Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Moving to Wordpress

Hello dear readers!

I'm updating to let you know that I've moved The Ditzy Druid to Wordpress.  I've been contemplating this move for awhile after looking through several wonderful looking blogs.  After fiddling with the features, I find that I really like it more than Live Journal, Blogger, Tumblr (Tumbler?) or any other blogging site I've tried.  It looked complicated at first, but it's really more user-friendly in my humble opinion.  I also moved my website to Wordpress so everything is combined and easy to navigate.

I'm still tweaking it (Weretoad is going to make me a personalized banner to replace the stand-in), but everything is set up.  All the old posts and comments have been imported, my study program was moved over, and I am happy.  I'm going to keep my Blogger account for now to maintain my online identity.  I regret to inform my LJ readers that I cannot figure out how to easily forward my Wordpress posts.  I may end up just ignoring LJ for awhile.  Most people I know have given up on it anyway which kind of sucks because I have fond memories attached to it.  Worry not - I will continue to check the accounts from time to time to keep up with friends who use Blogger and LJ.

Otherwise, I invite you all to visit my new blog/website: http://ditzydruid.wordpress.com/.  There is an RSS feed as well as an option to receive updates via e-mail.  If those do not please you, you can also catch my updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for reading The Ditzy Druid on Blogger!  I hope you will continue to follow me on Wordpress.

Grey Catsidhe

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Holly, Jolly Solstice

Weretoad and I had a lovely Winter Solstice!  I was so excited and in a festive mood.  While he was away at work, I finished wrapping gifts, put on some Solstice music, and lit the tree.  It's the only night we leave it on and it's a great reminder of what we're celebrating.

I also busied myself preparing the feast you see at left.  I made a vegetarian roast with baked scallions, carrots, and potatoes.  I also made fresh bread, steamed brussels sprouts, and bread pudding.  Mmmm...carbs... Magical, wonderful carbs!

In addition, I brought home cranberries and made popcorn to turn into garlands.  We did that after our ritual.  After discussing what we should do, Weretoad and I decided to honor the Nature Spirits who have to struggle through the bitter cold.  It is a hard time to be wild.  Many creatures die.  Food is scarce.  We forget that in our warm homes with our stocked larders.  Our main offering was the garland which we put on the little spruce we keep on our patio.  Next year I would like to do more for deities as well but I'm still uncertain as to who I should honor.  Should I visit the Norse deities of my Germanic ancestors and honor Odin as he rides through the sky?  Should I honor the Cailleach as the crone of winter?  Should I give praise to Angus as he is associated with New Grange and thus the Winter Solstice?  I lean more towards the latter two...  I guess we'll see what next year brings.

We went a bit overboard on gifts this year.  In years past we kept a tradition - three large gifts and three stocking stuffers.  This year...  we kind of forgot and got lost in the joy of giving to each other.  We really need to restrain ourselves next year.  That said - I got some lovely gifts from my husband!  In addition to some shiny and practical items, he also contributed to my growing Pagan library. I got a recycled three ring cardboard binder - something I want to use to make my new Druidic grimoire.  I also received The Black Pullet (an old grimoire) and Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants by Claudia Muller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl Ph.D.  (For my birthday a week ago, he gave me Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Mythology and Cultural Oddities of this Strange Association by Adrian Morgan.)  Needless to say, I have a ton of new books to enjoy and learn from!  Squee!

Today I am busying myself with last minute gift sewing and wrapping.  Yes, I still "celebrate" Christmas with my vaguely Christian family.  I love the excuse to see them. They know I consider the gifts I give them to be Solstice gifts just as the ones they give me are for their own holiday of giving and love.  We somehow meet on common ground.  At the same time, I look forward to having my own large home and throwing wonderful Winter Solstice parties for the whole family...  Some day...  This year, I enjoyed my quiet Solstice with Weretoad. :)

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Blessed Winter Solstice!  Merry Yule!  Hail the sun and hail to life!

We've finally made it to the 21st day of December and my series of Solstice music!  I give you a classic with a Celtic twist - "Deck the Halls" from the seemingly generic Lifescapes album "Christmas Celtic."  It's one of those atmospheric CDs you can buy in card shops.  My mum gave it to me when I first started studying Druidism.  I love it.  I've never heard holiday music like it.  Deck the Halls is an old standard with incredibly Pagan lyrics, and this begins sounding typical - but wait until the middle!  Everything picks up and all I want is to be in an Irish pub dancing away the Solstice with the tribe!  It always gets me in the mood for festivities.  I've played it several times tonight as I prepare the Solstice dinner.

On the menu tonight: a vegetarian roast with baked potatoes, carrots, and scallions; steamed brussels sprouts; fresh bread, and bread pudding.  We're going to eat, have a Solstice ritual in honor of the sun and the Nature Spirits enduring the cold, then open gifts - but only after giving a garland of popcorn and cranberries to the Nature Spirits.

May everyone have a wonderful Yuletide filled with love, joy, good food, and light!

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

I'm back from a successful and amazing craft show!  I will post more about that some other time.  For now I need to catch up on the 21 Days of Solstice Music!  Eeep!

Let's start off something psychedelic.

"Shaman Spirit Reindeer of Siberia" by Magicfolk is one of the most interesting holidays songs I've ever heard.  The music video is bizarre but playful*.  I can't help but love it.  You see, each December I find myself contemplating the complex origins of Santa Claus.  Was he a Christian saint?  Is he the modernized, transformed winter Odin or Thor?  Is he a demi-God?  Or was he originally a reindeer shaman in Siberia?  (There are whole books dedicated to that possibility.)

The next selection cannot be embedded so I'll link it here.  It's Jesse L. Martin singing "Abundance and Charity" from "The Christmas Carol" musical.  I'm posting this because the Ghost of Christmas Present reminds me of An Dagda.  The actor in this video isn't how I imagine An Dagda looking, but the Good God is all about providing for the tribe.  His cauldron makes sure everyone gets what they're due.  Sometimes that magic manifests in us and inspires us to take care of each other.  (Perhaps there's a little bit of An Dagda in Santa?)  He is also, in my experience, all about enjoying life.  Food (his cauldron and ability to pack it in), music (his magical harp), and sex/flirting are some of his specialties.  The actor in this clip really captures that.

Here's a classic - "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams. It's another one of those songs that can (should) be common ground for multi-religious families.  It captures the real meaning of this time of year - coming together as a tribe, no matter our differences, to celebrate the season and love.

Finally, I couldn't celebrate the Winter Solstice and the sun without George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun."  Ok, so it's not what most consider a traditional holiday tune, but 1) I'm a huge Beatles fan and 2) it's all about the sun and how its "coming" gives us happiness and reassurance - even in the cold of winter.

Join me tomorrow for the final selection!

* I totally own the dragon plush they use...

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Goodness, I've been really delinquent this time!  I apologize for the lateness.  As usual, I've been really busy working on items for the craft show this (THIS) weekend.  I also celebrated my birthday which kept me away from the computer.

Anyway, here are some Winter Solstice tunes!

First off, the Daws of ADF composed a Winter Solstice song.  If you're an ADF member, you can see the lyrics and even listen to an audio clip!   The Daws are wonderful, musical people and I love to show off ADF's talent.  I apologize to the non ADFers who weren't able to sample their piece.

Second, I give you "Once Upon a December" from the movie "Anastasia."  Ok...so the fictionalized recovery of a Russian princess isn't particularly festive or Pagan, but I've come to view this song as a seasonal favorite.  It's all about memories associated with winter.  We all have them - a song, scent, or object triggers our memories and we remember something from our past.  Sometimes it's dreamlike.  Did it even really happen?  There can be magic to it, as in the magic of childhood we are forced to recall this time of year.

Speaking of memories...  and Russia...  I can't help but post "Trepak" aka "The Russian Dance" from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet.  It's short but amazingly sweet.  I used to play the viola in high school and we traditionally played this every December.  Once upon a time, I could play parts of it by memory. One of these days I'll buy a viola and this sheet music...  Anyway, I associate this with the holidays.  Really, any Nutcracker music.  Although the characters start off celebrating Christmas, the focus moves to a magical world inhabited by all sorts of spirits - outsider-like rat spirits, a plethora of fairies, and sprites associated with everything from different cultures to household sweets.

Finally, a new favorite of mine from the ever inspiring Damh the Bard - "On Midwinter's Day."  It's another great song for Pagans and our more open-minded monotheistic friends!

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Another chunk of songs for your Solstice enjoyment!

We'll start with something more serious.  This one was a suggestion from a reader (onelittlepagan) - a Paganized version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Craig Olson.  The images of an actual Solstice celebration are beautiful.  What a lovely home!  Thanks for sharing, onelittlepagan!  I had only ever heard the Christian version and this cover, I find, works well.

How about a song about nissers, spirits from Norway and Denmark who are basically gnomes?  They've become associated with both Christmas and Solstice.  Many families leave porridge with a pat of butter out for them during the holidays.  Perhaps nissers are in Santa's spiritual DNA?  I wouldn't discount it.  I don't know if I have any Norwegian blood in me (if I do, it's from a very, very long time ago...) but my husband does.  I wonder if there are nissers around, just waiting for us to befriend them?  Anyway, this adorable little song is called "Jeg Tror Der Findes Nisser" ("I Think There are Gnomes") by Thomas Kjellerup.

And while we're dealing with European spirits, what Solstice would be complete without The Krampus Christmas Song?  While Nissers can have a malicious streak if crossed, the Krampus is a bit terrifying.  Meeting him and his birch whipping rod is way worse than getting coal.  Krampus is a huge tradition in parts of Europe (and even some parts of America).  On a certain day of the year, several adults will dress up as Krampus and roam the streets to frighten children with old chains.  Some even lightly hit people.  Sounds fun, to me!

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Tumakhunter sent me a suggestion for my 21 Days of Solstice Music series - a lovely Paganized version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."  It's called "Make Ye Merry Gentlemen" and is by a group called Lhiannan.  Thanks for sharing, Tumakhunter!  If anyone else has suggestions, do let me know.  I have a few other songs lined up, but there's always room for more. :)

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Apologies for the delay but I've been feeling ill.  Thanks to all my readers on blogger, lj, and facebook for your support for this series, and even some suggestions!  I've got a few more songs coming up later this week, but I wanted to post a couple new ones that I discovered through The Juggler.

"Santa's Pagan Too" by Emerald Rose.

I sometimes feel jaded by the trickery associated with parents performing as Santa.  This song reminded me that Santa is really a spirit who can possess or inspire us to give.  Sometimes his image, like so many, is used to excuse materialism - but I don't think that's really what he's about.  Santa stands for generosity, fun, the magic of childhood, and good family memories.  Still, I think I would go about the tradition differently should I ever have children of my own.

"The Solstice Song" by Finvarra’s Wren.  A lovely folk song that looks forward to the spring, much as our ancestors would have done this time of year.

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Monday, December 6, 2010

Personal Growth

Today was a stressful day.  It was, as I told my husband, the Monday of Mondays.  Getting to work was not difficult, but once I was there it was one thing after another.  There was a lot of absenteeism today.  Many people are out with whooping cough which is kind of uncomfortable.  I took my lunch break to run some errands.  I sent my grad school application off which was good.  The rest is in the hands of the administrators and the Gods. I then took some time to make what I thought would be a quick business call.  It turned into a very long and stressful exchange, but supposedly everything was rectified.  A second time.  Gods willing, everything is fine and I will get my bloody certificate of authority so I can legally sell at the upcoming craft show!  Everyone was very kind, patient, and helpful so I can't fault them too much...

I've come to accept that it's going to take me awhile to finish my Initiate Study Program.  Hell, it took me at least a year to delve into my DP, and three years after that to finish.  I took my time.  Who can blame me?  I was working on my first degree while working part time and maintaining various hobbies.  Working full time while attending grad school?  I know I'm going to have my hands full.

I am finding myself less resentful and guilty for my limited Druidic studying.  I do what I can.  I do my short daily devotionals, I pray, I make offerings to Brighid when I sew, and I do my weekly ritual complete with ogham reading.  I practice bits of kitchen magic here and there.  I try to make time for meditations and walks in the woods.  I listen to Pagan music and podcasts.  I alternate fiction with Pagan studies when I read before bed.  I get in touch with my inner self and the spirits through my art.  That is how I am living and experiencing Paganism now.  Do I feel like I could do more?  Sure.  But I'm not beating myself up over it now.

( For My LJ and FB Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

Don't you love those traditional, non-denominational winter songs?  They can make us nostalgic, connect us to family and friends who celebrate Christmas, and help us find the positive in all the snow we have to shovel.  Up here in the North Country, we have a lot!  Be that as it may, I love leaving my home in the morning to see a frosted forest.  If you look at the snow just right, you can see it glitter like magical fairy dust.

Enjoy this old favorite - "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" - by Dean Martin.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Continuation of Crafty Goodness

I forgot to add a few things.  Here's more that I made this weekend!

Five new Goddess dolls.

A dark brown catsidhe with pink wings.

And finally, a demonic catsidhe.  OMG isn't he amazing?  *fiendish grin*  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

My Weekend Thus Far...

...has been spent sewing.  I did mention in my last post that I also worked on my grad school application, but a majority of my time was spent preparing for the upcoming craft show.  I did a lot of work, especially yesterday.  Some things aren't done yet, but here's what I did complete.  I apologize that some of them are a bit hard to see.  I need to make a light box.

A small teddy bear.

Side of a small black dragon.  It will eventually be turned into an ornament.

The front of the mini dragon.

A pixie.  She will also become an ornament.

Mini wizard.  Another ornament.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

I'm a little behind in posting Solstice music, and for that I apologize.  I've had a lot going on - namely preparing for a craft show and filling out a grad school application.  Enjoy a triple dose of Yuletide cheer!

Faith and the Muse - "A Winter Wassail."  I adore this tune.  Solstice isn't complete without it!

"The Holy and the Ivy" - a traditional holiday piece.

This song is one of the best examples of how Paganism influenced early Christianity.  Most people miss that it is as overtly Pagan as Christian, what with the rising sun and running deer imagery.  Not to mention that holy and ivy were very sacred plants to many of our ancient ancestors and have nothing to do with Christianity save the symbolism borrowed from earlier cultures.  I continue to love this song as it is common ground for my family and I to meet on.

Finally, a "Paganized" version of a Christmas hymn - "Gods Rest Ye Merry Pagans." Somehow...  this just works.  I really like it.  :)

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

It's December 2nd and we inch ever closer to the Solstice!  Today I'm posting one of my favorite holiday songs.  While technically a Christmas song, it appeals to my Irish blood as it's by the Pogues and has the sound of an old Irish bar ballad.  "Fairytale of New York" tells of the failed relationship between lovers.  I'm not sure if they're both immigrants, or if one was and moved back home.  I find it interesting that it's one of the most popular holiday songs in Ireland and Britain, but it never gets played on US radios.  Perhaps it's the cursing?  I must admit, the unconventional but nostalgic vulgarity of the song is part of the appeal to me.  It sounds so different from the other holiday music on the radio - and let's admit, most of that is just rubbish!  Listen to this instead.  It's a wonderful story with some great Irish sounds.

"Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues and featuring Kirsty McColl.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

The Cailleach - Crone of Winter

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

When Magic Doesn't Go as Planned

Sometimes magic doesn't go as planned.  Sometimes we aren't as specific or focused as we need to be.  Sometimes the spirits have other ideas.

Thus it went with me last night as I prayed to the Cailleach for such a blast of winter that travel would be impossible and people would have to cancel school.  I just wanted a day to myself...  Thanksgiving vacation was so rushed and busy with the traveling and socializing...  I enjoyed it immensely, but now I'm behind on housework, sewing, and my grad school application.  To top it off, there is some extra event after work hours that I must take part in.  I just wanted some me time...

And that's what I got when I woke up this morning.  I am stuck here and unable to get to work.  Just me.  Nothing else was cancelled.  I was forced to  take some time off work until someone can help me reach my car which is stuck inside a frozen garage.  

I should have thought twice before praying to the cold Cailleach for assistance...  Then again, I got what I wanted... just not how I wanted it.  Now I am forced to miss some work and look like a helpless twit.  Such is magic.

Should I pray for help to come faster?  Nah...  At least I have some me time...

For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grey Catsidhe's 21 Days of Solstice Music!

I'll start off with a favorite of mine - "Solstice Bells" by Jethro Tull.

A joyous song, the sacred hunt, mistletoe, Druids, and a quirky Medieval music video complete with a dancing Death!  What's not to love?

It's snowing in the North Country.  My spirit guide is happy!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Excited for Tonight

Visiting family usually means that my mental discipline goes out the window.  Not that I've had much recently in regards to religion...  With a craft show coming up, my free time is filled with more sewing than meditation, ritual, or spellwork.  I even brought my work with me so I can create while visiting family.  So far I've made a small dragon and another mushroom spirit.  I'm in the middle of working on a larger doll.  I think I'll have a nice collection of whimsy available for the craft show!

Obviously I have my hands full and am mentally distracted.  I brought my traveling altar with me and did a quick devotional on Thursday evening.  Otherwise it's hard to find a private, quiet time to do anything.  I pray or chant to myself.  My Gods, while they do like attention, are not so full of condemnation when I cannot visit my altar each day.  They hear my whispered prayers, I think.  They are tribal Gods and seem to understand the importance of family time.  My patroness is pleased by art and, to me, sewing is a way of bringing her honor because she is my muse.  It is a different sort of ritual and I am coming to terms with that.  There is a sort of magic in art - that cannot be denied. 

  My family is not Pagan, although some of them have animistic tendencies.  They are accepting of my beliefs, and I am free to talk about them, but I do not go out of my way to rub their noses in it.  I may pray in front of them from time to time, as I did for Thanksgiving, or discuss my ways, but I generally find myself a quiet corner to perform any rites in.  I prefer it that way.  I don't want to be a spectacle. 

Not tonight!  Tonight will be full of magic and socializing - with my witchy friends in Utica!  Since moving to the North Country, my old Pagan pals stopped meeting openly.  The high priestess*, my dear friend, has learned a lot from her teachers and she is forming her own coven/circle/study group**.  They've continually made it known to me that, no matter my path or where I roam, I'm always welcomed to join them.  I've started to take them up on that offer.  I miss the frequent magic and Pagan fellowship.  Between ADF rituals and amidst so much work, this is exactly what I need. I cannot exactly put into words exactly what I feel about working with them all except to say that we've all grown.  There is a palpable trust and understanding between us which allows me to feel very comfortable and welcomed despite my different ways.  I think we intersect on our love of folk magic and academic study.  The high priestess and one of the others seem more and more influenced by traditional witchcraft - something I am also continually drawn to.  I feel like Druidism is my religious path, but traditional witchcraft can fit very nicely in there.  This is something I'm still exploring, and the group in Utica is just what I need.  I'm so excited for later.  :)

*I am not sure if she is comfortable being called such, but, to me, that is what she is and that is the role she plays.  In my opinion, it sounds less cult-like than "leader."  :P

** They are not actively calling it a coven, but I can see it going that way. And you know what?  I've grown spiritually since a couple years ago and find myself comfortable being a part of that.  Totally another entry for another day...

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Friday, November 26, 2010

Looking at Death

We spent Thanksgiving with our parents this year.  Weretoad's mother visited us and we all went down to my parents'.  Weretoad and I brought the tofurky.  I cooked it in a crock pot surrounded by sweet potatoes and carrots.  Oh my Gods, it was delicious!  We don't eat many processed faux meats.  We tend to stick with straight beans or homemade bean patties.  When I'm feeling a bit lazy, or when Thanksgiving rolls around, Tofurky is relatively guilt free.  While it's still a processed product, it's not made from genetically modified or non-organic soy.  I feel pretty good about eating it. 

I've been learning more about Buddhism recently.  I don't know why, but my interest in it has increased.  There are obvious differences between it and modern Druidism, but there are also similarities.  It fascinates me, especially in regards to compassion.  There is a story about The Buddha attending a planting festival.  Instead of watching the dancers, he focused on the bugs and their eggs.  He thought about how the people digging into the soil had to disturb them, possibly kill them, in order to grow their crops.  This event is said to have helped inspire his philosophy on compassion.  This, in turn, inspired many Buddhists to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.  I've been thinking a lot about this recently.  No matter how hard I try to be compassionate towards the natural world, I can only do so much without killing myself.  Even the most dedicated fruititarian will inevitably harm one creature, if only through the cultivation of vegetable matter to consume.  Some may look at this and say, "Well then why give up meat?  You cannot escape the circle of life entirely.  You might as well embrace it."  The thing is, I'm not trying to escape the cycles of nature - I am still a part of them but in a different why than a meat eater.  I experience the cycles differently now that I try not to consume the flesh of my fellow brother and sister animals.  I do what I can  - I seek a balance. There must be a balance of compassion for the Nature Spirits and ourselves.  That balance will be different for each of us depending on the lessons we need to learn and the diet our bodies need.  We should not punish our bodies.  Even The Buddha recognized that killing our bodies for spiritual goals was not healthy.  Everything must be balanced.

We have entered to season of death.  Our ancestors culled the herds and this tradition continues to this day with hunting season.  Since moving to the North Country, I have seen more deer hanging from trees in front of homes.  Every time I see one, I think of Odin hanging from the World Tree, starring down at the roots, seeking wisdom.  I wonder where the deers' souls have ventured as the blood drains from their bodies.  I marvel that the corvid family is not there to taste their flesh.  As the nights grow colder and hunters work to stock their freezers, I've seen them peel the flesh from the deer.  I've seen the gleaming muscles and tendons revealed.  Weretoad looks away.  He has his reasons and I respect them.  I stare.  I find myself fascinated with the process.  I feel for the deer, but there is something fundamentally more sacred about the relationship between the hunter and the hunted than the shopper and the package of meat. I think of that as I stare.   That is not to say that I don't respect the people buying locally farmed and butchered animals - that is also better than buying factory farmed meat.  But one must admit - when it is you hunting/raising, killing, and then skinning the animal...  you enter an intimate dance with the forces of life and death.  It is more than simply being in touch with the land and the agricultural cycles - you are getting in touch with the real essence of mortality. Some of this may be my romanticized, Paganized, outsider perspective, but have talked to people who hunt or raise their own food - some of whom are very close friends and family - I am not alone in thinking these things.

It seems obvious, but there is a difference between killing a plant and an animal.  The only difference is that we can relate more to the animal because of its similarities to us.  I stop and stare at the gutted, dripping, shimmering corpses.  They are like me.  That could be me.  I am reminded of Ricky Fitts from "American Beauty" and his facination with dead people and animals.  When asked why he films them, he says, "It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back."  He admits to seeing beauty in what is otherwise uncomfortable and grotesque.  I still feel uncomfortable, but I look anyway and try to feel what the hunter might have felt (if he was the respectful sort like my soon to be brother-in-law).

I read a blog entry recently about what is arguably the most humane way to kill a turkey.  The author described the event, how the animal's brain died before its body.  The convulsions made a woman who had never seen this cry and feel for the animal.  Even the author admitted to always feeling something of pity for the creature.  He explained that being there to witness the death of the animal is the price a human should pay for eating it.  To eat the fruit of death, a human must pay the price of being reminded of his or her own mortality.  It was a fascinating perspective, and one perfectly in-line with Druidism' belief in a gift calls for a gift or sacrifice. 

I think that is why I stare.  I don't experience that exchange as vividly in my garden.  If I kill anything as I till or dig, I do not see it.  I move anything large enough to see.  I experience the death of flesh distantly, but I still feel I must somehow experience it and whisper soft prayers for the departed.  I must be reminded of my own mortality - not through animal activist videos - but through the vivid dance of the hunter and the deer.

In some ways, I suppose I stare for the same reason I stare in awe at the multitudes of stars at night.  I like to be reminded of how small I really am.  For some reason, that feeling is like a hug. 

Gods bless the deer and other game who have fed the multitudes this season.  May you run wild in the Other World!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Busy Sewing (Image Heavy!)

In anticipation of an upcoming craft/art show, I've been sewing like a mad woman.  Some of my creations aren't done yet, so I've not bothered to photograph them.  I have three large dolls in the works.  One is nearly done.  She just needs shoes.  I felted some grapes for the second.  They need leaves and vines.  Then she needs hair, clothing, and wings.  The third doll is, as I like to say, gestating.  Her body parts are in various stages of development.  She's currently in a bag.  I hope to work on her while visiting my family this week.

I have made several little things.  Check 'em out!

Meet the mushroom spirit!  The tree spirits were feeling lonely and wanted some fun guys to play with!  (Yuck yuck yuck!)  Like most people, I have this aesthetic attraction to amanita muscaria - fly agaric.  They are full of whimsy and magic.  Many people still use them for hedgecrossing and other trance work.  What magically inclined person wouldn't want one of these little guys hanging around?  

 Here's the amanita formosa  variety of fly agaric.  I'm quite fond of them because they're in my back yard!  

A brown mushroom.  I'm sure there is a mushroom that looks like this.  I need a name for it...  

A wide-eyed fly agaric.  

A darker fly agaric.

Some "psychedelic mushrooms."  I need to attach string to some of them...  I think they make cute ornaments.

A tiny Santa.

Finally, a wee fairy.  I also plan to add a string to her.  She would look lovely on a Yule tree!  

They're kind of hard to see, but here are her wings.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Magical Efficacy

Check out this amazing blog post over at "Inciting a Riot."  It's all about the public's misunderstanding about magic, and the Pagan community's own relationship to magic - specifically why everyone isn't doing it and why magic isn't marketable.  It's really some great food for thought.  I wish I had read this blog post ages ago when I first started to try and explain magic to my non-Pagan friends.  I always end up looking like a crazy person.  Since I grew tired of the "this chick is insane/stupid/gullible/going to Hell" look, I'm mostly in the "keep magic to myself and sacred" camp.  I sometimes post about it on my blog because, aside from the friends who are Pagan or are more accepting of my craziness, the blog is relatively anonymous.

Also, I must admit.  I do get a giddiness when I know more about magic than some people.  It's kind of a horrible thing to admit, but when people don't believe, I just feel like...  "Damn, you're really missing out on something amazing. "  They're probably looking at me thinking, "Damn, she's missing out on xyz."  It's funny how that works...

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taking a moment to step away from the debate...

In the forest today, I noticed a single thread of spider silk stretched loosely between two pine branches.  It undulated slowly in the wind, occasionally catching the sun and giving itself away.  I stared at it for a time, watching the world inhale and exhale.  I marveled at how delicate it was.  I thought of the Japanese and their love of cherry blossoms; how they celebrate their fleeting beauty.  The spider silk reminded me of that.  I thought of myself as the silk, shining in the sun until the wind and rain break me and the Earth takes me back into herself.  I thought about how that is all life is, and we must do our best to be the most wonderful piece of spider silk clinging to a tree.

Sometimes I get caught up in the academic side of Paganism.  Don't misunderstand me - I love history, mythology, anthropology, and language.  Discussing the nature of deity can be an engaging exercise for the brain.  But sometimes...  sometimes you need to step back and admit your cluelessness.  Many of us feel that we are doing what is right for us, but even then we can never fully know.  Sometimes, we need to go to the source of our spiritual fire - be that a hobby, a temple, or the land - and just exist in it.  Take note of the life around you and feel the divine - whatever it ultimately is - move in and around you.  We divide ourselves with tradition and culture.  I don't find anything inherently wrong with that because we cannot all be the same.  I just think we can become so blinded by it that we lose sight of the essence - even if it's only for a moment while we're engaged in a heated theological debate.

Taking a moment to lean against a birch tree in the woods and just be... It is good for the body, mind, and soul.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Dagda Chant - By Grey Catsidhe

There's been a lot of discussion about An Dagda on the lists lately.  Most of it has been about pronouncing his name.  All the same, I've really enjoyed the discussion.  An Dagda is my patron, which may surprise some people because he is, in many ways, a pervert.  Still, he has firmly become a huge part of my life and continues to remind me to have a sense of humor.

Anyway, I was driving home from dinner today and a chant entered my head.  I tweaked it a bit from its original wording, but I really like it and can't stop singing it!

An Dagda is the Good God
An Dagda is the Good God
The laughing God
The lusty God
The God of plenty!

I sang it for my husband at home.  He isn't sure about the final line.  While I'm open to suggestions, it sounds fine to me!  I'm not sure what I could change it to but I'm sure there could additions!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Things

When I have guests over, I do the usual and clean the apartment.  I take care of the physical tidiness, but I also do a little extra for the spiritual side of things.  Although having company resulted in a stressful Tuesday full of cleaning, fatigue, and the self-loathing that resulted in this post,  I made a point to do a little magic today.

Quite simply, I made an offering.  I chose a blend of incense known for it's purifying properties and offered it to Brighid.  She is my patroness but also a Goddess of the hearth and home.  I prayed to her that the negativity in our home be purified, and that it - and we - be as hospitable as possible to our guests.  A little thing like that can go a long way.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, I took a moment to stop and connect.  I feel that Brighid responded.

It is definitely the little things.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letter to the Kindreds

Dear Kindreds,

I know I've been a bit distant recently.  My ritual last week was tired and rushed.  I forgot my usual peace offering for the Outdwellers.  I forgot to honor the bardic spirit until after I made an offering to the ancestors.  I forgot the ale but, luckily, had whiskey on hand.  It felt like one of my first rituals.  I was embarrassed and felt defeated.  My daily devotionals have been lackluster.  I've waited until the last moments to do them before I lazily drag myself to bed far too late.  I speak in hushed tones or in my head because my husband is often there getting ready for sleep.  The altar is in the bedroom and I feel exposed and/or distracted at times.  I know I should do my rituals and devotionals earlier when my husband is at work or busy in the living room, but I spend my time doing other things.  There are things that need to be done, like cleaning.  There are things that I feel called to do, like sew.  There are also huge wastes of time...  Most days, I just want to sit and relax after a long day of work.

I would blame leaving home and visiting family over the weekend for my disrupted routines, but it's really my own lack of discipline.

I hope you know that you're never far from my thoughts.  I see you in the trees, feel you on the breeze, hear you in my dreams, and experience you in my art.  I try to keep close, but sometimes I feel like a boat that, while tethered to the dock, has floated lazily away.  I don't know how others do it.  How do they complete their study programs so quickly?  How do they meditate so regularly without falling asleep?  How do they write articles and books?  How do they do all that while having a job and social life?

Great Kindreds, I will work harder to spend more time with you.  I will work on taking better care of myself and getting to bed sooner.  I will try to waste less time online. I will try harder...

With love,
Grey Catsidhe

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Friday, November 12, 2010

On Mushrooms

I took a short walk in the woods yesterday, just as the sun was beginning to set.  I visited the birch tree for a time and then made my usual circuit.  I will sometimes deviate and wander from my path - up the hills, over the craggy heights, around the clearing beyond.  Deer season keeps me closer to home, and that is okay because there is always something new to see in the forest.

I love to look at the little things: vine-like moss creeping over the dead leaves; the last of the ferns; the color of rotting wood; a moth crouching against the chill; the every shifting population of fungi...  Mushrooms continue to fascinate me.  I really should look into finding a mycology class.  I would love to learn more about them and which ones are safe to eat.  I don't often find fly agaric mushrooms in the woods.  This year's record is three.  Something about their iconic connection to magic and myth has clutched at me since finding my first early summer.  I find myself more observant of all mushrooms.  I've never paid them so much attention before this year.

As I walked in the woods,  I realized that.  I also realized that I spent more time getting to know the forest this past summer than I had before.  I finally feel (mostly) safe there.  I feel (mostly) welcomed.  To me, the mushrooms symbolize my growing relationship with this new forest.  As the winter rolls in with it's uncomfortable bite, I've found myself bringing the spirit of the mushrooms inside with me.  Now my tree spirits have mushroom spirit friends.  I cannot wait to post a photo.  They've quickly become one of my favorite things to make!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Consecrating Ritual Space

I recently posted about moving my altar into the bedroom.  This made space in the art room for Weretoad's new workbench.  We're still moving things around, but the important aspects of my altar are set up in the bedroom nook.  It's actually a perfect spot for my altar in terms of size.

The photo is a bit tilted, but you can see how lovely everything looks, if a bit cramped.  I like the symbolism of the three walls.  The wall on the left is dedicated to the nature spirits, while the wall on the right is for the ancestors (as featured in a previous post).  The middle wall is the focal point with the sacred tree taking center stage.  On either side of the tree are representations of my patron deities - Brighid and An Dagda.   Above the tapestry is the shining sun.  Below that I intend to put some other divine representations, including something having to do with Manannan.

The ancestor wall is coming along nicely.  I would like to add further photos and representations, but it will require more frames and shelves.  The nature spirit wall will undoubtedly grow with time as well.  Here's a better shot of it.  So far I have a shelf that belongs to my main spirit guide, the lynx.  Above him is a representation of the catsidhe, and a bodhrán with a green buck on it.

The main altar is made of an old vanity.  I removed the mirror and have been using it as a sacred space for nearly my entire Pagan career*.  I believe that it is already infused with a lot of energy, but I wanted to consecrate the new ritual space.  For my most recent magical working, I took advantage of the close walls and put my hands against them while pushing my feet into the floor.  I chanted, calling the land, sea, sky, fire, well, and tree to be present in my altar.  I invited the Kindreds to my personal sacred space and charged the whole lot of it.  It was a rush, and the empowerment will only continue through use.

For me, this wasn't as much about creating a safe place to practice magic as it was about creating a personal, welcoming place for the Kindreds I am closest to.  At the moment, I am not calling on any truly chaotic or infernal beings.  If there is a dangerous nature spirit, ancestor, or lower God lurking about, I would like to believe that the very powerful Dagda, Brighid, and Manannan will help to keep me safe.  At the moment, I am content making a peace offering to the chaotic spirits and asking for the elements not to destroy me.  Should I ever seek wisdom from Bres, the Cailleach, or Balor, then I would most certainly consider more protection.  For now, I will work to form closer ties with the beings who bless me.

* When I was experimenting with Wicca my altar was on a shelf behind my bed and then on a little book stand.  They tended to gather dust.  What an adorable neophyte I was!  
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sapling Tree Spirit!

One of my most recent creations - a birch sapling tree spirit.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Monday, November 8, 2010

Starhawk at Greenfest 2010

Starhawk is on Treehugger.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Magically Mundane Mondays - Hug a Tree

Although I'm not finished with my Magic 1 essays, I have started to read books on ogham for Divination 1.  I'm not merely looking at the course as a way to learn about divination.  I see learning ogham as a next step in my magical practices.  Not only can it be used as a way to commune with the spirits, but the symbols can be used in magical acts.  I also want to take this opportunity to grow closer to the trees.

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday about crystals.  She was telling me about her sister and how she has a spiritual connection to amethyst.  I shared a story about friends of mine who are equally enamored with the crystal.  During this exchange, I admitted that I've never been very drawn to crystals in a spiritual way.  I find some stones more interesting than others, and I enjoy learning the correspondences and symbolism, but I've never felt a pull to learn crystal healing or such.  I thought about it later and realized that what I am drawn to are trees and other plants.  I am interested in their properties, healing potential, symbolism, and history.  I don't discount the divine significance of crystals, but my talents do not reside within that realm.

After work, before delving into anything else, I put my green galoshes on, trudged through the muddy hedges, and went into the forest.  It was cold.  The deciduous trees were practically bare.  The setting sun sent an orange, misty light through the woods.  There weren't any mosquitos or flies.  There was a stillness broken only by a crow flying north and my own footsteps and whispers to the kindreds.  I found myself near a birch tree and I spoke to it, touched, it, hugged it and just sat for a time.  I felt the stillness and firmness of the tree.  I felt the sleep of winter.  I heard the rustle of wind through pine needles.  I saw the still waters of the marshland slowly reclaiming territory amidst the other birch and younger trees.

I encourage you to go out and hug a tree, as silly as that sounds.  Literally hug it and be silent.  Close your eyes for a little, then open them.  Watch.  If a tree is not for you, find a rock, a flower, a moss-covered hill.  Git outside and be still.  Open yourself to the aged wisdom and chaos around you.  If anything, you will feel more relaxed for it.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Artist Trading Cards and Temporary Foot Tattoos

As previously mentioned, The Artisan Guild in ADF has started making and exchanging artist trading cards.  It's such a neat idea - I had to be in on it!  Here's the card I made and sent to Dohle.

The lighting wasn't the best when I took the photo (I should really get around to making a light box...) but you can see the important bits.  Dohle expressed a fondness for rowan trees and the Goddess Epona so I tried to put them together.  I usually don't do much appliqué or embroidery so this was fun for me.  The edges were difficult...  I decided to go with a simple repeated zig-zag stitch but I worry that it wasn't neat looking.  Next time I shall try something new.  That said, I'm very happy with how my first trading card turned out.

This is the card I received from Brighde.  She knew I adore my patroness Brighid, so she made a beautiful collage featuring the Goddess.  It's hard to see in the photo, but above her are the words "Tonight the world is dark but your flame burns brightly."  I want to find a frame for it and place it near my Brighid altar!

Finally, here's something my husband did to me with a sharpie when I was fixated on something else.  It turned out pretty well for something drawn free-hand!  It's turned me on to the idea of getting a small tattoo on my foot.  I already have a lovely triquetra on my back so I'm thinking about a triskelion. 

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Friday, November 5, 2010

In Which I Struggle Through Magic 1

I think I'm finished with exit question 1 of Magic 1.  For now anyway.

I now believe that one reason I stalled on the essays is because the first question is, in my opinion, worded so awkwardly.  "Discuss the importance of the action of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of the general Indo-European culture."  Over the past few months, as I read book after book on magic, I would return to the first exit question to see if I felt confident to try it.  It always felt jagged going into my brain.  It always sounded convoluted coming out of my mouth. 
  I still worry that I don't know enough to answer the questions.  I'm probably over-thinking things, but I realized that I now know a lot more about the Greek and Roman perceptions of magic than the Celtic.  I tried to find some old Irish legal manuscripts dealing with magic, but they either haven't been translated yet or are buried in another law text concerned with something more general.  I know from prior reading that the concept of a witch or a sorcerer who practices dark magic exists in Irish lore, but I don't know if those aspects are demonized through Christianity or not.  If the ancient Greek and Roman Pagans allowed for conceptions of marginal, ethically questionable magicians, it's certainly possible that the ancient Celts felt the same way.  That said, the Greeks and Romans were afraid of people who threatened the social balance.  The Celts, on the other hand, have examples of public cursing resulting in the fall of kings -  major social change!  However, the cursing is usually justified because it was the king himself who threw the system out of balance!

Raaarg.  I have a headache.  At least I'm finally starting my essays.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Envy You Professional Pagans...

I envy the professional witches and druids out there.  It's not that I dislike my career.  I get a lot of fulfillment out of it and find that it's quite compatible with Druidism.  But when I come home, I'm so exhausted.  I focus on my artwork because a) it's spiritually fulfilling to me and b) it's easy to focus on while relaxing in front of a show (unless I'm using a sewing machine...  then it's impossible).  Free weekends are few and far between.  There's always something happening.  A ritual an hour and a half away.  Family visitations.  Socializing with friends.  Vacation.  Craft shows.

I envy the professional witches and druids who have time to really focus on more than one aspect of their spirituality.  They have the time and energy to, not only craft, but study herbalism, meditate for long periods, take nature walks, study the lore, write essays and/or books, practice divination, and serve the greater community.  I want that!  That is, at least, my goal for retirement.

One of the biggest reasons I started the Initiate Study Program was because I wanted a structured way to help me explore the other areas of Druidism - trance, magic, liturgy, language, etc...  I've found myself moving through it slowly - not out of boredom or disinterest!  I merely have little time and energy.  That said, I don't want to give up.  I know that, if I sit down and focus, I'll be able to finish Magic 1 (at least a first draft) very soon.

Taking a sick day has helped me once again realize just how little time and energy I usually have.  I took that day and finished the book I had been picking at for months.  I started to organize my notes on it and even started answering the questions.  I had time and energy - it felt amazing.  I felt like I was getting somewhere in my Druidic studies.  In the summer I felt so alive.  I had free time to walk in the woods, explore the plants in the hedges, tend my herbs, etc...  Now it's back to the grindstone and back to feeling  spiritually stifled.

Except for art.  It's the one thing I cling to when everything else goes to the back burner.  I really need to focus on and cultivate that.  Perhaps it's a calling?

Anyway, I find myself questioning my routine and my priorities.  Should I just focus on art and try to make time for meditation and as my schedule and energy levels allow?  Or should I attempt to make myself a schedule?  I like structure and routine, for the most part.  I could benefit from, at the very least, an attempt to meditate/trance once or twice a week on a set day when Weretoad is working.  That could be a start.  Then perhaps I could schedule myself a day to walk in the woods?  A day to study?  It all goes against what should be my Sagittarian nature, but I need to do something to feel more balanced.

Any suggestions?

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sick Days

Today I took a sick day.  I hesitated to do it because I'm not hacking out a lung, don't want to get too behind in work, and hate having to call in, but I really needed to.  I should have yesterday.  I felt like rubbish all day.  I was able to get my work done and interact well with others, but I felt uncomfortable.  My stomach was acting up and, in addition, I've had a sore throat and cough for a few days.  I also feel like I'm burning up at times.  Because my job revolves around communication, and because I don't want to get any worse, I took today as a day of rest.  I slept in, had a cup of tea, and plan to gargle salt water and just relax.  I should also use my neti pot.  I think my sore throat is due to a nasal drip.  Yuck.

Sometimes I guess you just need such a time - a day in.  Today is a good day to work on Magic 1.  I really need to finish that course.  I've been working on it for months...

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here's the special altar I set up for the ancestors today.  The photos still hang on the wall by the main altar, but I needed a surface for their dinner.  I even added some cat food for our deceased animal companions.  

Blessings and welcome to the ancestors!  May you enjoy your visit.
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Samhain Snow

I woke up this morning, opened the bedroom curtains, and beheld my first snow of the year.  You can see it just starting to frost the Earth in the photo below.

I find it appropriate, somehow.  The ancient Celts saw Samhain as the end of the light half of the year - the summer months - and the beginning of the dark half of the year - the winter.  Although Samhain comes with the promise of new life, it is full of death.  The leaves are dying.  The creatures that cannot find shelter, hibernate, or migrate are dying.  Our ancestral spirits wander the Earth.  The pooka is about, waiting for his share of the harvest.  Anything left on the vine tomorrow will be his.  They will assume the shape of death and no longer be good for humans to eat. The snow is the final touch.  To me, it is the Earth Mother snuffing out the flame of summer for good.  It burned brightly this year, but now it is time for the green world excepting (of course, the strong and magical evergreens) to rest until next year.

The wheel of life turns.

My Samhain plans?

I used a rotting pumpkin to create ZOMBIE PUMPKIN!  The nails just make it for me.  :)

On a more serious note, I moved my altar - including my ancestor shrine.  I hung photos of various ancestors on the wall (Weretoad's grandfather was wobbly until Weretoad himself fixed the frame).  I included a wall sconce on which I can light candles and leave small offerings.  I would like to make or find a small shelf on which I could place larger offerings.  I will probably move items on my main altar to create a dumb supper for our ancestral spirits tonight.

Last night I attended Muin Mound Grove's celebration.  We cleaned the nemeton, put our jack-o-lanterns around the hedges, and honored the ancestors, as well as Dagda and the Morigan, through fire, song, libation, and sacrifice.  The omens were good.  They spoke of building community and protection from the spirits.  

Inside we had a wonderful feast of corn and black bean salad, red beans and rice, lasagna, pumpkin bread, cranberry and orange bread, carrots, pumpkin seeds, and apple pie.  A portion of each was given to the ancestors first.  

Blessed Samhain to you and yours!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fairy Costume

Today I dressed as a fairy for Halloween festivities.  Several children asked me if I was Tinkerbelle even though my only resemblance to her was through my green color scheme and jagged fairy skirt - which was much longer than hers, mind you!  I told the children, "No!  I'm a woodland fairy!  I'm not from Neverland!"  

Several children questioned me about my wand - handmade but not consecrated.  Most children are obviously not used to seeing real or authentic looking wands.  To them, everything is plastic and bought at a store.  My bumpy rowan branch with silver wire and bells caught their eyes.  Several asked me if it was a real wand.  I said yes because, even though it was made as a prop, it was indeed modeled after my real fairy wand - a tool I use to open and close the gates during ritual. The impression I received from their wide eyes was that they were hoping that maybe, just maybe, it was real.  More and more children are jaded to magic, but some hold out hope...

One girl asked me to say abracadabra - just to see what would happen.  My heart sank a little.  I didn't want her to give up on real magic in this world, but I also wanted to be honest.  "Well...  it doesn't quite work that way."  She went away with her friends.  I shrugged to myself.  It isn't appropriate for me explain real magic or its ethics to a child outside of my tribe and tradition.  I doubt she would have cared at this age.  Perhaps she will seek real magic when she's older.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps she will go through life hoping for a magic that only exists in Hollywood, all the while missing the magic everywhere. 

Then again, perhaps the magic of the imagination is enough for some people, for it is indeed a powerful energy!  Maybe she'll remember the woman dressed as a fairy with the pretty wand when she's older.  Maybe she'll smile and find magic in that moment.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Ready or Not, Here Comes Samhain!

Samhain is my favorite holiday.  I love the Winter Solstice as well, but there's something about the magic of this liminal time...  Perhaps it's the vague boundaries, whimsical to ridiculous costumes, celebrations, harvest food, or simply the visible changes all around.  It's a great time of year and, for many, it's when magic and "energy" are most noticeable.  In my opinion, it's because Samhain and Halloween seem to officially usher in the holiday season.  There's a thick anticipation in the air mixed with stress and joy.

Samhain snuck up on me this year.  I felt more prepared for it last year after planning my wedding.  I haven't even carved pumpkins yet, and I realized this morning that I forgot to buy turnips.  Since finding a home in Druidism, I've made the effort each year to make a traditional Irish jack-o-lantern with a turnip.  It's a small thing but I feel connected to my ancient ancestors when I do it.  Perhaps I still have time, but the fact that I've forgotten this long makes me sad.

In my defense, I have been very busy. I'm dressing as a woodland fairy this year and I made most of my costume from scratch.  I've also been working on the new Artist Trading Card project that the ADF Artisan Guild is starting!  I will be sending my contribution tomorrow and I hope the recipient likes what  I made.  I promise to post photos after it's been received.

I've also been working on other crafty projects in anticipation for an upcoming craft show in my home city.  Check out the latest tree spirit.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Monday, October 25, 2010

Magically Mundane Mondays - Enjoy Autumn!

As I recently posted, my stomping grounds are becoming increasingly winter-like.  There is the promise of a short Indian Summer this week.  I encourage you to make the most of it and enjoy the last bit of Autumn magic!

  • Admire the leaves.  Observe the changes and marvel at the magnificence of nature.  
  • Play in the laves!  Rake them into piles and jump into them.  Enjoy their earthy scent.  Collect a few to press or rub with crayons.  Try to identify them and add these to your nature journal.
  • If you don't have a nature journal - MAKE ONE!  It's a wonderful way to observe the magic that is all around you every day!
  • Keep track of the wildlife around you.  What birds are still around?  Have the robins left yet?  Have you seen any Canada geese flying south?
  • Pick or buy some locally grown apples and bake them.  Inhale their perfume as they cook...  Drink their juice and spice it up!  Warm cider will fill you with autumn's spirit for sure!
  • Visit the farmers' market before it ends for the season.  Observe what produce is available.  Try and make more meals with the food that's in season and really connect with the agricultural cycle.  Thank the Earth Mother for her bounty.  Thank the Nature Spirits before they nurture you.  Envision the alchemy that occurs in your kitchen with each meal.  
  • Build an ancestral altar.  Pray to your ancestors and meditate on death and transformation.
  • Start to dream of the activities you can do during the dark half of the year.  Create a mental list of crafts to create, recipes to cook, card or board games to play, and books to read.
  • Preserve some food.  This is something I want to try more of in the future.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birth, Death, and the Afterlife/lives - My Take

Flame in Bloom wrote about her take on birth, death, and what comes after.  It was a beautiful post and it inspired me to write about it myself.  Where did I come from?  How have my experiences shaped my beliefs about our most basic and universal experiences?


I was born in December.  My mum still refers to me as a snow baby and, to this day, although I dislike the danger associated with driving in the snow, I look forward to and enjoy winter every year!  I was born roughly a week before Christmas.  My sister was born around Easter.  Our birthdays and their celebrations have always occurred around major festivals of rebirth.  I believe that life is magical and that we come from somewhere else, or some other life.

Pregnancy and birth are magical.  Although I've never been pregnant myself, I've known enough women to experience it that I've witnessed the awesomeness that is creation.  Birth seems like an extreme form of magic.   I've seen some pregnancies that were unexpected and through strange or even sad circumstances, but they have always been accepted as fate and cherished.  That said, I believe in a woman's choice to abort.  It is none of my business what a woman does with her own body and I can think of a few circumstances where I would take such control.  I'm very much a novice at magic and magical philosophy, but I know enough that some forms of magic are taking control of the forces of nature, with or without the permission of the Gods or spirits, depending on the tradition.  Sometimes, it's okay to take that control as long as it is done with respect and foresight.  At the same time, I believe that people must be more responsible.  I believe that women have a right to abortions, but I wish there weren't a need for them ever.

We live in a crowded world that is quickly becoming depleted of its resources.  This bothers me when I think about having any children of my own.  When I got engaged, and felt very secure with my mate, I suddenly recognized what scores of women call their biological clock - in other words, I started to feel that real drive to have a child.  It's uniquely different from my sex drive.  I feel my body and heart want a child, but my mind firmly says no.  This is mostly a matter of finances.  Weretoad and I are in a good place.  We are pretty comfortable now but I'm not sure how a child would fit into that equation.  We also want to have more fun.  We want to travel, attend theaters, take more college classes...  A child would dramatically complicate all of that.  I'm not above admitting my own selfishness here.  I recognize that I am too selfish and couple-involved to allow the admittance of another into our home yet.  We're just not ready.  The environmental concerns that come with a child also weigh on my mind when I think about it.  If we ever have children, I think one would be the ideal number.  We would rather pump less of a progeny into an already burdened world than more or equal.


I've experienced a lot of death in my life.  The first was my goldfish at the age of five.  I was very distraught.  My father made her a little wooden casket and we buried her beneath a blue spruce.  Then my maternal grandmother died when I was eight.  Then my zebra finch.  Then my dog.  Then my paternal great grandmother and several other people.  Shortly after I started college, my aunt died at the age of 40 from stomach and bone cancer.  My first cat, Muffin, passed away two days after my wedding.  Those were each hard but brought on more of a maturity about death.  I saw suffering and knew that death most likely meant an end to that, at least in this world.  I accepted the sadness but also the inevitability.  In my experience, you cannot have one without the other.

Other people talk about an acceptance of death tying into their diets.  It is not so simple to me.  I cannot use that as an excuse to eat meat.  As I've explored in other posts, I've come to the realization that my lesson in this life is to abstain from meat, at least for the time being.  I know many people who say that they eat meat because it connects them to the cycles of life.  I respect them for that because, ultimately, our diet is a very personal thing and we all do what we feel is right for ourselves and the environment (I hope).  The herbivore is just as much a part of the circle of life.  I accept that role and am okay with other organisms eating me when I die.  I want them to.  I want to go back into the Earth Mother's crucible.  Does abstaining from flesh mean I am somehow ignorant of death?  Does it mean I don't want to talk about it or hide from it?  Not at all.  I have great respect for hunters.  When I meet people who have tried other types of meat, I ask how it tasted.  I have a growing collection of found bones.  I do not look away from the roadkill - I pray for it.  I do not take some sort of psychotic joy from death and the kill.  I would rather not watch a predator maul its prey, but that doesn't mean I don't understand or respect that magic.

The After Life

After death, I believe that we go somewhere.  I am comforted and content with the Celtic models of the afterlife.  They seemed to believe in the afterlife or the Otherworld being a collection of islands.  Each island was something different - enjoyable, horrific, human, animal, relaxing, rollicking...  Perhaps it is like that?  Perhaps we choose where we stay for awhile.  Perhaps we can move from one to another.  Perhaps there are islands for other religions.  Or even another set of island chains.  Perhaps we can all visit one another while still enjoying our version of paradise.  And yet perhaps there is nothing at all.  Perhaps we will simply be converted to something or someone else, through reincarnation or the transference of energy.  I remain happily agnostic about this subject.

At the same time, I believe in ghosts and the ability to communicate with the dead.  I've experienced it myself at least four times.  I cannot deny what happened nor rationalize it any other way.  Thus, I believe there is something more than just silence after life.  This fits perfectly into my desire to make altars for my ancestors and pray to them.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Magic 101

I feel as if I've been working on this one portion of the Initiate Program forever!  I'm very nearly done with Magic in the Ancient World by Fritz Graf.  It's been an absolutely fascinating read thus far and I feel like I've learned more from it than I have any other book on the subject.

I still feel a bit intimidated by some of the questions.  It's not that I don't understand them, but I feel as if I still don't know enough to answer them adequately!  This is my problem.  I keep reading, and reading, and reading.  I really should get on with it and answer the questions!

One thing is for certain: even when I've finished the course, my appetite for magical knowledge is greater than ever before.  Along with the history books, I've been looking through old grimoirs here and there.  I'm intrigued by the history of magic, who used it, why, and where the modern methods came from.  I think too many people attempt magic without enough study.

There was a time when I found magic to be too much for me.  I practiced it but had results that were simply too effective and in ways that I did not intend or desire.  I didn't fully understand the symbolism involved, the deities they were connected with, or the cultures who had nurtured them.  I decided I would stop doing it except through prayer and offerings.  Maybe some divination here and there.  That was when I was dabbling with Wicca and eclectic Paganism.  Now that I'm older, more educated, and have better guidance, I feel more confident in myself and the craft.  I find myself looking in places that would have made my younger self nervous.  It's not that I take it lightly or feel myself "ready" for anything in particular - I am just less ignorant of it.  

To move forward, I feel that I really must develop my meditative and trance skills.  I've been far too lax recently...  I'm kind of disappointed with myself, really.  I must get back on track and strengthen my mental discipline.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )