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Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

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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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Offerings at the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

When life gets busy – go to the forest.

When there is drama at protogrove events – go to the forest.

When you question why you are trying to build community – go to the forest.

When your thoughts won’t let you be – go to the forest.

The oak tree will teach you how to reach to the upper and lower worlds.

The oak tree will teach you to weather your storms.

To oak tree will inspire strength.

The secrets are there in the forest. Your purpose is there in the forest.

You will catch your breath in the forest.

Life will make sense again.

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Apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land.  When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!

While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking.  Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.

It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.  Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it.  Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up.  While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!

Homemade goodness. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust.  All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season.  The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling.  Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me.  Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort.  As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.

Drying apple head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls.  As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.  Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.

I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring!   May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!

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I’m one of those people who reads multiple books at a time, and you can bet that at least one title I’m working through is about herbalism or foraging.  I just started Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal.  It’s a beautifully photographed guide featuring tips for identification, a bit of folklore, and recipes.  With the forest and hedges springing back to life, a book like this makes me very excited!

On Saturday I decided to do some scouting.  I visited the forest and made offerings, then I observed, taking plenty of time to stop and soak up the sunniest spots as it was a very chilly, breezy day!  Surprisingly, the trout lilies have yet to bud, and the red trillium has yet to make an appearance.  Is it the chill in the air?  The very wet start to the season?

I was hoping to find chickweed and stinging nettled.  I have yet to identify the former and may have found the later but I need to do more research and closer observation (with thick gloves).

Foraging photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Foraging photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

In my search for chickweed, I found some plants that I had hoped would match my field guides once I got in.  No such luck, but I did find some other very interesting plant allies.  On the far left is what I believe to be sweet woodruff (galium odoratum).  At first, I thought they were cleavers but their leaves and stems are smooth.  According to Wikipedia, their name in German is Waldmeister which translates to “master of the woods.”  Very cool name, right?  Another English folk name is “wild baby’s breath,” so I’ll have to keep an eye on it to confirm my ID.  There’s some interesting info about it here.  On the right (hardly visible in the photo), I believe, may be a related plant called bedstraw.  If true, that is a very interesting find because it was apparently used to curdle milk as a type of vegetarian rennet.  And in the middle?  That guy remains a mystery…

I also saw some other lovely plants, some that I need to identify and keep my eye on.  Others I knew right away and delighted in their appearance, such as this lovely white oak seedling.  What a great omen for a Druid-in-training!

Baby Oak - photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Baby Oak – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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2014 Maypole – Photo by Tara Loughborough, 2014

Northern Rivers celebrated its second Bealtaine together on May 10th.  The skies, which had been full of rain clouds, became pleasant and even sunny.  Perfect Maypole weather!  What a blessing!

I’ve never found evidence that the ancient Celts celebrated the holiday with a Maypole, but it’s become such an important part of the modern celebration.  My first exposure to the living Pagan community was on a Bealtaine.  My would-be friends and teachers danced a Maypole. My first visit to Muin Mound Grove was on Bealtaine.  Again, my would-be friends and teachers danced the Maypole.  It has become a sort of personal “Pagan birthday” since I lack the memory of any other concrete day in my early years of exploration.  Dancing the Maypole awakens my inner sense of whimsy and fun.  My husband and I annually kiss each other as we dance, inspired by the flirtatious nature of the custom.  This year, my ribbon broke shortly after I started, but I still laughed and circled with the others as one of our very talented members played his bagpipes.  At the end, I tied my ribbon around the bottom with the others.  Our dance sends our wishes of fertility into the land.  It is prayer in motion.

More traditional among the Irish was jumping the Bealtaine bonfire for luck and healing.  This was our magical working during the ritual.  I also prepared a candle in a lantern for those uncomfortable jumping the actual bonfire.   As we chanted, most of the women and children jumped the candle (I held Bee while we went together).  Most of the men and one lady jumped the actual fire pit which was spectacular to watch!

Songs were sun, praise was spoken, and offerings were poured, sprinkled, and hung around the fire and the clootie tree near the stone circle.  It was our first ritual outdoors since the hard winter hit Northern NY.  My goodness, it felt wonderful to be out there at the circle again…  Welcome May!

Clootie Tree – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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The previous weekend, I went out into the forest.  I needed it.  I was feeling some cabin fever.  We’ve had snow on top of snow on top of snow.  Furthermore, I had had a terrible, no good, very bad night the day before.   The forest was calling my name.

I was already trudging through the knee-deep snow to the forest when my father suggested I try his snowshoes.  I decided to give it a shot.  I’m glad I did – they were such fun!  Although I could have made it to and from the woods just fine, it would have been a heck of a lot of work.  Putting on snowshoes made the trek more relaxing for me, so I’m glad I took that opportunity.

Me in snowshoes. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Once I reached the forest, the stillness was exactly what I needed after a very stressful few days.  The forest felt so welcoming.  Everything felt restful and my troubles faded.  I greeted my tree friends and left offerings for the local spirits.  In the distance, some song birds chirped merrily.  Copious amounts of snow had settled on the tall evergreens like thick layers of dust.  A mighty wind blew and the canopy erupted with shimmering snow!  I lifted my arms and actually gave a shout of joy as I let myself be enveloped in the temporary whiteout.  The previous day’s anger, frustration, and helplessness dislodged and hurried away with that gush of snow and wind.  I let it go when I surrendered to that moment of joy…

In this way, without meditating in the traditional sense, I found my center and was able to relax.  What is it about the forest’s magic?  As I’ve reflected in the past, I’m very aware of the darker sides of this place, and yet it normally gives me such peace…  I’m so grateful for that.

 

One of my tree friends, a lovely tall eastern hemlock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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