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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

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Our 2015 turnip Jack-o-lanterns. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

In previous years, I’ve posted photos, tutorials, and even lore-based reasons for carving turnips.  It’s become a part of my family Samhain celebration. They are tough veggies to carve, even with strong, well-made spoons as I’ve suggested.

I’m proud to have resurrected the tradition in my own family. I excitedly turn them into protective talismans, warding the home against nasty spirits who may be out and about while the veil is thin.

As I exercised my muscles gouging turnip flesh out, I reflected on how tough the job is. The difficulty is not so great that it discourages me from keeping it. While thinking this, I meditated on the challenges my Irish ancestors faced: poverty, famine, immigrating across the Atlantic, leaving loved ones, and starting over in America. Carving the turnip can be a devotional act, reminding us of the difficulties our Irish ancestors faced.

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Last night, I joined some of my grovies from Northern Rivers as guests for Kripalu Yoga Center’s Summer Solstice celebration. It was a very different and eclectic ritual style, but it was good-natured and fun. It’s important to the group to show support for the Yoga Center as they have been very welcoming to us. Heck, they even included us in their event by asking us to help start the bonfire. My friend Cas and I were happy to oblige. While the others continued around the trail to visit each of the landmarks on their walking trail, we built the fire, prayed to Brighid, and chanted a little. It was incredibly fulfilling to do that, even with the intense heat of the day.

I spent the actual Solstice with my family. Being Father’s Day, it seemed right. Despite the threat of rain, it’s been gorgeous, albeit humid.  We spent a lot of time outside.  Since daylight will start to decline after today, we might as well make the most of it, right?

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I harvested some of the first crops from my container garden this week. Earlier, it was some herbs – traditional to harvest at this time. Today, I plucked the first snap peas from the vines. What a blessing! And it meant I had some “first fruits” to offer the local spirits. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I performed a small ritual on my own at my altar. I gave offerings of seeds, herbs, grain, whiskey, flowers, first fruits, and incense. I made a special offering to my Ancestral Fathers at their shrine, and another special offering to the male deities in my life – namely An Dagda, Lugh, and Manannan. The omens spoke much on my need to pay attention to my inner motivations and instincts, to accept that things are ending, but that I will be able to rise above that turbulence to embrace a higher level of nobility. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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I brought some incense outside to offer to Airmed, Goddess of herbs and tending gardens. I often honor her at Summer Solstice time. With all the rain we’ve been getting, I wasn’t very worried about putting some incense out, and I wasn’t too far away while it burned. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

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Later, we went to Clayton to spend some time along the St. Lawrence River. It was there that I made an offering of yellow flowers to Manannan, a traditional way to “pay the rent” to him. I always feel close to him when near the St. Lawrence. As a major river that directly connects to the Atlantic, I feel that it’s easier to commune with him there than many of the other lakes and ponds in the area. Just my own personal UPG. I’m also mindful that the area has many connections to Native communities and their lore. I don’t feel that it’s Manannan’s river, but I do feel that he likes to visit often. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Whatever you did to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I hope you were able to enjoy some time outside. Don’t take the warmth and sun for granted. Get out there to literally smell the flowers! Maybe even eat some snap peas right of the vine!

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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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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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I’m not planning to do the “Easter Bunny Tradition,” but I do have a wee basket of goodies for my little Bee – including my first ever peg doll! It’s a daffodil-inspired gnome. Perfect for her growing play altar/nature table.

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On Saturday, Northern Rivers Protogrove will gather to celebrate and drum back the slumbering Nature Spirits. I can’t wait to gather with like-minded friends and honor the return to the green half of the year!

However you celebrate, blessed Spring Equinox!

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(This entry describes my morning.  Written in the style of  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff.)

If you give a Druid a cup of tea, she’ll feel very content, almost meditative. She’ll be moved to give some as an offering to her Ancestors.

So, your Druid will go to the household Ancestor shrine and realize that she should really clean it since the evergreens she placed on it for the Winter Solstice are all dried out.  What’s more, New Years is coming, and a clean house brings good luck for the rest of the year!

As she starts to clean the shrine, she decides that she should save the evergreen needles for “something” later on.  So she finds a clean jar to store them in.

Your Druid is smart, and she knows that she needs to label and date her jar.  She goes to the drawer that contains the writing implements and chooses a blue marker to write “Blue Spruce – Winter Solstice – 2014” on the lid.

While putting the marker away, she notices a small, green marker stain on the drawer.  “Oh no!” she says, thinking what her landlady would say.  So she wets a rag and begins to scrub.

Thankfully, the stain fades, but your Druid notices dried food and other strange stains on the cupboard doors.  So she continues to clean and clean and clean.  After all, New Years is coming, and a clean house brings good luck for the rest of the year!

Eventually, she gets really tired.  She decides to finish later.  At that moment, she realizes that she needs to drink her tea!  She gets her cup but realizes that it’s no longer warm.  It doesn’t seem hospitable to share lukewarm tea with Ancestors on a winter day.

So you put the kettle on to make more tea.  And you know what that means?

It means your Druid will want to give some as an offering to the Ancestors but will need to continue cleaning the shrine!

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If you’re a new parent like myself, you may wonder how you can introduce the Winter Solstice to your child, especially when he or she is still learning how to walk, talk, and get control of those little fingers! It can also be challenging when so much of what’s out there is wrapped up in Christmas, and you want to teach, embrace, and create traditions that are more Solstice-specific! Here are some of the things I’ve done or plan to do. Since all children are different, some activities may not be for your child. If you have suggestions, please feel free to share in the comments!

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

    • The most obvious thing to do is, of course, go outside and explore! What are the Nature Spirits doing at this time of year? Talk about it, even if it feels like a one-sided chat. Make snow people and snow fairies. Give seeds and fruit to the Nature Spirits.

 

    • Make some solar-themed, natural play dough!  I followed this recipe but I cut it in half and, instead of using factory-made food coloring, I put turmeric in the boiling water.  The result is a lovely pastel yellow.  Give your little one some sun-shaped cookie cutters if they’re ready for that!

 

 

    •  Make a Winter Solstice playlist.  Sing along and encourage your little one to participate in her own way – often through clapping or dancing!  Some of our favorites are an Irish instrumental version of “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Clause is Pagan Too” (by Emerald Rose), “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

 

    •  If you have a Solstice/Yule tree (or bouquet), include your toddler in its decorating.  This may seem obvious to some, but name all of the ornaments you put up.  Talk about why they’re special.  Discuss any ornaments or traditions that were passed down by your Ancestors.  Explain why things are done. Why does your family include a Yule log?  Why do you have a Yule goat?  Why do you light candles? You may want to simplify your explanations, but at least try.  It’s amazing how many children don’t ever even consider the reasons for our customs.

 

    •  At the moment, we’re not planning to tell Bee that Santa delivers gifts.  Rather, as an animist, I’m going to teach her what I genuinely believe – Santa is a spirit of generosity.  He whispers to us, inspiring us to give gifts to certain people.  We will give the spirit of Santa an offering of cookies on the Solstice.  After we open the gifts, we’ll thank Santa for inspiring so much generosity.  This way, as Bee ages, she can enjoy the overall Santa tradition with her peers and not ruin their own family practices.  And as the song goes, “Santa Claus is Pagan too…”

 

    •  There are so many Christmas specials for children to enjoy.  What about those of us who celebrate something different?  For toddlers, I highly recommend the episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood entitled “Snowflake Day.”  The Neighborhood of Make-Believe celebrates a secular winter holiday that honors working together, the gift of friendship, and light.  Bee adores Daniel Tiger, and, as it’s based on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, the show is so wholesome that I don’t mind her watching it from time to time.

 

    •  If you’re up for a small mess, make some sun and snowflake shaped sugar cookies for the Solstice.  Adults can frost the cookies and then toddlers can help add sprinkles.

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    •  Although your child may not be ready for using safety scissors, he or she could certainly scribble on construction paper before you cut them out into suns or snowflakes for the window.

 

  • There are many winter-themed toddler books out there.  There are some lovely titles that include textures so children can explore winter concepts with multiple senses.  Bee’s current favorite is based on an old classic, “Frosty the Snowman!”
Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    • Speaking of textures, don’t forget the fun of a treasure basket!  Ideas of objects to include: white pom-poms, or felted balls of wool for make-beileve snowballs;  some big pine cones; a safe Santa figure; seasonal felt deity dolls (Angus or Cailleach could be an option); deer figurines; paper snowflakes; a small white pine bough; a child-sized Yule log; an image of the sun; photos of past family gatherings, …

 

 

    • Include your child, as much as possible, in your seasonal ritual. Last year, Weretoad held Bee while I lead our rite. She listened and observed. When it came time to take an omen, we actually let her pull a card out. This year, we may let her try giving an offering. You are the best judge of what your child is ready for when it comes to ritual. In my opinion, it’s never too early to start if you want to raise your child in your spirituality. Even if you don’t want to raise them in one path but merely want to expose them to what is important to you, teaching and modeling how to behave during a ritual early on can lay an important foundation for later when you may want to bring your family to an open circle, or even another person’s wedding or funeral. Children are capable of behaving and participating in meaningful ways during Pagan rituals, but it must be something regularly seen and experienced. If you haven’t already, start this Winter Solstice!

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

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