Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once more the full moon finds me full of energy.  Yesterday I did more painting and sewing.  I also did a lot of cleaning and cooking.  I started to read my book about Brighid and continued my other pleasure reading.  I even exercised and was delighted to see that I lost three pounds.  Overall, a very fulfilling day.  Does it have anything to do with the moon?  Who knows.  It's fun to see if there's a pattern, though.  And regardless of moonbeams and lunar energy, I delight in such productivity and creativity.  It makes me feel good about myself.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dealing with Stress

I've found that one of the biggest hurdles I have to overcome before meditating or trancing is dealing with stress.  If I have a lot on my plate or recently experienced a stressful situation, I feel less motivated to meditate.  If I somehow convince myself to try for the sake of piety and practice, I then have to figure out what to do with my stress to calm my body down.  For awhile I was trying a couple different methods - relaxing each part of my body individually or visualizing a river where all of my stress went into and flowed away.  

Recently I've been trying something new that resonates with me and works very well.  Those of you who know me know that I have a thing for fire.  I'm a Sagittarius after all!  I started to visualize a bonfire in my meditation.  I imagine my stress floating into the fire like bits of paper which then burn up and float away into nothingness.  Nothing has been quite as helpful to me as this method.  

How do you deal with stress in meditation?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I love getting books!

As some of you may remember from a previous post, I was recently accepted into the first circle of the Artisan Guild study program within ADF.  I am to explore the historical, technical, and spiritual aspects of art, focus on two mediums, and work with a deity associated with art.  The historical bits are on hold for the moment until I can visit family in Utica and determine whether or not the books belonging to my art-major siblings are what I need.  I have started the technical aspects for one medium.  In regards to the spiritual side, I just got a book I ordered in the mail and I am so excited.

It's called The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint by Sean O Duinn (I apologize for my lack of accents in the name). There were some great reviews on Amazon, including one from someone I very much respect: Erynn Laurie of Celtic Recon fame.  

I have not started the book yet.  I only returned home from work two and a half hours ago and spent much of that time exercising and putting dishes away.  Rest assured, once I finish it I will post a review.  I'm very excited about reading it because, believe it or not, I don't have any books devoted to my patroness.  I have plenty of myths in which she features.  I have anthologies of Irish stories.  I have a growing collection of Pagan literature in which she is mentioned here and there.  This is the first book I have purchased that explores the traditions surrounding her.  I feel that buying and reading such a book is important, not only for my understanding of my beloved Goddess, but for understanding her connection to the arts.  I am hopeful that this study/ethnography (I'm not sure what it will be more of) will inspire me to grow closer to Brigid/Brighid and work more with her in conjunction with my artistic pursuits.  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Crafty Day!

Brighid has lit the fire in my head today!  Surprisingly, most of my creative energies have been focused on painting.  I did sew a pencil case for my husband today but that's about it.  (Sewing plaid continues to be a challenge but, the more I do it, the better I get!)

I worked on a wooden magazine holder.  It's shaped like a house and I want to make it look like a stone cottage.  I put a first coat of gray on it before bed last night.  Today I started to paint in the stones.  I don't intend for it to hold magazines but take-out menus.

I've also worked more on the old frame I rescued from the garbage.  I painted a coat of pink on it earlier in the week.  Today I used some of my favorite paint (shiny, sparkly green!) and painted the wooden applique leaves.  I'm planning to color the flowers white with yellow/gold centers. They remind me of chamomile.  I'm still not sure what to write in the space I sanded out.  "Be whimsical..."  "What if...?"  "Imagine..."  "Imagine if..."  "Dress up!"  I want it to be whimsical and go along with the theme of dressing up.  I attached wires to the frame and I'm planning to hang earrings and necklaces from them.

Some of you may remember my desire to create a traveling altar.  I've taken steps toward that by finding a small wooden box.  I've given it two coats of dark green.  It might need a third, I'm not sure.  I'm planning to cover it in swirls.

The box is large enough for two tea lights which is what I desire.  One will act as the sacred flame and the other will dedicated to Brighid in case I'm away from home on my flamekeeping night.  I'm not sure what to use for a cauldron and a tree.  A part of me desires to find/paint/draw a tree on a bit of paper that I can lean against something.  Perhaps I'll enlist the help of my husband now that he has all his pencils in a case I made for him.  A gift for a gift, right?

In other Druidic news, I've taken on my first mentee!  I'm very excited about this because it will be just as much a learning experience for me as it is for him. I hope that my being a novice mentor doesn't bother him.  I'm confident that my experience tutoring in a writing center for several years and my education background will be helpful to us both.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Story Thief

I finally got around to seeing the film version of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  I really enjoyed the book.  In fact, the whole series was enjoyable to the point where I couldn't put it down, each book successively more enjoyable than the last.  I finished all of the books in about a month.  I loved the characters, and the author, Rick Riordan,  obviously knew his mythology.  If I ever have children, I will share these books with them as they are great introductions to polytheism.

The film version, directed by Chris Columbus (the same director for some Harry Potter films), was kind of a let-down in that it was so different.  Sure the basic themes were there:

1) A coming of age story about a kid who discovers he's the son of Poseidon.
2) Absent parents often leave children feeling insecure.
3) The Gods are still around and influencing our culture.

However, the story was really different.  For starters, simple yet important plot elements were never discussed.  An unfamiliar audience may not realize that Percy's sword/pen is supposed to return to his pocket no matter what.  It was never explained *why* Olympus was in NY City rather than Greece.  Clarrise wasn't there at all.  Neither was Dionysus!   Even Grover's life goal, something incredibly important to later books, was left out.

Grover seemed like a vastly different character.  He was my favorite in the books.  He was insecure, always hungry, and was very concerned with the environment.  He was funny because he was geeky and adorably awkward (for a Satyr).  In the movie he was reduced to the wise-cracking side-kick who occasionally "maaa-ed" and ate a can.  Although Grover had an eye for the nymphs in the books, he didn't act like a playboy.  I also can't imagine Grover dancing on state to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face."

Which brings me to the major plot change.  Ares doesn't show up *at all*.  The half-bloods don't even go on an official quest given by the oracle - they run away.  Chronos has nothing to do with it.  The Titans are mentioned ever-so-briefly in a museum but, otherwise, everything gets blamed on poor old Hades.  Now, in the books, Hades isn't exactly the nicest guy, and he does desire a paradigm shift, but he wasn't made to look like the Christian Satan and he didn't want a war.  In the movie, Hades first appears looking like a molten Chernabog from Disney's "Fantasia."  WTF?!  Hades is *never* described like that in the novels let alone Greek mythology.  He later appears in a more human form - albeit dressed like some sort of punk rocker (lol).  In the movie, Persephone was with Hades.  In fact, they changed the entire plot so that the kids were looking for "Persephone's pearls" spread all over the US, left for would-be boyfriends to find as a gateway into the Underworld.  First of all, this takes place in the spring and summer - Perseophne isn't supposed to be in Hades then!  The pearl thing?!  Where did they pull that from?!  Why couldn't they have stuck with the original plot of the book?!  Changes like that make me so angry.

Plot aside, it was fun to see the characters brought to life.  The satyrs and centaurs looked amazing.  But there were so many things missing...  I would have liked to see Clarrise.  She's an interesting character, especially later in the series.  Annabeth (in the movie) seems to be a combination of her book counterpart and Clarrise, the warlike daughter of Ares.  I was *really* looking forward to seeing Dionysus only to be disappointed.  He's so grumpy and (to me) lovable in the books.  I was let down by his absence as camp director.

If you haven't read the books, you may still enjoy the movies (plot holes aside).  The children in the audience definitely liked it.  My husband heard one exclaim "This is the best movie ever!"  Maybe s/he doesn't get out much?   It was entertaining but, if you're really curious about Percy Jackson, I recommend the books.

My Place Among the Nature Kindred

Last night I got into a somewhat heated discussion on otherkin, vegetarianism, and animal rights on the ADF IRC chat.   A couple of members who believe they are otherkin brought up a publication and I asked them a couple things about being otherkin which kind of started it all.  You see, when I first heard of otherkin several years ago, I thought to myself, "huh.  That's interesting.  I wonder if that's why I'm so drawn to cats?"  I never really thought much more about it though.  Last night's discussion kind of forced me to think about otherkin again and articulate my thoughts about my own relationship with the animal kingdom.

Animal rights and vegetarianism can be very divisive issues as last night proved.  There are scientific sides to the arguments, but when push comes to shove, a lot of what a person believes is based on UPG and their own concept of animism.  And that is fine.  I know I can't push someone to see the world as I do anymore than they can push me.  Some of you who know me better understand that I think animals and humans are no better or worse than the other.  We are equal.  I believe that we have different talents and purposes, but that we aren't somehow better.  As I thought about it last night, I realized that the Druidic concept of "a gift for a gift" is very much a part of my understanding of the natural world.

Don't misunderstand me.  I understand that animals can be cruel to each other.  Cats torture small prey and monkeys wage wars on each other.  Etc etc etc.  What we call "human nature" may very well be "animal nature."  I think humans are capable of forming symbiotic relationships with animals and here is where the trouble begins.  I have no problems with people who raise animals on farms or who hunt.  Our ancestors seemed to understand the spiritual side of this as well.  I'm generalizing my studies, but there are plenty of people who thanked their kill or left offerings to guardians of the hunt or livestock.  Brighid, a guardian of domesticated animals, could be thanked for the milk.  She is a protector of dairy giving creatures - maybe even one of them in some forms. (That is my own UPG.)  I don't find deity to be limited to the human form.  If anything, I get the impression that the Gods are real forces and we gave them avatars or they chose visages that we would feel more at ease around.
Back to reciprocity.  We give cats and dogs shelter and food and they keep our homes free of vermin, help us hunt, drive our sleds, entertain us, etc.  We both give each other love.  I feel that, today, while we may have that symbiotic, "gift for a gift" relationship with our pets, we've lost it with the greater wild kingdom.  Instead of giving our cattle a comfortable home in exchange for milk and meat, a majority of them live in horrible conditions and are beaten.  We rape our forests in the name of profit.  We plant a tree here and there but is that enough?  Perhaps the forests, especially the rain forests, have given us enough and our gift back needs to be rest and lots of it while we learn to better recycle what we already have.  (Desertification is a very real and growing problem right now.  Mama Earth will be fine but what about the many humans displaced?  What about the countless number of plants and animals killed in the process due to human greed?)

This brings me back to otherkin.  I'm not convinced that I am one.  There are days, it's true, when I suffer from "green guilt," but I am not about to forsake my humanity.  There is plenty about it that I love - especially the arts.  I do not know if nature spirits have their own art - they might! - but I am enamored with human art whether it is painting, sewing, dancing, or song.  And while there are horrible, greedy people out there, I find that a majority of humans are kind-hearted and well-intentioned (if ignorant - but aren't we all that way in certain areas?).

I do not really think that I am a cat stuck in a human body.  I am more inclined to think that maybe I was a cat in a previous life (some would argue that makes me an otherkin) or that the cat is a symbol I am repeatedly drawn to, physically and spiritually - a symbol representing the lessons I need to learn in this life, my shadow, or, perhaps my animus (one of my spirit guides is a male lynx after all...)

I do not reject the animal in me anymore than I reject the human.  If anything, I am trying to find a balance between my human and natural side.  I can't escape my humanity - doing so would mean leaving behind the people and activities I adore.  But I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to ignore my inner animal and, thus, my connection to all of nature.  My inner animal is my empathy with other creatures - the drive of my vegetarianism and my desire to do less harm to Mama Earth and my brothers and sisters in the natural world.  I want to be closer to them, to better understand my place in the cosmos - not as their master, but as their sibling.

I don't have an idealized vision of Eden where I'm lounging with the lion as fearlessly as the lamb.  I know enough about the cruelty of nature having lived in such proximity to it for years.  I'm under no illusions and am aware of the chaos and the destruction necessary for the renewal.  Just as human siblings quarrel and don't see eye to eye, we compete and become annoyed with our nature kin.  But we must learn to live with them and love them somehow because we are all connected.  At the moment, I think our relationship is imbalanced and consisting of more "take" than "give."

Perhaps my connection with the cat (and now my growing connection with the fox) is more shamanic than anything else.  I am inspired by them and seek spiritual union.  There are lessons for me in these forms.  The carnivorous cat has taught me to respect and value the hunter - no small feat for a vegetarian!  What else can they teach me?  And in the meantime, what can I do for them to return the favor?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


When we look back at our past,  it's often easy to see the obvious sign posts we passed on our way to the present.  I'm one of those who believes that I was always a Pagan - I just didn't realize it until the age of 17 or 18.  My father raised me to be respectful of fire, an independent thinker, and a survivor.  My mother raised me to be a third generation feminist, to believe in magic, love nature, and appreciate the world around me.  They both taught me how to be creative.  They planted the seeds of animism and nature worship in me.  The Catholicism they raised me in, with its archaic rituals and saints, acted as a gateway to polytheism.  My mother kept a small altar to St. Theresa of the Roses in her room, prayed to St. Francis to protect animals, and encouraged me to ask St. Anthony for help whenever I lost something.   Though conversion can naturally have a certain amount of uncertainty and fear attached to it, I'm sure it helped make praying to the Old Gods easier.

  My Catholic, genealogy-obsessed grandfather would probably never understand if I attempted to tell him how much his interests impacted the conversion I went through in my late teens.  Only, it would take me a few years to understand the importance of ancestors.  As I studied Wicca, I thought of my ancestors as much as I would in Catholicism.  They came before me.  Some of them lived a long time ago practicing a foreign, ancient religion and I had a vague idea that this was somehow important spiritually.  They died.  They went somewhere else.  Wicca and Catholicism honored them once a year - Samhain or All Souls Day.  Pick your faith and pick your holy day.

Druidism looks at ancestors a bit differently than Wicca.  We strive to remember them daily.  We venerate them.  We may even set up altars to them - and not just on Samhain (when we believe the ancestors are able to return to this realm for a time).  Their importance to us lasts all year long.  Many of us believe that, given their connection to us, ancestors are sometimes more concerned with our wellbeing than the Gods.  The Gods may be busier than the ancestors.  Ancestors may be in the Otherworld/Spirit World most of the time, but I and others believe we share some sort of emotional/psychic link with them.

   I've never asked my grandfather why he's so interested in genealogy - I really should.  I suspect he would say something about how the past is important because it's where we come from.  I agree.  However, I'm going to bet that it would end there.  Maybe -maybe- he has some spiritual ideas about it as well.  Maybe he looks forward to meeting them in heaven, impressing them with what he knows, and interrogating them for all the missing links.  Why have I become interested in it?  I feel that our ancestors are connected to us spiritually.  They want to help us and, maybe, they've "been there and done that" and don't want to see us make similar mistakes.  Grandparents care about their children so, if you believe in an afterlife, it makes a lot of sense that a great, great grandparent would care about you as well.  To our ancient ancestors, family and tribe were extremely important.  They meant survival.  We're linked to them - perhaps they're even in us.  Perhaps we are them reborn.  I have small intuitions about these things but, in the end, I must remain largely agnostic.

Still, it's strange how the ancestors reach out sometimes.  Over the Yule/Christmas season, I visited my family near Utica.  I made a point to visit my grandparents and I found out that my prolific grandfather was working on yet another history book - this one more personal than the rest which investigate the annals of small, Upstate NY towns.  He showed me the massive pile of pages chronicling his research on our ancestors - my ancestors on my father's side.  We talked for some time about it.  All these years he's been talking about the earliest recorded male in our family, John, and suddenly I started to learn about his wife, Susan(a).  Why hadn't I ever thought about her before?  At the time, he told me where she was from but I wasn't familiar with it - I only knew that it was in Northern Ireland.  (That's where John met her while he was serving military time in British occupied Ireland.)

A month went by since learning of her.  The other night I decided to email my grandfather to see how his project was going.  I also wanted the name of Susan's hometown for further research.  Today, in the mail, I discovered a CD version of the book.  Can you imagine my amazement at receiving such a gift a few hours after inquiring?  It is as if we were on a similar wavelength or Susan was guiding us.  Here it all was - every known record of my family, including my most recent Irish foremother.

Here she is, Susan (at some point she dropped the "a" at the end of her name).  At least, this is believed to be the only photo of her. *

She looks so ghostly in the blotchy, black and white photo, but it's not a fearful feeling for me.  It's more like...  I sense her looking back at me through the ages.

The more I read, the more the pieces click into place.  She's from Armagh which, according to what I've been reading, was the ancient capital of Ulster.  Ulster!  To someone who is enamored with ancient Ireland, that's a big deal.  I'm not about to spout nonsensical claims of being related to CĂșchulainn or anything daft like that - it's simply exciting to find some small connection to the place I've been reading about, loving, and yearning to see.  I can claim some small connection to that magical land!

What makes the story even more interesting to me is that Susan and John immigrated from Ireland to Canada and, form Canada, settled in Watertown, NY - meaning they lived around my new home turf!  My grandfather found her gravestone a few years ago.  I intend to find it myself this summer.  I would also love to go to Armagh when my husband and I finally get to Ireland.  I would love to bring a stone back and build a small cairn on her grave.  Would my presumably Christian ancestor appreciate veneration from a Pagan descendant?  Who knows.  I remain agnostic about the afterlife and whether or not it transcends religion or accommodates it all.  Perhaps she would just be happy to have a bit of her home turf and some attention from someone who still finds her wisdom important.

* LJ friends, check my blog at


How many Druids does it take to screw in a light bulb?

They don't screw in light bulbs, they screw in stone circles.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"A future I'd like to stick around for."

Our old friend Jason posted about a recent study by the Pew Forum. This one zeroes in on "Millenials"- people who "came of age" in or around the year 2000. So...people like me!

It looks as if Millenials are less religiously affiliated than those who came before. We're also more tolerant of homosexuality and evolution. I encourage you to look at the rest of the study.

According to Jason of the "Wild Hunt":

What does it all mean? It could certainly mean a more tolerant world, as an overwhelming majority of this generation believe there is more than “one true way”, and that the Bible isn’t the literal word of God. Less than half even believe that religion is important. Millenials, along with Generation X, represent a sea-change in attitudes that have so bitterly divided previous generations. A “post-Christian” future, one where Christianity is only one voice among many, seems ever more likely. A world where religion may be female-dominated and largely private. Sounds like a future I’d like to stick around for.

Me too.

Thinking About a Working Outline

One of the technical requirements in the first circle of the guild study program is for me to select two mediums and work with them. The first is obvious - sewing. For the second, the guild suggests choosing something very different, like sculpture, jewelry making, or wood carving. I'm not sure what my second medium will be... Perhaps sculpting... It's something I used to enjoy but feel out of practice with. Not to mention, I would love to learn how to sculpt with porcelain eventually. But for now, I'm going to think about some of the questions asked as a way to get me started towards my working outline. Forgive the meme-like nature of this entry, but there will be times when I want to brainstorm like this.

On Sewing

Will you be able to take classes at a local art center?

The thing about sewing is that I've been doing it since I was four or five. There are many, many things I could learn but I think I'm a bit beyond a sewing 101 class. That said, I've recently learned about the Thousand Island Arts Center and it seems like just what the proverbial doctor ordered. Although their website is being reconfigured and their classes have yet to be updated, last year there were courses on weaving, spinning, quilt making, and all manner of traditional arts. Quilting is something I would love to learn about and it would undoubtedly provide me with an opportunity to perfect my skills under master teachers. They have even offered classes on sewing clothing - something else I would love to improve on.

Will you need to use well-illustrated how-to books and the rigorous school of trial and error?

Who knows when the Arts Center will post more classes? In the meantime I have to rely on tutorials, trial and error, and my own tenacious creativity. It's part of the game, I suppose. Luckily I already have some wonderful books that can help me with the more technical annoyances of sewing.

How available, affordable and sustainable are the materials you will need?

I already have many sewing tools. My husband recently revived my old sewing machine, and my father fixed another that will arrive at my home sooner or later. I also do a lot of hand stitching lately which is, I'm sure, more sustainable than using electricity. I like to buy fabric and tread from garage sales and second hand stores. I also like to recycle clothing and scraps. Unfortunately this doesn't always meet my needs and I do buy a lot of fabric and other materials from art and craft stores. I try to research sustainable and organic materials but, unfortunately, many of them are a bit too expensive for me at the moment. I try to make up for this by reusing and buying second-hand when I can. Some more sustainable and affordable materials have crossed my radar recently. I've noticed more felt made of recycled bottles on the market. There are also some recycled buttons. I've found a few skeins of organic or bamboo yarn. In addition to all of this, the possibility of lead testing on toys sold has made me more conscious of where my materials come from and what's in them.

Luckily, as long as I can find thread and keep my needles in tact (their origin is more dubious than my fabric), I will be able to sew. There are always scraps around. I would love to learn how to spin wool and eventually weave my own fabric. In Northern NY, there seem to be plenty of sheep and alpaca farmers with homespun wool for purchasing.

Is there anyone in your community who can serve as a resource for you?

The Art Center I mentioned before will, I hope, become a resource. There are also bound to be other local artisans I have yet to meet. Within my own tribe there are plenty of crafty, needle-happy people. My friend Parallax is an accomplished seamstress. My mother and father are both talented and are my original teachers. My aunt used to make her own clothing. There is also the internet with its many tutorials and forums.

Are there opportunities to work and learn collectively with other novices?

Should the Art Center offer more classes, then yes.

What kind of assistance or advice will you want/need from the Artisan Guild, if any?
I would expect the guild to be a community of learners at various levels of expertise. I would love to bounce ideas off others and receive honest feedback. I am always open to advice and help.
I was officially accepted into the first circle of the Artisan Guild study program. Huzzah! While I contemplate the book situation, I have various technical and spiritual areas that I can focus on. Expect to see the fruits of my labor lovingly posted here on my blog.

Study Programs

As you know, I'm very excited that the Artisan Guild study program in ADF was finally approved. At long last I can finally start! Only... I need some books.

I need to learn about art history. Unfortunately I never had time for those courses in college (a transcript would have counted...) Many of my artsy friends who were lucky enough to take such a course bemoan how boring it was. Maybe so, but I find the subject fascinating and always regretted my short supply of time. There was always a major or minor-related class I needed.

C'est la vie. I can study it now on my own and within a guild. After looking at reviews of the other suggested reading, I have decided that Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition by Penelope J.E. Davies, Walter B. Denny, Frima Fox Hofrichter, and Joseph F. Jacobs is the best option. Unfortunately, because of its textbook status, it's also quite expensive. There are used copies but, again, a pretty penny. I'm first checking (via Facebook) to see if any of my art major/minor friends have a copy they are willing to lend or sell. Failing that, when I get my next paycheck, I'll make the investment. I do so adore books, so it wouldn't really depress me to drop some cash on one as celebrated as this.

While on the subject of ADF study programs, I really do intend to finish my intention letter for the initiate study program tonight. I think I recently said that, even should I have to revise some of my DP to get in, I am okay with that. I don't intend to rush through the ISP. I'm hoping to begin a masters program this fall or next spring. The Gods know I won't be able to do it all at once. But if I can chip away at it, requirement after requirement, and somehow motivate myself to practice every day, that would be a wonderful development in my spiritual life.

SU Chaplain

I fell a bit behind reading my blogs this evening. I just found out, thanks to Jason of The Wild Hunt, that Syracuse University now has a Pagan chaplain. Congratulations to Mary Hudson! This is spectacular news for the Pagan community, especially here in Upstate NY. Hudson helped to found SPIRAL, the same group that puts on our local Pagan Pride Day in Liverpool. Considering the religious studies program offered by SU, it only makes sense that the institution would recognize the need for such a progressive step in the right direction. There already seem to be many active Pagan groups in and around Syracuse. Let's hope the trend continues and we see more recognition and religious freedom. The more people know about us, the more we'll be accepted. That's the hope, anyway.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where do my offerings go?

It is true that I live in northern, rural NY. However I still live in an apartment. I feel like I live in a tiny suburb. It's former military housing and looks like a development. All the buildings are practically carbon copies. There is a forest here and I have access to it, but it's a bit of a walk from my doorstep. So where do I put my often biodegradable offerings? I don't want to flush them because there are concerns of water pollution, even if the offerings are biodegradable. I don't want to throw them out because that seems less than pious.

My solution has been to create a small sacred place outside of my apartment, on my patio, for offerings to go. This has been a learning experience with various pros and cons. It started as a small clay pot filled with dirt, stones, and a fairy statue. At some point, a liquid offering froze in a crack and shattered a chunk of the pot. It wasn't looking good for a month. I wasn't sure what to do... Today I converted a red metal pail into my offering pot / mini fairy rock garden. There are also some shiny gems and bits of silver in there. I included shards of the old pot to create some continuity. I'm hoping the metal will be better able to withstand the occasional liquid offering in the cold. Although, since the shattering incident, I've been giving more incense offerings. Even so, I nailed some drainage holes into the bottom.

It still doesn't look all that amazing. In the spring and summer I want to surround it with flower pots and maybe even paint the pot a different color.

New template.

I decided to tweak my template. Scribe was okay but, really, I think this suits my journal much better. I do so love green and forests.

Visiting the tribe, traveling altars, and study programs.

We took the weekend to visit some of our tribe in Utica. We spent a majority of it with my parents which was lovely. We had a belated birthday dinner for my father and watched a couple movies with them. We also spent some time with some friends/in-laws. I'm not sure what to call them now. Friends? Family? Both? I like calling people close to my heart my tribe but only a handful of people don't look at my cross-eyed when I use that expression. All the same, hanging out with loved ones was very enjoyable. The only downside is that we missed an invitation from our neighbors to come over and play cards. They seem like nice people and are all in a similar life stage. We keep missing their social gatherings due to previously planned engagements or lack of foresight. (The last time we found out about a party we had already showered and settled down for the evening... Thus we didn't really feel like doing anything else.) I don't want to come across as flakes to them and I would *really* like to make some friends up here.

Anyway, going down to Utica made me realize how much I need a traveling altar. I'm adding that to my list of projects now! I did a lot of my devotional work in my mental nemeton (although I did fall asleep one night...) It worked but I would have liked the altar to help me focus.

Speaking of creating a traveling altar, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the purpose of undergoing the Artisan Guild study program. In addition to learning more about art history, theory, and methodology, one of the goals is for students to develop a "personal integration and understanding of the arts as spiritual practice" (from the Study Program). This is what I feel I truly need. I am already aware that artistic expression is very important to me. Creating is a magical practice and the end result is something that expresses my spirituality, love of life, and, quite often, my love and awe of the Kindreds. I'm realizing that I want to better tap into that energy. Part of that will come, I'm sure, through a greater understanding of how my ancestors created things. But I would also like to develop rituals that become part of my personal religion - rituals that nourish my inspiration, further bond me to my muse and patroness, and make art even more of a ritualistic part of my life.

With these goals in mind, I am hopeful to begin the study program soon. In addition, I am also hopeful to begin the Initiate study program. I need to finish my letter of intent. I'm a little nervous about submitting it, but I know that, even if my elders don't think I'm up to the challenge yet, I will have ample opportunity to improve and reapply. I'm tenacious and stubborn when I want to be. Growing in my spirituality is important to me and, as an academically minded person, study and knowledge motivate me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Remember that stand I salvaged earlier? I saw an old picture frame in the pile as well. After bringing the husband home tonight, I asked if he would stop with me to take a look. It's large and seems fairly old. The glass was broken and covered in frost, but we could see an almost ghostly portrait of a man staring out at us. We decided the frame was salvageable even though some of the decor was broken off.

I brought it in and immediately got to work sanding the wood and old paint as much as I wanted. I had to pry the pack off with a hammer. The portrait, which was drawn, had already been damaged. Opening the frame exacerbated the tears, unfortunately. The paper was backed by a rectangle of fabric which, stiffened with age, disintegrated almost instantly. I tried to peal some of it off to save the portrait but only ripped it more. I kept a chunk of the gentleman's face - the eyes. Don't ask me why - I really couldn't say. It's currently pinned on the bulletin board in my studio. Maybe I'll decoupage it onto something.

Anyway, my plan for the frame is to nail/staple wires horizontally from right to left. I'm then going to use it as a jewelry organizer for the bathroom. Shabby chic, as they say. I've given it a coat of paint and I might just leave it as a single coat. I like the dark colors showing through the rose pink. I'm going to add some accents and, where the decor was rubbed off, I'm going to write something. What, I don't know. I'm thinking about "jewelry" in French. I'm kind of going for a French theme in the bathroom I suppose... Slowly but surely...

Creative projects like these get me so excited. I feel so close to Brighid and the imbas she puts in my head. I'm very glad that my artistic motivation has returned.

Speaking of art, the Artisan Guild study program in ADF was officially approved! Since completing the Dedicant Path, I've been excitedly waiting for this.

Goodbye NNY_Pagans. Hello used TV stand!

When I moved up here, I immediately began searching the vast internet for signs of Pagan life in Northern NY. I came across the Yahoo group, NNY_Pagans. (I think that was its title...) The mailing list was pretty much dead. The occasional email about a psychic fair or event in Syracuse would show up. I got an email about the death of an Upstate Pagan elder. Otherwise? Zip. And then, this past month, I noticed an influx of adult-themed threads. Disheartened, I finally unsubscribed. I'll have to resume my search for a community of Northern NY Pagans. I'm surprised not to find something more prominent, really. There *are* Pagans up here. Witchvox attests to the existence of at least a few scattered solitaries. I know there are a couple groups at least - one at the UU Church and another of dubious reputation (according to a couple folks). At one point (I'm not sure if it's still in existence) there was a Heathen group. Not to mention the Pagans in Fort Drum. I know they are there, too! There are meeting minutes online describing a group of Pagans wanting a ritual space and/or time. Perhaps it's the migratory nature of the military keeping them from looking to the outside community? On the other hand, if I were in their shoes, I would seek something out even if it was only going to be for a year or two.

In other news, I found a perfectly functional television stand in the garbage near my apartment today. I'm assuming the family bought a larger TV for the Super Bowl and needed a different stand (or something). Still, why throw it out? Why not donate it? Or find another use for it? The ignorance and laziness of people really frustrates me. Luckily I'm all for garbage picking and I now have a new piece of furniture! We don't need another TV stand but we could use more storage for books and such. Maybe we could put the printer on it... It's currently sitting (rather unattractively, I might add) on the floor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eating local means eating within season.

A couple years ago I was attending a Wicca 101 class lead by my good friend Katrina. At this time I had already left Wicca for Druidism, but I felt the desire to attend her class for various reasons: friendship, a hope to learn something different, a new perspective, and an excuse to practice my meditation skills. One of the biggest things I got out of the class was a newfound understanding of the Wheel of the Year and its connection to the land and agriculture. Intellectually I realized that certain foods were connected with the seasons and were therefore symbolic of the holidays. It wasn't until her discussion on food and the High Days that it dawned on me - eating, especially to someone on an Earth-centered path, is an incredibly spiritual act!

That lesson, combined with my desire to be more sustainable and ecologically responsible, has lead me to seek out different ways of eating and cooking. My husband and I have cut out most of the HFC in our diet. We're now trying to limit the amount of corn we have. Basically, if we don't expect corn to be in the product but it shows up on the list, we don't buy it. This means no more Kraft Mac and Cheese or Smuckers jam! In other words, we're attempting to avoid processed foods while simultaneously starting to boycott big business farms/monocultures . We still buy veggie burgers but we don't eat them often and I'm moving more towards making my own out of lentil, nuts, and bread crumbs. We've been religiously buying organic, naturally sweetened cereals. Our snacks are pickled veggies, fruit, nuts, and dries berries from the Mennonites and Amish. (I like to keep a dish full of nuts on the coffee table for snack attacks.) Trying to wean myself off the Veggie Bootie... I loves it... I may make it a weekend treat. Hubby still likes his chocolate syrup too... Baby steps, right?

Anyway, I was thinking more about our desire to be more supportive of our local farmers' market and how that means, for the most part, eating within season. What's available at the market right now? Eggs, preserves, onions, squash, and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! We already have tons from a future in-law.

So eating in the winter means eating potatoes. Who ate a lot of potatoes? My Irish ancestors, of course! In fact, our rotund starchy friends have been a staple of the British Isles as a whole for decades. It only makes sense to look to them for inspiration. During my lunch break today I started to collect different potato recipes - Irish, British, and "Newish."

Tonight I'm trying my hand at Cornish pasties. I remember loving them when in Penzance. I only had a couple, but I've always meant to try making them myself. My first batch isn't really anything spectacular, but if I continue to practice I'm sure I'll get better at the construction. Next on the list is vegetarian shepherds pie.

Oh, and my hubby makes some pretty mean homemade French fries.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Day

The "writer's block" topic on Live Journal today is about Valentine's Day and I decided to add my two cents.

Given that we're less than a week out from Valentines, how do you feel about the approaching holiday? Will you participate or abstain? If you're not in a relationship, how will you celebrate your single status?

You know... I just don't do V-day anymore. It used to be a big deal to me, in part because a majority of my life was spent in public education where, every year, we spent tons of money on candy and crappy, mass-produced cards that my classmates inevitably threw away shortly after receiving. As someone trying to live a more sustainable life, I can't help but see this highly commercialized holiday as environmentally disgusting. Ok, I'll admit a detail about my personal life - I work with children. Despite my feelings, I don't want to disappoint their wee little hearts. Try to discuss sustainability with an X-Box and toy-obsessed youngster. I dare you. 9 times out of 10, it doesn't change much because, in the end, it's really the attitude of the parents that matter. All the same, I'm not giving cards or plastic bags of candy. They are getting pencils bedecked in hearts because they are useful. Yes, I am that sort of adult.

"But Grey Catsidhe! You're newly married! Aren't you going to have a romantic evening with your hubby?"

Our first date several years ago was on Valentine's Day. A year after that, we started to think about why we were celebrating. We knew we loved each other. But...was that really a good reason to go out and spend money? Especially after the winter holiday season? We were in college and we were broke. When we really thought about it, we realized that Valentine's Day just didn't matter to us. If we were going to spend money on gifts, then let that be on our birthdays and the Solstice. Otherwise... Neither of us are Catholic so St. Valentine doesn't matter to us. I'm a Celtic Recon/Druid, so Lupercalia isn't for me either. And I'm no longer a fan of celebrating religious holidays claimed by secular America just because it's socially traditional. Bah. I'll stick to traditions that I actually find enjoyable!

If you celebrate Valentine's Day, that's fine. Go out and have fun! Maybe even take some advice and see how sustainable you can be while you celebrate. My husband and I? We'll use a holiday as an excuse to get jiggy with it on the 1st of May. Beltaine baby! Sex in the forest! Show the plants how it's done! February is too cold for that anyway... So why even bother? ;)


A friend over on live journal (fire_is_born) recently posted about pentacles and how they weren't his favorite magical symbol. He concludes that "there's something unnerving about all those harsh acute angles everywhere, jutting about menacingly." Although I never really gave it much thought before, I find myself agreeing with him. The pentacle is a fine symbol, and although I can find it in nature from time to time (like in the apple), I find the spiral so much more comforting and accessible. You find it in the unfurling fiddlehead (as pictured); in subtle and violent whirlpools; in powerful tornados and hurricanes; in the coils of a shell; in the flow of the very universe itself.

Fire_is_born gave me the idea to physically make the spiral in ritual when opening the gates. I'm definitely going to try that when I do my next ritual. I know that Kirk spins in a spiral when he leads. I sometimes use spirals in magic. For example, whenever I'm worried about getting pregnant, I draw a counterclockwise spiral over my abdomen accompanied by a prayer. I've drawn spirals in the air over newly planted seeds in the hope to inspire growth.

My actions should provide a window into my interpretation of the symbol. It represents the continual flow of time and our interconnectedness with everything in the universe. It's the circle of the year and the change of the seasons. It's the never-ending story of creation and destruction.

For some more beautiful spiral imagery, check out Original Beauty, a wonderful blog with inspiring photos.

Reusable Shopping Bag

As promised, here's a photo of the reusable shopping bag I made from a burlap sack rescued from my old place of employment. *

It's one side only. I also used old bottle caps that I painted and turned into buttons. They're more accents than functioning buttons, though. Given that it's burlap, it probably couldn't hold a lot of cans. That's okay - I made it with produce in mind. I wanted a bag specifically for fruits and/or veggies.

My craftivation is back!

* For my lj friends -

Sunday, February 7, 2010


My motivation is returning! Perhaps self-loathing isn't all that bad if it eventually forces me to tear myself away from laziness for the sake of my self-confidence.

I've worked a little on a doll's outfit and have put together a reusable shopping bag out of burlap! I made buttons from bottle caps but am waiting for the paint to dry.

Photos later. :)

I did some yoga earlier and have been sitting by an open window most of the day. Perhaps that is helping?

Trying Not to be Lazy

The terrible fatigue I've been feeling lately has spread to my spirituality. My rituals are suddenly shorter and lack any real meditation. I've tried to meditate in bed but I always fall asleep and have strange dreams that I can't really remember in the morning.

I keep thinking about and seeing foxes everywhere. My inner teacher is calling out to me. I really should get down to business later. And I need to do it in my ritual room. I'm too programed to sleep when in bed. Meditation doesn't come easy there.

I'm attempting to be more physically active in the hopes that it will improve my health and my energy. I started doing some aerobics yesterday. Perhaps I'll do some yoga today - something not too jarring but also strenuous. I do love stretching...

Speaking of exercise, I've looked for belly dance instructors in and around Watertown. It seems that the closest are across the border or in Syracuse. With one car between myself and my husband, neither is really feasible at the moment. In the meantime, I'm hopeful that the local BOCES will get one down the road.

Friday, February 5, 2010

TGIF and Doxtater's Farmers Market

I don't know if it's the moon, the season, my hormones, or my lifestyle (it's probably a combination!), but I have been one tired Pagan as of late. It seems that I want nothing more than to sit on my bum and vegetate after work. I'm sorry to say that our home is not as tidy as it could be. If someone came to visit, I would feel terribly torn between my desire to be hospitable and my embarrassment. One of our cats made it worse when she stole an unfinished doll leg from my studio. There are tiny clumps of stuffing here and there.

I've tried to do things on my to-do list. My sewing has fallen behind which is unfortunate. However I've been kind of productive on the Druid front. I wrote an article for Oak Leaves that I have to send in. I've also been editing another person's article. I recorded a couple submissions for Tribeways. I need to give those another listen and send them in. I also need to finish my mentoring questionnaire... I should do that next...

In other news, my husband and I found a wonderful little shop in the town of Pamelia, NY (near Evans Mills if you know where that is...). It's called Doxtater's Farmers Market and it's wonderful. We found organic, cruelty free eggs there as well as local fruits and veggies (in season!), local peanut and almond butter, maple syrup, jam, soaps, lotion, and breads. There's a gorgeous brick oven that the baker uses right in the shop. He also makes delicious pizza. Oh, and for any of you meat eaters looking to support local, organic farmers rather than the nasty factory farms, Doxtater's also sells local, organic, pasture-fed beef, chicken, and sheep. I'm very excited about the shop and its proximity to my home.

I've also located a local farmer who sells milk (unpasteurized) but I need to find a good container. I saw some large glass jars at the local Mennonite shop. One of those would probably do the trick.

Happy a happy Friday!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pagan To-Do List

1) Carrionmann got back to me about being a mentor for people working on their Dedicant Programs. I was informed that my DP was excellent and that I definitely qualify! Huzzah! I'm really excited about helping people and giving back to the religious community I love so dearly. I just need to complete the questionnaire.

2) Oak Leaves and Tribeways work - I have an article to edit for someone else and an article that I am writing to contribute. I was thrilled to contribute to the Solstice Tribeways podcast and I definitely want to think of something to contribute for that. Again - I am so excited to get more involved.

3) The artisan guild is working on making a gallery of member work. I need to get some photos of things in! On a related note, I want to start planning an entry for the guild competition at Wellspring!

4) I want to do another trance soon, if not tonight. I feel better and am ready to meet my teacher once more.

What makes the full moon so special?

I have a lot of friends who are skeptical of "energy" as is seen by Pagans. This is fine and I encourage questions because it forces me to think and reevaluate my spirituality. Let's face it - sometimes things are a matter of faith and that's that. Someone experiences unverified personal gnosis and it's his/her word against yours. End of story. But there are also plenty of times when spiritual people have to be open to scientific explanations. Science won't necessarily devalue what you believe, either. In fact, I often feel quite the opposite and I don't understand why more religious people and scientists can't reconcile. For me, science and religion are two sides of the same coin. Someone once said that science answers the how and religion can answer the why or the who. I'm not arguing that one is better than the other or that people from both schools should accept that wholesale ... but really. I think most cases, like creationism and evolution, can be viewed as two sides of the same coin.


Today I thought a bit about the moon, particularly the full moon. I always notice the big, beautiful moon in the sky. It invigorates me, comforts me, and inspires me. Could it be, scientifically speaking, that the light given off by the moon not only pleases us for psychological reasons (light helps us see in the dark and avoid danger), but also for physical reasons? The sun's rays are reflecting off the moon onto Earth. Does it also reflect vitamin D? Does it trick us into feeling somehow more awake and that's why I often want to dance when I see a full moon?