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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

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Locally found or made magical objects. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

Valentine’s Day brings a focus on relationships. Though I don’t observe the holiday with my husband (my daughter is obsessed with it), I’ve spent the week thinking about my connection to the land. Perhaps it’s the lingering winter and my desire to garden and forage again, or maybe it comes from my discipline kicking in when I don’t want to trudge through frigid snow with offerings.

My spirituality is very much concerned with the earth, and so it makes sense that most of what I work with is locally grown and made. Whenever I go through bouts of “distance” with my path, I always restore it in the garden or forest.

When I took the recent Imbolc course on Irish Pagan School, author and teacher Lora O’Brien discussed her issue with pipe cleaner Brigid crosses. My grove has done them in the past – mostly because they’re easier for the little kids – yet I’ve always preferred using actual wheat or local grasses. O’brien really hit the nail on the head for me when she described the plants, traditionally reeds, as a way to connect with the symbolism of the goddess and holiday. She was really critical of adults (without any mobility issues) taking a shortcut that is normally so rooted in nature’s seasonal changes, yet she tempered this with compassion. We are all learning. To paraphrase, she challenged those without access to reeds or something similar to begin planning for next year to secure a local source. (Provided you have permission, it’s a sustainable source, etc)

In Northern NY, where the windchill was -20 last night, now is a perfect time to contemplate the warmer half of the year. What do we need to do to deepen our relationship with nature? What are your long term magical goals, and what allies do you need to cultivate? What tools or offerings do you wish to procure for the upcoming holidays? When will the plants be ready to harvest? What do the spirits you wish to work with desire in return?

When I look back at some of what I’ve gathered, it fills me with warmth. Rowan branches collected on a nearby island following a storm. Stones from rivers and lakes right here as opposed to a distant pit and mined by child laborers. Beeswax candles from local keepers. Mugwort wands from my own garden. I’m excited to strengthen my bonds with the spirits of this place, but it must be done thoughtfully.

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Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

1) Hagstone Publishing recently released a little interview with me. In it, I share one of the most significant, spiritual moments of my life. It actually inspired part of my recent short story, “Through the Brambles,” which you can find in issue 2 of “Stone, Root, and Bone” magazine. It’s part of their “Meet the Authors” series. I’m thrilled to be included, and it’s been fun reading about my fellow creative polytheists. I know it’s not the greatest photo, but it’s the first I shared with Hagstone when I participated in the Plant Spirit Challenge last summer. I really need to hire one of my photographer friends to get some decent shots.


2) I spend an inordinate amount of time inside slouched over a keyboard as I write, revise, and edit. For my own sanity and health, I need to get outside. Many of my characters are polytheists, so it’s important to me that I stay connected with my spirituality and remain authentically tied to my stories. My short walks are meditative affirmations on what I do and why. They provide me an opportunity to breathe in fresh air and make offerings to the land. The last time I made my circuit, I caught myself admiring the brown and gray remnants of our pollinator garden. Many people seem to cut their gardens back. The dead, dry ends of spent flowers offend them, I suppose. Perhaps they clashed with their Christmas decor. I’ve learned to leave them. The seeds provide food for wildlife, and they may propagate and fill the garden out more in the spring! The stems and leaves also provide nesting materials for hibernating insects and then birds when it’s time to lay eggs. I love my gardens in all seasons!

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3)Pagan Parenting with Waffles! Due to illness, transportation issues, and other conflicts, my grove canceled our public celebration. Though I was sad to miss my grovemates, and uncomfortable due to a health concern, I soldiered through and made the most of the special day! We kept our tradition of weaving Brigid crosses (Cros Bríde) and adding on to our Brigid cloaks (brat bhríde). We did those activities on Brigid’s eve. On February first, I gave my daughter the choice of pancakes or waffles for breakfast. As you can tell from the photo, she chose the later. She was enthusiastic about helping. The night before, we talked about three as a magical number, so we stirred three times for each of the Kindred and prayed for their blessings. We then discussed the importance of discipline with magic, and I did the old “visualize the apple” lesson. Big ritual with other druids is wonderful, but my path is also about those small, quiet moments with family – with my daughter. Teaching her about folk magic and carrying on our ancestral traditions is so beautiful. It warmed my heart.

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Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

  • Preparing for Imbolc
    In preparation for Imbolc this year, I signed up for a virtual class called “Imbolc in Ireland” by Lora O’Brien of Irish Pagan School. It was the first time I paid for one of her courses, and I really enjoyed myself. I haven’t completed the meditation yet (the class went a bit late, and I had to go for family dinner), but I can access it anytime I want. I plan to try it tomorrow night. The class was a great review for someone who has already read a bit about the holiday and Brigid, but I also learned more traditions, more of the linguistics behind the holiday name, and had great discussions with others of like mind. I highly recommend you look into the site if you haven’t already!
  • Lost Tooth!

    My daughter lost her first tooth! My family has opted not to do the tooth fairy tradition as others since, you know… giving body parts to the Good Folk doesn’t seem like the smartest idea! We’ve discussed it with our daughter for months in anticipation. We explained that other parents do this, kind of like Santa, and she’s already used to our stance on that. Instead, we’re going to plant the teeth to go back to Mama Earth. My daughter wants us to put them in a pot where she can plant flowers for now. That said, she’s still asking me for a dollar… So…

  • Writing Update
    I’ve been slow in my writing and editing this week. I just haven’t felt well. That said, I plunk away on my keyboard each day to do what I can. Since my short story, “Through the Brambles” came out in Stone, Root, and Bone last week, I gave myself permission to relax a little. My body needed it. On a related note, one of my beta readers sent me more feedback on my manuscript! She’s eager to read more. It keeps me going!

Wishing you all a bright and blessed Imbolc! I look forward to sharing more with you next week.

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Dawn on December 22nd, 2019. Photo by Grey Catsidhe. 

Today my family welcomed the reborn sun following the longest night. It’s always a joyous occasion. We rose before the sun, drummed, and cheered for its ascension. Then I made waffles because they’re golden and round!

We would have celebrated with our grove last night, but many of us are ill so we decided to cancel. I’m always sad to do that, but I must admit I wasn’t as disappointed this time. Perhaps it’s because, compared to other occasions when the weather kept us apart, feeling more or less sick for a month has nearly worn me to hermit-like mentality.

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Candles and offerings for Winter Solstice. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

And so, like animals hibernating, I felt a desire to turn inward and embrace the darkness yesterday. It brings the space for introspection. It is the silence I crave to dream up stories. It is the peace of not rushing anywhere to do anything. I needed it. I think many of us did.  My family and I did a tiny ritual together last night – one with minimal stress on our tired throats and lungs.

Today I feel a sense of renewal and hope. I look forward to more time with my grovemates in the coming year. I embrace where my Druidry is taking me. I give thanks for light, warmth, and inspiration. Also, I have gratitude for quiet times for healing and thought.

Blessings to you this Solstice season! May the new year find us healthier.

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Sunset on the shortest day, Dec 21st 2019. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

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Oh my gods, I got so behind. Between planning for the Spring Equinox, and everyone getting sick, this ended up on the back burner. I’m home sick today. It’s my turn with what my daughter brought home from school, so I decided to be a bit productive with my studies. Might as well, right?

So, back to Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann. Today we read a bit about Lugh, specifically how he was fostered by the god Manannán mac Lir.  Lugh arrives at Tara with several of his foster brothers, and is armed with some of his foster father’s treasures – namely the horse Aonbharr, who was famously swift, Manannán’s armor, breastplate, helmet, and sword. These objects sound magical, as they promise protection and strength above and beyond normal accouterments of war.

In Ireland, fosterage was a tradition by which children were raised by another in the clan. The purpose could have been to strengthen bonds between family, and Lugh’s arrival at Tara with some of Manannán’s greatest treasures, as well as his own sons, suggests a great love and respect. I think this was important for Lugh due to his heritage. Lugh was half of the Tuath Dé Danann, and half of the Fomorians. To have Manannán for a foster father must have instilled a great trust in Lugh.

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After many months of admiring from afar, I finally signed up with author Lora O’Brien’s Irish Pagan School. Another polytheist I admire, Morgan Daimler, recommended Lora awhile back, and I’ve been eyeing her website with interest ever since. I’m trying one of the free courses, Learn the Lore, first. They are short, based around 10ish minute readings with videos. Very manageable, especially for someone like me who is trying to revive my academic side of Druidry. I’ve kept my daily devotionals, but I really want to keep learning and reflecting. Hopefully this can yank me from my doldrums.

I’m going to try and put my reflections on here as a way to hold myself accountable, and to start blogging more regularly.

Yesterday, I read and listened to the first half of Echtra Condla. It’s a story I had read before, in one of the anthologies I possess, but hadn’t really thought much about. First of all, I love listening to Lora read. I am grateful to listen to an Irish person tell the stories, and to hear how the names are pronounced.

I was tasked to reflect on my thoughts in regards to the native, Irish lore and the Christian influence on them. Do I read the mythology specifically for the Pagan elements? Do I look for Christian allegory? Does the latter bother me? Etc.

I’m comfortable reading lore and knowing that there is a Christian layer. It would be wonderful if we had unadulterated, native Irish mythology, of course, but I’m glad to have what we have. It creates an interesting puzzle. I may not catch all the Christian influence, but I feel that the Pagan elements are so strong that to simply dismiss tales like Echtra Condla would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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My dairy-free crepes turned out well! I didn’t have any lemon to squeeze over them, but I prefer powdered sugar anyway. Photo by Grey Catsidhe

I’ve also found that I appreciate knowing what my more recent Irish ancestors did and believed, too. Learning their beliefs is just as important when it comes to honoring my ancestors. It seemed like no coincidence that I started this on Pancake Day. While I’m not Catholic anymore, I decided to make some thin, crepe-style pancakes to honor my ancestral traditions. (I tried a dairy-free recipe, and they turned out really well!)

I’m looking forward to day two!

 

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My child has been a bit of a handful lately, especially in the evenings.  It’s probably a result of too many things packed into a week, fatigue, and the excitement of the holidays.  The last couple evenings have been particularly trying.

In our home, we talk about Santa as a spirit of generosity and giving; Santa does not deliver gifts to our house.  The spirit inspires us to give to each other.  We honor this seasonal spirit during our Twelve Days of Solstice observation with prayers of gratitude and offerings of milk and cookies.  Tonight, after my daughter was being exceptionally bratty about bedtime, I took a deep breath, and calmly explained what many people tell their children.  She’s aware that most of her peers think Santa himself brings gifts.  Today I shared another piece of that story – that parents tell their children Santa will not deliver gifts if he sees them being naughty.

“Right now,” I said, “I sense Santa’s disappointment because I am disappointed, and we are wondering if we should not give  you some of the gifts we’ve picked out.”

Of course, she did not like the sound of that.

Then I took it a step further.  I told her about Krampus.  I think most of you know who he is.  If you don’t recognize the name, go ahead and google him.

“Many of our ancestors believed in the Krampus.  He is kind of a mean looking spirit who punishes naughty kids around the holidays.  He puts them in a bag and beats them with his sticks!”

She became visibly shaken by this story.  She asked if Krampus is real.  Now, as an animist, I believe in spirits, but I also believe in the power of metaphor.  My husband is very agnostic, and he feels it’s also important that we show our child different sides of belief and thinking.

So I say what I always say.  “Some people believe in him.  No matter what, the story of Krampus exists for a reason.  Long ago, parents told their children that Krampus would do those things because winter is hard.  If children don’t listen to their parents, and if they don’t help with the house, they could get very sick or die.  Other people in the house could get sick and die.  It’s important that we take care of ourselves, keep our bodies and homes clean, and help to make life easier for each other.  So in a way, if you are naughty, you call naughtiness into the house.  Naughtiness, meanness, dirtiness – it’s kind of like a spirit.  We can get sick, we get stressed, we get upset.  Santa is a different kind of energy.  He is joy, safety, comfort.  We want that kind of spirit in the house, right?”

I explained that it’s the same with school.  If you are a good student, you have a happier teacher, friends who want to play with you, a clean school, a safer school.  Being a good person who tries to help, rather than make like more difficult for others, is usually going to be happier.  There will always be exceptions, of course… but I think it’s important to understand the value of cooperation*.

That really clicked with her.  Do good things, attract good things.  Give good energy to cultivate it.

And you know what?  She calmed down.  Assured that we work hard to keep our home safe and positive, she finished her job for the night.  We went to her room, I read her a peaceful Winter Solstice story to remind her of the very happy energy about the occasion, said our prayers of good rest and protection, and it was great!  I reinforced just how enjoyable it was to quickly finish her bedtime chores so that we had time (and I had energy) to read a book and sing a song.

I’m not posting this to encourage other Pagan parents to go about things this way.  I just wanted to share my experience.  It was interesting. As I was talking to hwe, I realized I was verbalizing a belief that I hadn’t fully articulated in the past.  My relationship with Santa has evolved since I was a child, and I really felt close to that spirit tonight.  Krampus, too.  I don’t really think of him as a malevolent, evil being – definitely a spirit deserving of respect and distance.  But I felt I understood his purpose – to remind people of the importance of helping your family, working together to prepare for winter’s dangers, and to teach our children that there are consequences beyond simply losing a momentary pleasure like television privileges.  It was also probably one of the deepest conversations we’ve had about spirits, energy, ethics, and one’s reputation.

 

*Obviously, we want our daughter to feel comfortable with being independent, taking positive risks, not going along with peer pressure, etc.  But that’s a different sort of lesson.  I just wanted my daughter to brush her damn teeth.  LOL

 

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