughter was visibly excited and able to participate. I put my Winter Solstice playlist on and really enjoyed myself, heavy cough and all.

Somewhere between the felt stars a grovie made and the stained glass Santa my late aunt painted, I realized that my family only really comes together to decorate a centerpiece for the Winter Solstice. My husband and I have always carved pumpkins for Samhain, but those go outside. We’ve almost always dyed eggs for the Spring Equinox, but not for decoration.

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Decorating our potted tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Many people share photos of their altars decked for the upcoming High Day. Outside of the Winter Solstice, and temporary altars my protogrove sets up, I don’t do a lot of seasonal decorating for the holidays. I sometimes put a couple things out on my own, but it’s not really a family affair.  Hanging memories on the boughs of an evergreen is symbolic and so very appropriate for a holiday that has come to symbolize light, family, and togetherness in the darkest times. Decorating with loved ones helps to focus our mental energy on the power and significance of each festival. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive, mass produced knickknacks either! Any holiday is a good time to embrace handmade heirlooms, traditional crafts, and what is naturally available outside.

I recently looked back at my spiritual accomplishments the previous year. Now for a resolution! In the hopes of furthering my own understanding and appreciation of all the holidays I celebrate, and to help engage my family, I am going to make a point to decorate our hearth altar for each season and occasion. I’m sure my toddler will love it!  Yes, this may mean yet more “altar porn” on the internet, but really, what Pagan doesn’t love it?

 

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The family altar with some Solstice decorations and offerings. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

I would like to wish everyone a magical Winter Solstice!  I woke up a little early today to welcome the sun as it rose in Northern NY. The sky, once dark, lightened.  I watched as the sun gilded the tree outside my window.  I slipped out of bed and went outdoors with an offering of wine for the reborn sun, thanking it for its warmth and light.  Last night, before bed, we made offerings of cookies to the sun, Santa, and our maternal ancestors.  Weretoad, Bee, and I made the cookies using sun, snowflake, and star cookie cutters.  The latter was actually an heirloom passed down for generations.  After everyone was up, we shared gifts, sang, danced, and had a meal of homemade waffles and local syrup.  We will spend the rest of the day having fun.  Later, we’ll reflect more on the light and dark.  I hope everyone finds hope and joy in the sun’s light.  With so much negativity in the world, we have to focus on our own lights and cultivate them to make a difference in our own, small ways.

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Our Winter Solstice tree for the year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013. Somehow twinkles were added… Oh well. It works.

The Ninth Day of Yule was dedicated to the evergreen trees. We remember the trees outdoors, home to other beings and shelter from the cold. They are a source of food for many such as the white tailed deer. Many people still use the white pine for tea as well which is  a great source of vitamin c in the winter.  Plenty of people chop down live trees and bring them in to decorate.  Sara Lawless shared her wonderful tradition of giving her tree, which she calls a sacrificial tree, offerings.  She then uses it as fuel and in her various herbal and craft creations.  I can definitely get behind that!  The folks at Muin Mound Grove don’t cut down a whole tree.  Rather, they give offerings then take off the top of one of the larger trees.  They do this very carefully so as to not permanently damage it.  This is also a sacrificial tree because, after the Winter Solstice, it is hoisted up their Maypole for Bealtaine, and then cut and given to the Samhain bonfire.  It’s a beautiful tradition that is tied directly to their land.  Weretoad, Bee, and I bring in our little potted dwarf spruce.  It’s wind damaged on one side, and the ornaments don’t hang on it like they would a larger tree…  So it may look rather pathetic to some!  It’s become a tradition in our home, though, and it works well considering we only have so much space.  We love it and enjoy decking it out with a handful of meaningful ornaments.  This year we added some new decorations that were gifted to us by loved ones, including several grovies!  On the Ninth Day of Yule, we spoke words of thanks and praise and put our gratitude and love into a cup of water.  We gave the water to the tree and drew our omen for September.

Observing the Twelve Days of Yule continues to be a positive practice.  It’s helped me get back into a regular routine and has made devotionals a family affair.  My husband has joined me each night and held the baby.  They’ve both helped with divination, and Weretoad is even learning the words.  It means so much to me!

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Lughnasadh is difficult this year. Some sad and complicated things happened in my family this week. I’m looking forward to seeing grovies this weekend, but today was a quiet celebration at home. I made a simple dinner of homemade cornbread, tacos with local ingredients, and leftover salt potatoes. We made offerings of cornbread in thanks for our blessings. We’ve been counting them a lot recently.

For games and physical activities, we took a long walk and played a couple card games while I nursed. We brainstormed some ideas for future celebrations when Bee is older.

As we enter the harvest season, I hope to keep my family close so we can take care of each other. I hope to harvest new happy memories with loved ones and to give my baby all I can. I pray Lugh gives my family the strength we need.

May your Lughnasadh come with a good harvest.

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