Monday, March 29, 2010

More on "Angry Brighid."

A friend made me realize that I didn't share my own opinions about the house fire incident referenced in my recent book review of The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint.  Here's what I wrote:

    I was both intrigued and encouraged to read about Brighid’s darker side.  So many modern Pagan books focus on her midwifery and healing, as well as her creative powers.  They forget that there is a darker side to such things – creativity requires the transformation and destruction of something else.  A healer must eventually decide when someone is beyond healing.  Women can die in childbirth. Blacksmithing is extremely dangerous.  The fire that warms the home can just as easily destroy it.  It could be argued that some of these “darker” sides were embraced by The Morrigan or even the Cailleach (hag), but there is a lot of cultural evidence to show that people were aware of Brighid’s jealous side.  There was a belief that Brighid could ignore you on Imbolc, which was seen as a very bad sign for the family and the harvest.  (Brighid has some very strong connections to fertility.)  There was a lot of animal sacrifice in her honor, even in modern Christian times.  Much of it involved chickens.  There were also a lot of vegetable sacrifices made in her honor.  There was even a belief that Brighid had/could set peoples’ homes on fire.  This backs up some UPG experienced by a grove member whose friend said Brighid was weak compared to the Morrigan.  He returned to his home to find it ablaze!  I myself have experienced Brighid’s jealousy, though not in a violent way.  For a Wiccan Drawing-Down ceremony I attended, it was decided that the group would call to Freyja.  During meditation, Brighid appeared to me, felt as if she was holding me, and I heard her voice say “mine.”  Obviously I was not meant to be Freyja’s vessel! 
            Do I think Brighid is quite as vengeful these days?  While the person whose house burned down will probably never take Brighid lightly again, I get the impression, through my studies and personal experiences, that most Gods are not as fierce as they used to be.  This has nothing to do with an inability to be hostile as I firmly believe they are more powerful than us and could do quite a bit of damage if they wanted.  But I believe that the Gods have evolved socially, like us.  I also think they realize that burning everyone’s house down is not a good way to keep up good relations.  That said, I also think it’s possible for a God to have a moment of passion or extreme anger.  It can happen to people, and the Gods are known for being hot headed! 

So, do I believe Brighid set the man's house on fire?  Well, let me say that I believe she is fully capable of it!  But did she?  I don't know, honestly.  All I can say is that were I him, I would be pissed if it were!  My friend mentioned that such thinking is scapegoating, and I'm inclined to agree with him for the most part. I can't really rule out that it wasn't Brighid, but if it were me and all the omens pointed to yes, I would feel so betrayed.  Granted, I wouldn't say one Goddess was better or more powerful that another.  At the same time, I would like to believe that the Gods, especially the Irish Gods (who have never been known for the jealousy exhibited by the Greek pantheon), have grown beyond petty things like that.  Well, petty is not really the best word...  I mean, that was a man's home.  A house fire is devastating.  I responded to my friend by admitting that I actually thought of the word "scapegoat" while typing this entry but that I didn't want to veer too far from my book review.  In retrospect, I should have done a footnote.  The way I see it (and I don't know his side of the story), the man was rude enough to insult the Goddess of the hearth fire that he probably has little respect for fire in general.  He probably made some stupid mistake.  It's a shame, that's for sure, and the insult was probably just a coincidence.  All the same, I was intrigued to see a belief that it could happen in Irish folklore.  (I still stand by my statement that Brighid has a dark side - but by dark I never meant evil.  If it came off that way, it's entirely not what I meant.  By dark I meant destructive.  It's only natural!)

Although I don't believe the Gods are all-knowing, I do believe that they are smarter than us, so they have likely figured out that bad press makes them look bad and lose "friends."  I also think some Gods really enjoy interacting with humans and so don't want to lose our love.  They probably understand why we've turned back to them after Christianity and realize that it is better to be loved and respected rather than feared and hated.

Perhaps that's only my Neo-Pagan showing and I'm really a delusion fluffy twit, but part of adopting reconstructionists methodologies is being sensitive to how the religion and the spirits have evolved with time.  Aside from the little show of possession by Brighid (which I don't mind because a) it's not been excessive and b) I have jealousy and possessive issues myself so I commiserate), the Tuatha de Dannan have been wonderful to me.  I have a great and growing relationship with them and part of what I love is the reality of personal responsibility.  I can ask for their blessing, advice, or inspiration, maybe even to borrow a bit of their magic, but in the end it's up to me to take the initiative and direct it.  If I screw up, the Gods (my patrons, at least) are sympathetic and, often, jocular about it.

I have forgotten to keep the fame twice.  Each time, I apologize and let Brighid know that it wasn't on purpose.  She seems fine with it.  She's forgiving.  At least she has been to me.

EDIT:  I also want to add that, if I were a God, I would have so many other more important things to worry/get angry about other than a snide comment.   For example, greedy corporations that pollute the planet.  Do I believe that the Gods should go postal on them?  Oh, you betcha.  Maybe not burn-their-house-down postal, but if anyone deserves the so-called "clue-by-four," it's people like that!

"Dark Crystal" Sequel?!

Gods, I still need to see the first one! I know, I know... I'm horrible. I'm a huge "Labyrinth" fan and I adore the Frouds. Brian's drawings are amazing and Wendy's dolls have always inspired me. I'm so relieved that they're using puppets instead of CG for the characters. I would have vomited if it were otherwise. There's something very magical about the puppets.

Worst Movies and Shows Depicting Witches and Pagans

Gus diZerega, Pagan blogger on Beliefnet, posted a list* of what his readers believe to be the worst cinematic (or television) portrayals of Pagans - specifically the much maligned witch.  It was an interesting read.  "Hocus Pocus" was one of the top worst offenders.  Although I completely agree with the argument, it's still a favorite movie of mine.  I love the singing and the over-the-top witches.  It's just a fun story.

I'm ashamed to say that I have yet to see the original (or the remake) of "The Wicker Man."  I'm saving that for Muin Mound.  Apparently it's a tradition to watch it after initiation into the grove!  I've also yet to see "The Craft."  My hubby owns it, so one of these days...  I never really got into "Buffy", mostly because I didn't have cable.  Someone commented about the character Willow and how she was "dismissive of Wiccans as: 'Bunch of wanna blessed be's. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones.'"  Yes it's a fictitious story, and real magic as we know it is not so spectacular on the movie screen, but it's annoying all the same.  And really, 'the dark ones'?  Give me a break!  I tend to write off anyone who uses that sort of ignorant, goth-tinted language.    I've never seen "Charmed," however I must say I'm always extremely annoyed when someone sees my triquetra tattoo or necklace and thinks I'm a fan, as if the symbol came from the show!  

At the same time, one has to have a sense of humor.  Like I said, "Hocus Pocus" remains a favorite of mine, in part because it is so over the top and makes no references to Wiccans or people who actually practice Paganism.  There's also a wicked little part of me that thinks, if I was going to be some sort of supernatural bad girl, I'd want to be like that. **  And how many Christians find various church-bashing Monty Python skits hilarious?  Most can't help but crack a grin because there is a grain of truth there.  Perhaps it's the same with negative Pagan portrayals.  The characters represent what some in our community have deluded themselves into thinking is real or possible because they have no concept of reality in this plane/dimension/world/existence.  Some Pagans are, for lack of a better term, bat shit crazy.  Some really do see the world through purely dark or purely sparkly white lenses.

So what do you think are some of the best portrayals of Paganism in modern entertainment?  For my readers who are not Pagan, what are the best and worst portrayals of your religion?

*For my lj friends:

** For the record, I don't really want to be that way.  I'm just saying.  It would be cool to (temporarily) change people into cats though.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Seed Time!

I started some seeds indoors today.  I've got three varieties of beens, a couple different types of radish, some squash, a couple corn seeds (I want to try 3 sisters in a container), and some zucchini.  I just ordered some more seeds: slim Jim eggplants, brandywine tomato, ruegen strawberry, oakleaf lettuce, thyme, tender sweet carrots, lavender vera, tigerella tomato, silver sage, and Italian large leaf basil.  I'm really excited!  Perhaps I'm being a little too ambitious this year, but I've got a large patio and a larger gardening budget.  I need to start collecting lots of containers and potting soil now!  I'm excited about the strawberries.  I've seen some upside down strawberry containers that I'd like to try.  I may try it with one of the tomatoes too.  There are a lot of things I would love to try growing but I don't want to be *too* ambitious.

I'm thinking of doing a ritual later tonight for the seeds I planted this afternoon.  Here's hoping it helps!

My Review of "The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint"

            I recently purchased and read The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint by Seán Ó Duinn.  I wanted to better understand the Goddess and, though I have read such works as “The First Battle of Moytura” and “The Second Battle of Moytura,” as well as several scholarly works which studied the overall Celtic/Druidic religious perspective (that we can tell), I have read very little that is specifically about Brighid.  What drew me to this work, besides the positive review by the much-respected Erynn Rowan Laurie, was that it was written by a Christian monk who was not only accepting and even respectful of the Saint’s pre-Christian origins, but also extremely well-studied in regards to the folk practices surrounding her.  That is what I wanted a better understanding of for they give hints at what once was – things that may not have been explicitly stated in the surviving manuscripts from Ireland and other Celtic nations.
            Ó Duinn covers different categories of practice and belief in each chapter.  Some topics discussed include Brighid’s yearly return from the Otherworld and what customs surrounded that; flame keeping; holy wells; and the crafts and costumes associated with her.  Although many people know of the existence of such practices, it was fascinating to see a closer examination of them and the differences and/or similarities between various Irish counties. 
            I was both intrigued and encouraged to read about Brighid’s darker side.  So many modern Pagan books focus on her midwifery and healing, as well as her creative powers.  They forget that there is a darker side to such things – creativity requires the transformation and destruction of something else.  A healer must eventually decide when someone is beyond healing.  Women can die in childbirth.  Blacksmithing is extremely dangerous.  The fire that warms the home can just as easily destroy it.  It could be argued that some of these “darker” sides were embraced by The Morrigan or even the Cailleach (hag), but there is a lot of cultural evidence to show that people were aware of Brighid’s jealous side.  There was a belief that Brighid could ignore you on Imbolc, which was seen as a very bad sign for the family and the harvest.  (Brighid has some very strong connections to fertility.)  There was a lot of animal sacrifice in her honor, even in modern Christian times.  Much of it involved chickens.  There were also a lot of vegetable sacrifices made in her honor.  There was even a belief that Brighid had/could set peoples’ homes on fire.  This backs up some UPG experienced by a grove member whose friend said Brighid was weak compared to the Morrigan.  He returned to his home to find it ablaze!  I myself have experienced Brighid’s jealousy, though not in a violent way.  For a Wiccan Drawing-Down ceremony I attended, it was decided that the group would call to Freyja.  During meditation, Brighid appeared to me, felt as if she was holding me, and I heard her voice say “mine.”  Obviously I was not meant to be Freyja’s vessel! 
            Do I think Brighid is quite as vengeful these days?  While the person whose house burned down will probably never take Brighid lightly again, I get the impression, through my studies and personal experiences, that most Gods are not as fierce as they used to be.  This has nothing to do with an inability to be hostile as I firmly believe they are more powerful than us and could do quite a bit of damage if they wanted.  But I believe that the Gods have evolved socially, like us.  I also think they realize that burning everyone’s house down is not a good way to keep up good relations.  That said, I also think it’s possible for a God to have a moment of passion or extreme anger.  It can happen to people, and the Gods are known for being hot headed! 
            Returning to the book, Ó Duinn also discusses the crafts associated with Brighid.  I was very interested in this because 1) I’m an artsy person and 2) I got the book as a source for my Artisan study program’s muse essay.  The Romans, as many of us know, equated Brighid with Minerva, citing her as the patron of art.  I was always gladdened yet mystified by this association.  Minerva is known for weaving while Brighid is associated with black smithing. Ó Duinn explains that there are some folk beliefs about Brighid and fiber arts.  Many say she invented them and taught women how to turn wool into clothing.  This is wonderful news for someone like me who sews and has always felt Brighid’s presence strongly during my work.  It’s a UPG verified by folk belief.  There is also a link between Brighid and the spinning wheel, including a taboo that people are not supposed to do any such work involving wheels on Imbolc.  Needless to say, I have a lot of good information to help me begin working on my muse essay. 
            I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Celtic culture and/or Brighid as a Goddess or a saint.  Some may find it a bit dry, but my passion for the Goddess made every new bit of information worth the read.

Visiting for Easter

My parents want to visit next weekend!  I'm very happy and excited to see them, but the situation makes me laugh.  They were talking about going out to eat somewhere but I suggested making dinner.

"But it's Easter!  We don't want you to have to work."

Oh, my silly if well-meaning parents.  I explained, for the millionth time, that I don't celebrate Easter and that I wouldn't mind making them a nice dinner so that they don't have to work or spend lots of money on their special holiday.  They deserve it and I've been meaning to make them a nice dinner since moving up here!  We have a Cracker Barrel in Watertown and, ever since discovering it, my mum has been addicted to visiting us and going there for dinner.

As some of you know I've recently given up dairy, making me an ovo vegetarian.  I'm trying to eat more local when it's available, so I'm only eating eggs from local farmers I trust.  In other words, when eating out, I'll be a vegan.  My mother is concerned I won't get enough protein so I'm excited to show her what I can do.  My father is surprisingly more supportive.  Although not a vegetarian, he's been trying to give up/limit his dairy for various reasons.

One of my new favorite things to make is shepherds pie.  I make it just about every week using a haul of root veggies from Doxtater's Farners Market and a mix of peas, mushrooms and, occasionally, tofu.  Recently I've been favoring the mushrooms in this recipe.  I think that will be the main dish, along with some homemade bread and some sort of green.  Maybe a few deviled eggs to celebrate the spring.  I'm not sure about dessert yet...  I have some frozen strawberries so maybe I could do something with them.  Hmmm...maybe pound cake with strawberries?

Where would we be without our freezers?  Seriously, I feel so dependent on that and my refrigerator.  This summer, I really want to do more canning and, maybe, get a dehydrator.  My soon-to-be brother-in-law has one and it works amazingly well.  When I think about how my ancestors kept their food, it's really amazing to me, and I can understand why spring and summer were so celebrated.

So what about you, dear readers?  Do you have Christian family members celebrating Easter?  Are they including you in their celebration?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Right Hand vs. Left Hand Path?

Ian Corrigan, accomplished ADF Druid and erudite occultist, just posted a fantastic blog entry * about the so-called right hand and left hand paths.  He examines where the modern, Western notion probably came from, what the unadulterated concept means/meant, and how such an idea doesn't work well with a lot of polytheistic belief systems.  It's a spectacular read if you're interested!

* For my lj friends:

Great Outdoor Expo and a Different Perspective on Ancestor Veneration

As I said in my last entry, my husband and I saw "How to Train Your Dragon" this afternoon.  After that we went to the Watertown Great Outdoor Expo.*  The entrance fee was only $3 per person so I figured it would be a fun thing to check out.  It's true that my husband and I are both vegetarians and not hunters, but we have an interest in other outdoor activities.  My husband has also become quite interested in (and good at) target practice after going a few times with other family members and friends.

There were a lot of interesting things to see: animal calls (an old interest of mine), baby ducks, a giant, hand-carved chess set, rock climbing demonstrations, some small animals from the local zoo, and even a scuba pool!  My husband took scuba classes several years ago in Syracuse but was never certified.  It's something we'd both like to do one day.  I tried to convince him to try the scuba gear with me but he didn't feel like it and I didn't want to do it alone.  I got some information, though.  I would love to take a class.  The North Country is a good place for scuba diving so we should take advantage of that sometime!  I also got information about white water rafting, another activity to try on the local Black River.  Any of my friends want to try it out?

There was also a chiropractic table set up and I was asked if I wanted a free screening.  I basically said, "oh what the heck, why not?" and the lady said I had some problems, including swelling in my lower back.  I do get a lot of aches there.  They were offering a low price for further consultations, but I decided that I want to go in to the local doctor for a full check-up first and see what he or she says.  It is discouraging to think I have some back problems that could become more serious as I age...  When I went to the reiki workshop last week, a lot of people who practiced on me said they felt a weird energy around my lower abdomen but I don't recall anything specific about my back.  Hmmm...  I'll have to see what another doctor says and then I'll consider a regime of chiropractic consultations, massage, and reiki.

In other news, a new blog I've been following, Flame in Bloom, has a great post about ancestor veneration among heathens and what that means when you have little respect for recent ancestors.  It's a perspective I've not thought much about.  Ancestors are just as important in Druidism and Celtic Reconstructionism, and I've been blessed with a family I feel close to despite their idiosyncrasies.  Those who have passed are still cherished for the lessons learned and the positive impact they had on me.  Michelle Daw, an ADF member and practicing stoic, kind of touched on this is his recent video chat on stoicism.  I remember him discussing family members who were not very kind or responsible.  They taught him how not to behave.  The lessons may have been painful, but they were important and he thanks them for that.  Anyone having difficulty forming a relationship with their ancestors should definitely check out Flame in Bloom's most recent post** and/or start a conversation with Daw.  He's very approachable and willing to help.

That's all I have for today!  Again, I'm working on some book reviews which I should post soon.  Remember Earth Hour tonight!  Turn your lights off from 8:30 to 9:30!

*For my lj friends:

** For my lj friends:

"How to Train Your Dragon"

The following is my attempt at a review of "How to Train Your Dragon."  There may be some spoilers between the stars.


Hubby and I went to see "How to Train Your Dragon" this afternoon.  We both enjoyed it a lot.  Now, part of this is because I've always liked dragons.  I've also always found Vikings to be incredibly fascinating.  So I'm a little biased!  But in addition to dragons and Vikings, the story and animation was spectacular!  Rather than relying on goofy pop culture references that will lose their humor generations later, "Dragon" had a timeless quality and lovable, organically humorous characters.  The environment was so lush, and Toothless, the dragon, was adorable.  I'm aware that such an adjective is a little strange to use with a dragon, but it's the best word.  He reminded me of one of our cats; hilarious and feisty at the same time.

Although the portrayal of Viking life was probably quite inaccurate* (it's not my area of specialty), I thought it was a positive portrayal of polytheism.  The Vikings said little prayers to Odin and I think I even heard Thor's name.  Hiccup, the protagonist, said something about "Gods."  It's nice that the creators showed the Vikings as regular Pagans just trying to live and maintain the security of their little island - decent Pagans rather than the shifty, unscrupulous Pagans presented in the 3D version of "Beowulf."

There was also, I will argue, a subtle environmental theme.  The the beginning, the Vikings conquered the wilds which were the dragons.  In the end, the road to peace for everyone was through an intimate, symbiotic relationship.  The dragons were occasionally referred to as pets, but they were really treated as friends and equals in the end.  Relationships like that are possible with horses, cows, and the very Earth Mother herself.  We need to return to that or else our own dragons, in the form of environmental change, will threaten us further.


I highly recommend the film.  It's quickly become one of my favorites.  I give this movie five out of five prosthetic dragon fins!

* I have recently learned that Vikings probably didn't wear horned helmets, for instance.  I'm also very curious how accurate the runes in the story were!

Remember Earth Hour!

Just a reminder to everyone that tonight is Earth Hour!  Wherever you are, at 8:30-9:30, please consider turning off your lights and unplugging all unnecessary electronic equipment.  Show support for global change in how we use Mama Earth's resources!
I had a really great experience keeping the flame last night.  I started to do some housework between finishing up some internet tasks, so I got that out of the way before I even started.  As the sun set, I closed my eyes and steadied my breath, focusing on the task at hand.  I then lit the candle and said a prayer.

After that, I got to work and did some exercise.  I've been trying to work out for 30 minutes every day.  I inevitably skip some days, but, on a whole, I'm proud of the progress I've been making.  I love doing yoga before my aerobics.  I've lost some weight and I feel good about myself.  In addition, it's helping me improve my breathing.

After exercising I took a cleansing shower before going to my ritual room for an hour's worth of self-reiki and meditation.  The reiki felt amazing and I'm definitely getting better at sensing my own energy flow.  The meditation was all over the place.  I started breathing and quieting my mind.  I've been envisioning a flame into which I throw all of my worries.  From there I met my lynx spirt guide who took me on a walk.  I was hoping to do a meditation suggested in the book I've been reading (more on that in a later post) but I guess last night was not for it.  I happened to see someone I know in real life in my meditation.  He was wearing a blacksmith apron and working in a forge which was strange.  He's not the sort of person I envision doing things like that.  I said hello and asked what he was doing there, and in typical fashion he shrugged and basically said "you know, doing stuff."  I don't know why it was him or what was going on, but I was keeping Brighid's flame and she is associated with blacksmithing.

I kept seeing a city in the distance, a place I wanted to go as part of another meditation, and I even got to the doorway.  My fox spirit guide showed up and said that I wasn't ready tonight.  I was feeling sleepy so it was decided that I should return until another day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Keeping the Flame

As some of you know, I'm a member of ADF's  flame keeping group dedicated to Brighid.  Tonight is my turn to keep the flame.  For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, people called by the Goddess Brighid often join groups of people who take turns honoring her by lighting candles (or some other source of light).  Each night, another group member lights a candle.  Most people light their candles with the flame of a candle already dedicated to Brighid.  Many people get this flame from Kildare, the original cult center of Brighid. *

Like I said, tonight is my turn.  I've been doing it for awhile, first through a community on Live Journal, and now through my spiritual home of ADF.  Although I've remembered to keep her flame, I've not made a night of it.  I would really like to put more effort into the tradition and my relationship with the Goddess.  I was inspired by my fellow flame keepers to start a new tradition.

When the sun sets,  I will cease using my computer except, perhaps, for the purpose of listening to music.  I waste a lot of time on here and an evening of prohibition will do me good.  Instead I will spend my night exercising, meditating, practicing art, practicing reiki, reading lore associated with Brighid, and cleansing myself and my hearth.  I'm very excited about this!

On another day, I will attempt to finish a review of The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint  by Sean O Duinn.

Blessings to all!

* For more excellent information on this tradition, or if you're interested in keeping Brighid's flame but aren't in ADF, I encourage you to check out Ord Brighideach.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's here!

Well, one of them.

One of what, you ask? Why, one of the three books I ordered to study magic in Northern Europe as part of the ISP! I've been anxiously awaiting for their arrival and, now that I have one, I can begin Magic I!

I received The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition   by Steve Blamires today.  The cover posted above (acquired from Amazon's listing) is different from the book I received*.  Mine also doesn't include the subtitle "Ancient Wisdom of the Battle of Moytura."  As it turns out, I now have an earlier edition.  Flipping through, I see some beautiful, if infrequent, illustrations like this one of Lugh*.  

The back of the book reads:

The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition is the first full interpretation of the newly discovered native magic tradition of the ancient Irish Celtic legends.  The main focus of this book is on 'The Battle of Moytura', a part-historical, part-mythological record of the war between the Fir Bolg (the aboriginal inhabitants of Ireland) and the Tuatha de Danann (a mystical, magical rase of overseas invaders.)  From this wealth of material, Steve Blamires devises not only a powerful and fascinating magical system, but practical exercises and meditations, leading up to a full ritual based on the system.  'The Battle of Moytura' contains within it the whole essence of the Irish Celtic spiritual and magical system, as well as practical instruction on how to live successfully both in this world and in the Otherworld.
 I'm hopeful the author discusses the other Irish "races" and doesn't lump them into the Fir Bolg.   The reviews on Amazon are all 5 stars so...hopefully the book doesn't make me throw it across the room!  I'm really looking forward to reading it.  I should go do that...  now!**

* For my LJ friends:
**...right after I answer an email and do my Wii fit exercises!  :P

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bits and Bobs on a Tuesday Night

First off, a doodle I've been toying with tonight.* I was experimenting with some charcoal. Not really done but thought I'd share.

I was really hopeful to get one of my books on magic in Northern Europe today. I can't wait to start the ISP! In the meantime, I'm slowly working my way through some online drawing tutorials while coming up with sources for my muse essay.

In other news, I decided not to attend the Watertown CUUPS ritual tonight. I'm really congested and I can't participate well in a group meditation when I feel like I can't breathe. I hope they enjoy themselves!

Finally, I thought I should mention that I found my missing oath ring! It was hiding in a laundry basket. My hand feels less naked! Out of curiosity, do any of you have spiritually significant jewelry? What is it, where do you wear it, and what is the symbolism behind it?

* For my lj friends:

Triquetra Meditation

  I was meditating before bed last night.  I found myself in my astral nemeton and briefly met with my lynx spirit guide.  He chided me for not visiting often.  I next started to focus on a symbol - the triquetra.

It's the symbol tattooed onto my back and is very significant to me.  I don't think I've ever been able to focus so intently on a symbol before.  If a nagging thought threatened to derail me, I easily waved it away.  Suddenly a great blue heron flashed in my mind, flying across the triquetra.  This made me recall the once hopeful Misty Marsh Protogrove I and a few others were attempting to start in Utica.  We felt that the Utica Marsh was such an important part of our eco system and we were attempting to use the great blue heron in a logo.  My husband actually designed a prototype of a heron standing in front of a triquetra.  The group thought it was too Celtic (which I hadn't considered at the time) and so we decided not to use it.  In the end, the group wasn't meant to be and now I'm up in the North Country while one of the other possible grove members is in Albany.  C'est la vie, right?  Anyway, I felt it was strange that I saw the heron but it evoked memories of home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Working Outline for the Artisan Study Program

Working Outline
By Grey Catsidhe

As part of the Art Guild study program requirements, I am to choose two mediums to focus on.  It was suggested they should force me to focus on different dimensions, brain power, and physical movements.  Choosing a first medium was effortless.  Deciding on a second was a little more challenging, but I think I have found something that will prove helpful and complimentary to my studies.
I’ve been sewing since I was four or five. When I was younger it was my mother who first taught me how to thread a needle and do a basic stitch.  I made a pillow and, quite ambitiously, declared that we should call the local museum and ask about submitting it for their exhibit.  I still have the ratty pillow as a reminder of how proud sewing has always made me, and how a simple craft can inspire me to reach for the stars.  As I’ve grown, I’ve explored other fiber arts such as knitting, crochet, and embroidery.  Textiles is my medium of choice and I’m filled with such joy and purpose whenever I’m engaged in it.  Of course there are frustrating moments – jammed bobbins, uneven seams, knots, misread patterns – but the end product and the feeling of having created something beautiful, unique, and, possibly, useful is so fulfilling.  I am excited that the Artisan Guild study program exists as it gives me an excuse to further explore my favorite craft and how it can become a greater expression of my spirituality.           
Choosing a second medium to focus on in the art guild has been a challenge.  There are many arts I would love to learn about  - many of which would compliment my sewing.  At first I thought about sculpting, an art I’ve had experience in and would like to pursue once more.  Jewelry making was also something I considered.  Each would help me create more involved dolls and costume accessories.  When I discussed this with a fellow artist and ADF member, she suggested to me that, although they would be helpful to my sewing, they were three-dimensional mediums and that I am already engaged in such a process when creating dolls and clothing.  I am basically sculpting with fabric when I create my dolls or costumes.
Thinking along these lines, I decided to revisit drawing.  I studied art all through public school and even took a drawing class in college.  Although never a blue ribbon artist, I did develop an understanding and enjoyment for drawing.  I’m proud of some of the pieces I completed.
Although sculpting and jewelry making are obvious compliments to doll making and costuming, drawing will be just as helpful.  Having focused more on textiles than anything else, the drawing skills that were so practiced in high school have suffered.  I would like to practice more so as to be better able to sketch designs for dolls and costumes.  Learning more about perspective and proportions will help me perfect my understanding of anatomy – an important aspect of dolls and costume design! 

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

Although I’ve had several years of experience, I realize that I have much to learn and that I have many areas to improve upon.  I was lucky to have both a mother and a father who sewed.  I learned a lot from them and a few other family members.  As I grew I started looking at books for further inspiration and technique.  In college I was blessed to meet a fellow sewing enthusiast who shared some of her own tricks with me.  Now I’m an adult, moved away from home, and living in a new town in Northern NY, far from my old teachers and peers.  I am left on my own with my books, websites, and how-to internet videos.   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, pattern drafting, and all manner of traditional arts. Quilting, weaving, and spinning are skills I would love to learn about, and taking any classes would undoubtedly provide me with an opportunity to perfect my skills under master teachers.            
As stated, I’ve already taken plenty of drawing classes throughout my educational history. I’m definitely not close-minded to taking more!  Should I see a class that focuses on a skill I feel lacking in, I would be inclined to take it.  I believe I already have an understanding for the basics that most introductory classes present, and that I would most benefit from workshops focusing on a certain area such as portraits, figure drawing, or landscaping.  I would also like to learn how to better use the materials.  As with sewing, the Thousand Island Arts Center has offered pertinent classes in the past and I look forward to seeing their updated calendar for possible consideration.

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

I’m hopeful that the art center will update its website and class information soon.  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 such as the Signer Sewing Book by Jessie Hutton and Gladys Cunningham.  It’s old but full of useful information.  I would like to find books on spinning and natural dying.
I am definitely opened to using books to better understand certain drawing techniques.  I think well-illustrated books would be especially helpful with anatomy.  Otherwise I will rely on trial and error to perfect my shading, perspective, and other such skills.

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

I already have many 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 have various sized crochet hooks and knitting needles.  I like to buy fabric and thread 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. 

Some more sustainable and affordable materials have crossed my radar recently. I've noticed more felt made of recycled plastic for example. There are also some recycled buttons. I've found a few skeins of organic/bamboo yarn.

Luckily, as long as I can find thread and keep my needles straight, I will be able to sew. There are always scraps around.  Plastic bags can be turned into “plarn” for knitting or crochet. 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.
I am lucky to have a couple craft stores in the nearby city of Watertown, NY, one of which has a plethora of drawing materials.  In addition, the city of Syracuse, NY, which is about an hour and a half away from my home, has an amazing art supply store with even more materials.  There are plenty of graphite and charcoal pencils, watercolor pencils, and inks for my use.  The art store in Syracuse has an amazing selection of canvases and specialty paper should I ever feel so inclined.

I recently purchased some watercolor pencils and noticed that some brands guarantee that the wood did not come from rain forests.  I favor those brands as deforestation is a very real problem and I want to do all in my power not to contribute to it.  I am not aware of where the pigment comes from, but this is something I would love to learn more about.  I know that some drawing paper is recycled and I would prefer to purchase this should I find it.

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 who also has a degree in art. My mother and father are both talented and are my original sewing teachers. My aunt used to make her own clothing. My husband also studied some art in school.  Although he focused on photography, he has a keen eye for detail and notices when things don’t seem quite right.  In addition, my sister, Sara, her fiancé, Trevor, and my grandmother are all artistic.  My sister and her fiancé majored in art and are rarely seen without a sketchpad.  Sara focuses on interior designs and Trevor’s interest is character design.  My grandmother, though mostly a painter, always starts with a sketch.  These people will be the first I turn to for suggestions and help.  If that fails, 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.  I also have my eye on local colleges as many have non-credit classes open to the community and there have been quilting or fiber arts classes offered before.

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 as well as encouragement. I am always open to advice and help.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Relaxed Spring Ritual

I am so blessed to have a husband who is willing to have rituals with me despite his lack of religion.  There are even days, like today, where I feel "out of it" and it's him encouraging me to do the things I value so highly.  I've been feeling congested all day as well as kind of depressed.  I knew I wanted to acknowledge the new season in some way but felt blase about it at the same time.  Hubby kept asking and asking so I finally decided that we would do a very laid back ritual closer to my longer devotionals.

Hubby said he enjoyed it.   He helped out by making a couple offerings and drawing the cards for the omen, even helping me interpreting their meaning for our lives.  To me, it was such a bonding activity.

We honored a being I've been calling "Forest."  I see her as the guardian spirit of NY.  I don't really know her real name so just call her that because that is where I feel her strongest.  There is a wildness about her and yet a tameness - much of it imprinted on her by us, but she nourishes us through the fertile, tilled fields where thick trees once stood.  She's the localized Earth Mother who is waking up after a winter nap.

The omen we received was similar to what I got in my last ritual, and yet hubby felt there were other meanings too, which made a lot of sense.  The kindreds are calling us outside, to travel to our tribe, to dive into our different projects, and to not worry so much.

That last bit is something I need to work on...  Really, it's probably the crux of my personality flaws.  I worry too much about what I need to do, whether or not I'm good at something, whether or not I'm attractive, etc...  I need to just stop and be.  It's these things that are acting as hurdles to my spiritual development.  My mind is sometimes far too busy and it needs to relax.

Oh, my aching gluts!

I must say...  All that reiki healing yesterday gave me such an ache in my bum.  Too much gassho while kneeling and slouching over bodies laying on the floor...  I think my gluteus maximus needs some healing.

Spring and Reiki

Happy spring!

Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox and I went down to Utica for a reiki workshop led by friend and reiki master Imagickat.  This was her first class on reiki and the first time she's given attunements.  I must admit, before the class I knew very little about reiki.  She's given me reiki treatments before and they always really helped.  They make me feel at peace, like massage but in a different way.  This will sound strange, but I love to be touched.  Not in a sexual way - but spiritually.  It's warming and comforting.  

Back to what I was saying.  I've been largely ignorant about reiki.  It's something I knew existed and, like I said, even experienced from time to time.  For whatever reason I never bothered to read about it.  This is mostly because I have so many other interests that it never dawned on me.  I always (wrongly) assumed it was derived from Shinto  practices in Japan.  I didn't think it would be appropriate for me to dapple with.  However, I learned that it's adaptable to any spiritual practice and that it was even brought to America (by the Japanese) and changed so as to be better understood by Westerners.  It's also incredibly modern, the practice only having been founded in 1922 by Mikao Usui.  

Learning this put me at ease.  Originally, I felt inclined to attend the workshop because I wanted to learn more about using and sensing energy.  I wasn't sure if I would actually want to go further than learn, but in the end I'm glad I did.  The attunement wasn't orgasmic, but I definitely felt something.  I'm much better able to sense energy within myself at the moment, but practicing yesterday enabled me to better sense it in others.  I was practiced on so much yesterday that my sinuses cleared for a whole day.  I later practiced on willing family members who said they felt at peace, that headaches vanished, and that they felt something sucked out.  I sensed a weird energy in my mum's knees and she said they've been bothering her recently.  It's all very interesting.  

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the ritual at Muin Mound in Syracuse.  I was feeling ill yesterday morning and felt that I shouldn't go after an already busy afternoon (especially considering the necessary and long drive home afterwards).  I missed it but it was wonderful to see my old Pagan friends in Utica.  I'm hoping to do a Druidic ritual with my husband later.

I hope everyone has a blessed celebration of spring!  Just ignore the snow we had this morning.  ;)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Sketch*

I did this yesterday after work.  I wanted to sit outside on the patio and sketch something, deciding on a fallen oak leaf.  I borrowed a stone from my "fairy pot" to keep the wind from blowing it away.  I had a lot of fun with this drawing and am really proud of how it turned out.  The sun was setting when I drew it which created some really great shadow effects.  Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to make that shadow behind the leaf, the sun had dipped behind the trees so I had to guess.  I much prefer drawing leaves to teacups and Xbox controllers!

* For my lj friends:

What's New in the North Country?

Study Programs

My progress is slow.  I'm waiting for my books on magic in Northern Europe to arrive.  I cannot wait to attack them!  As far as the art SP is concerned,  I have to combine my working outlines into one document.  I was going to do laundry today but I think I'll do that instead!  Last night I finished my book about Brighid and, oh my goodness, I learned so much.  A full review will come soon.  I promise.

Where were you when I needed you?!

The "former" MVPN forums* have a new member - a person who just moved from the "North Country" (not sure from where, exactly) to Utica.  Not only that, but she and her husband have recently become interested in Druidism!  When I was in Utica trying to start a protogrove, where were the other Druids?  Now I'm up here, and they move to Utica.  Bugger all!

Unfortunately for them, although the MVPN forums are still an open, networking space, the group no longer exists as it was.  The Wiccans are having more intimate gatherings at their homes and have every intent to focus more on their liturgy for the sake of personal development.  I hope the new Druid sees my reply in which I encourage her to check out ADF and Muin Mound in particular.  I hope to see her there!  

Sad News

I discovered a couple nights ago that my "oath ring" was not on my finger. That's right, the ring that belonged to my mother.  The one I used to replace to broken ring.  I'm officially bummed.  That ring was important on so many levels.  I've looked everywhere...  I know it's not tragic and that there are people with way worse problems, but I'm allowed to feel sad about it.

On the plus side, I felt driven to sit down and *really* meditate before bed.  I was having a difficult time getting into it for a little while.  As soon as I entered my "mental nemeton," I found my fox spirit waiting for me.  I've been seeing and hearing about foxes everywhere recently so I wasn't surprised to see her there.  She lead me through the forest and over a hill to a lake where she told me to bathe.  I washed and somehow felt better but also felt the desire to cleanse myself in a physical lake.  I also felt an overwhelming validation that the ring was not my spirituality - it was merely a symbol of it.

Hmmm...  I should do a reading.  I definitely feel that there are lessons to be learned from this, but I would like to hear what the Kindreds have to say about it.

* I say "former" because, although we have decided to change the name, the boards are still called The Mohawk Valley Pagan Network.  I'm really pushing for a name change and for the group to become a networking site for all of Upstate NY.  For more on this, please see my post "On the Vital Importance of Pagan Community."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's that time of year again!

When I was a jaded high schooler, newly converted from Catholicism to "Wicca,"*  I didn't have a good understanding of ancient or medieval history.  I knew quite a bit about American history thanks to years and years of emphasis in school, but otherwise...  I knew a bit about feudalism, I knew that the Egyptians were some sort of polytheists who built the pyramids and believed in an afterlife, and I had a vague idea that the Druids were from Ireland.  For years after, even into my earliest Druidic studies, I was convinced that St. Patrick's Day was a crappy holiday because it celebrated how mean old St. Patrick kicked the Druids (aka The Snakes) out of Ireland.

Fast forward to the last ... oh, year and a half.  My interest in Druidism has grown so that it's an incredibly important part of my life.  I read about it a lot.  Inspired by Celtic Reconstructionist methodologies, I read history book after history book, even the dry ones, to obtain a greater understanding of my ancestors and the culture I feel most inspired by.  It is impossible for me to wag my finger at St. Patrick after reading as much as I have.  I'm not alone in this revelation.  Several Pagan bloggers have been discussing their feelings and understandings of the holiday.  To make a long story short, St. Patrick has been framed.  He's a scapegoat among the Pagan community - a largely innocent Christian victim to our community's "Waaaa, you stole my toy!" attitude.**

In other words, I have less of a "bah humbug" attitude about St. Patrick's Day.  A couple years ago, a friend of mine (I swear, I think it was one of my sister-in-laws), who is neither Pagan nor Christian, told me that she prefers to celebrate St. Patrick's day in the spirit of her Irish ancestry.  I've come to feel similarly, especially when considering what my immigrant ancestors went through.  I come from a proud, strong, spiritual, creative, and tenacious people.  I am honored to have Irish blood flowing through my veins.

That said, St. Patrick's Day cannot escape my criticism entirely.  Although I don't get very "into" St. Patrick's Day,***  I'm not against celebrating my culture.  I also recognize that many minority groups join in because the Irish are, more or less, a success story in America.  Although they were persecuted and abused, they climbed the social ladder and many of us are successful and happy today thanks to their efforts****.  However, the celebration is just way, way too commercial.  There are too many crappy, plastic trinkets that end up in garbage limbo, too many styrofoam shamrocks, too many greasy attempts at Irish food, and too much ignorant debauchery.  I use such language because it's true!  I love a good drink and a reason to party, but on St. Patrick's Day, at least I know what the hell I'm celebrating.  It's unfortunate how many Irish wannabes and, even worse, Irish descendants haven't a clue what their ancestors went through.  Worse yet, most don't care.  They just like the excuse to drink.  The only reason St. Patrick's Day continues to thrive is, in my opinion, because of its association to booze.  Why do you think St. Joseph's Day isn't a big deal in the States?  Why is Cinco de Mayo a hit  but Chinese New Year isn't?  It's the booze.  The ignorant masses just want to drink.  Any excuse.  If you asked them what they were celebrating and why, I bet they wouldn't be able to explain.  Bah humbug to that!

So roll on my Irish loving friends!  Have a fun (responsible) time but remember what the day is about.  Sláinte!

*I put Wicca in quotations because I'm coming to the conclusion that, while I read about it and attempted to practice Wiccan liturgy, I wasn't really a Wiccan.  This has nothing to do with initiation or anything.  I simply wasn't living a Wiccan life.  I called myself one, but I was more akin to a Catholic who rarely prays and only goes to church on Easter.  I should expand on this in a future entry...

**It's obviously more complicated than this.  There are other stories the Patrick myth has grown out of, and people do love to perpetuate falsities or hyperboles.

*** It's still a Catholic holiday and has a history of solemnity in Ireland.  I'm not Catholic, don't care to celebrate the St. much, and prefer to let Catholics do their thing in peace.

**** Before anyone points this out, yes I'm aware this was facilitated by skin color.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Walking in a Springtime Wonderland

The weather up here in Northern NY is amazing.  I can actually go outside without a coat in the afternoon and early evening.  It's especially amazing when you consider the frost we had this morning.  I'm definitely not putting any plants out yet!

After work I convinced my husband to take a walk with me in the nearby forest.  The last time we tried the ground was too soggy.  There are still over-saturated sections, but there are ways around them.  It's difficult avoiding getting into the forest and this creates a physical boundary between "this world" and "the other world."

The more I explore this new forest, the more comfortable I become there.  I'm slowly learning the landmarks and enjoy studying them.  There's a beautiful small boulder covered in bluish lichen and green moss.  It looks like a tiny Earth.  There's also a small rocky hill.  That's one neat feature of the forests here.  Although there were a few large stones behind my parents' house, they were few and far between.  This forest is almost as rocky as the mountainous Adirondack forests, only the land is significantly flatter.  It's interesting.

After a few minutes in the forest, I found myself wishing I had something to offer the spirits of the place.  I've been meaning to make peace with them.  I must remember to do that soon.  The best offering I can see myself making at this moment is an afternoon spent picking up the copious amounts of litter.  There is so much garbage there.  Some of it probably blew in from the development.  The rest was undoubtedly dragged up there by environmentally ignorant people.  There seem to be a lot of those in this neighborhood.  I actually shooed (in a gentle, polite way) a child off my lawn the other day.  She was ripping a branch off the young tree in front of our apartment.  Who does that?  I mean, for one, it angers me that anyone would unceremoniously rip - not cut but RIP - a branch from a tree.  In addition it's on my small patch of lawn in front of my apartment!  If you're going to be so disrespectful to nature, at least don't trespass while you're doing it!

But I digress.  This weekend I'm attending a reiki workshop in Utica followed by celebrating the Spring Equinox in Syracuse.  I think next week would be a good time to start picking up the litter.

I'd also like to do some sketching next time.  There were some lovely mushrooms.  I actually sketched a mushroom last night, only it's based purely on fantasy.*


* For my lj friends:

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Game Plan

As you saw in my last post, I'm working diligently on the Artisan Guild study program.  I want to get into the Initiate Study Program as well and was suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the possibilities.  Kirk gave me some perspective that really helped.  I need to find a balance between the practical/experimental and the academic.  This goes for my art studies as well since I'm doing them at the same time.

I was thinking of doing Divination 1 for the ISP.  I may yet start the research components of it, but I don't want to start the journal until I've created a new set of ogham and I'm planning to do that as part of my Artisan Guild study program.  So here's what I'm thinking (bear with me if this seems complicated - it makes sense to me!):

1) Submit my working outlines to the Art Guild preceptor.
2) Use some online drawing tutorials to refamiliarize myself with perspective, scale, shading, etc...
3) Continue sketching and, eventually, create the necessary pieces for my portfolio.
4) By then I can start "Technical Competence" requirement 3 - "Single Ritual Piece," aka my new and improved ogham.
5) Then I can use the ogham to practice divination for Divination 1.

In the meantime!

1) Start Magic 1.  I just ordered a few books to help me complete this portion:

I'm really excited to dig into these!  

2) By the time I finish Magic 1, I'll be able to do Magic 2 and overlap the journaling with Trance 1.
3) Hopefully, after all the above work, I'll be able to start my divination journal at this time.  
4) Throughout all of this I'll be studying Irish, working towards the goals outlined in Indo-European Language 1.

So, yeah.  I have a *lot* of work ahead of me.  How exciting!  Seriously, I love this sort of stuff.  (Yes, I miss college already!)

Sketchy sketches

I don't know if it was the sudden decrease in temperature, the rain, my inability to sleep last night, a combination, or something else entirely, but I felt like crap this morning.

Anyway.  I think I've finished my working outlines as required by the Artisan Guild study program.  I want to give them another read before I send them in tonight.  I hope they're acceptable.  I've decided to focus on drawing as my second medium.  My explanation is in my drawing outline which I will post once I'm happy with it.  Anyway, I've been drawing on and off for years.  It's been awhile so I'm really rusty.  Here's what I've been toying with. *  Excuse the fact that they are web cam photos rather than scans.  I couldn't be bothered to get the scanner connected to my computer for these. **

This is my teacup from yesterday morning's breakfast.  I did some shading today after I realized, to my horror, that I put the cup in the sink before I was finished with the lighting.  So...  it's a little wonky and you can tell I've not been shading for a long time.  My husband (bless his honesty) pointed out that the proportions and/or the perspective is a little off.  I knew there was something off but it took a second pair of eyes to really help me figure out what it was.

Here's my husband's Xbox controller.  This was challenging because of all the curves.  I don't think I've ever drawn anything like it so it was a fun practice.  Again, things don't seem quite right but I'm still proud of what I was able to accomplish!

* Please don't laugh.  I'm getting back into the groove of a hobby I was never very good at to begin with! :P

**  Again, for my lj friends:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Things in the North Country

Oh!  A couple things I wanted to mention before bed.

First off, Watertown is getting a sushi and hibachi restaurant!  Woo!  I have no idea when it's opening but the thought of a more diverse cuisine up here is worth celebrating!

Second, there's apparently going to be a psychic fair in Clayton, NY (40 minutes away from my current home) in the Clayton Opera House on the 24th and 25th of April.  There isn't a lot of information on it at the moment, but I'll try to keep abreast of the situation.  I don't know if I'll go or not, but it seemed pertinent to the Pagan community.

Have a goodnight and a lovely Monday!

Ignore This.

I'm fiddling with some settings.
Happy Sunday, readers!  Did you remember to spring forward?

North Country Goes Green

I wanted to start off by apologizing if I sounded *really* negative about the Watertown Irish Festival.  It really wasn't that bad.  I was mostly annoyed by the difficulty we had finding parking and how crowded the building was.  I tried to say this last night, but I must have been too tired to finish the thought.  (Wow that really reflects well on my blogging, doesn't it?!)  Utica, as I was saying, has their Irish Festival on some fairgrounds which offer ample space for vendors, performances, and various cultural activities.  There's also a lot of parking.  I understand that Watertown wants to have the event closer to St. Patrick's Day, but that means it's cold, possibly raining, and probably muddy out.  Utica waits until around Lughnasadh, the traditional gathering of the Celtic tribes.  This means it's usually pretty comfortable out and the fairgrounds make sense.  So...  either Watertown should plan their festival later in the year or find a larger building with better parking.   Otherwise, do go!  If you're a proud Irish descendant, it's always fun to celebrate your heritage, and the money is going to a good cause - Project Children, an organization that aims to promote peace between Protestant and Catholic Ireland.

So, back to my regularly scheduled blogging*.

Art Guild and Initiate Study Programs

As you know, I'm working on the above study programs.  I've only just dipped my big toe in.  I'm starting to sketch again.  I'm thinking of making drawing my second medium.  My friend Parallax encouraged me to look to something less three dimensional.  A lot of the sewing I do, dolls and costumes, a lot like sculpting.  While I still want to learn more about sculpting with materials such as porcelain, furthering my drawing skills could be very helpful in the design aspect of sewing.  I studied drawing in high school and college but, unfortunately, a lot of my previous work has gone missing.  It's the unfortunate side of frequently moving.  I found some of my old supplies and have started to study things and sketch them.  Last night my husband's Xbox controller graciously modeled for me.  This morning I started to sketch my tea cup.

As far as sewing goes, I've been busying myself this morning by taking apart old garments that don't fit or are worn out.  I'm going to repurpose the fabric in some other sewing projects eventually.

The book I've been reading, The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint, has given me a lot of ideas for my essay on her relationship to the arts.  I've learned a lot already, especially in regards to the folk practices that existed throughout Celtic countries.  I'm also inspired to learn more about Irish textiles.  I know they used linen and wool most of the time.  I've been researching their clothing and it's really fascinating.

In regards to the Initiate Study Program, I'm trying to figure out where to start.  It's kind of daunting when you get right down to it!  At the very least, I want to get back into a more regular meditation routine.  As I was telling my mentee, I have an on-again-off-again relationship with meditation.  I feel that it's vitally important to my health and spiritual relationship to the kindreds, but my dedication comes and goes in waves, usually interrupting by my stress and energy levels.  Learning how to get past that so that my meditation is just as uninterrupted as my daily devotional: that is my goal for the ISP.  I need to develop some sort of schedule.

ADF Store

In other news, the ADF store, despite the message on the home page, is once more opened for business! They have a large assortment of publications, jewelry, and clothing.  I'm thinking about getting a hoodie.  I've heard that Wellspring is cold at night, and I could use a nice warm sweatshirt.

* Actually, my blogging is not scheduled.  It's sporadic and seems more frequent on the weekends.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Watertown Irish Festival

My husband and I went to the Irish Festival in Watertown this afternoon.  I went to it with low expectations thanks to what other people had told me and, even though it wasn't quite as bad as they made it seem, it wasn't as good as the Great American Irish Festival near Utica.

I'll start with the good.  I got to see Merry Mischief perform and I really enjoyed seeing them.  They're a favorite pair of minstrels that frequent the Sterling Renaissance Festival and have been to a few Pagan festivals as well.  I love a good Irish ditty, and its even better when there are Pagan themes snuck in!  I also enjoyed seeing the local Irish step dancers (I should try that sometime...) and listening to new Irish bands.  There were a few vendors and it's always nice to see Pagan wares - tarot, ogham sticks, fairy statues, etc...  It was fun to get out and go to an event in my new home city.

That said, there was a lot to be desired from something in its 25th year.  The location was crowded and it was really, really hard to find a parking place.  GAIF, near Utica, has its Irish fest on fair grounds, meaning there's ample parking and plenty of room.  I understand that Watertown probably wants their festivities close to St. Patrick's Day, but Utica has theirs near Lughnasadh, the traditional gathering of the tribes in Ireland.  There are more cultural activities at the Utica event, including language lessons, Irish dog breed exhibits, dance lessons, and even an Irish mass.

Really, I think I would have liked it better were it in a more convenient location.  The building was just too small.  The main stage, on the 11th floor, felt so claustrophobic that we decided not to stay for the main act.  Will I go next year?  Maybe.  It's okay for a few hours and, like I said, it's always fun to get out and do *something*.  I hope there are improvements in the future.

No religious expression by students in school?

The story about Guthrie Center's industrial arts teacher, Dale Halferty, and his refusal to allow a student to make a Wiccan altar in shop class is really irking me.  I wholeheartedly agree that a teacher should not promote his or her religion in school, but that students have every right to express their religion in nonviolent ways.  They should be allowed to write about loving Jesus at Christmas time, to wear head scarves, and to construct small Wiccan altars at shop class if all the students are given free reign to create something useful.  In my professional opinion, school is the first place where children are introduced to other ways of being.  It should be a safe place for self-expression and the exploration of diversity.  I wonder what would have happened in my old school district  had I tried to do something like that.  Oh wait, I did!  In web design, I made a website about tarot cards.  In 11th grade English class, I did a presentation on the tools of modern witches to go along with our exploration of The Crucible.  My senior project was about Runes.  Any teacher that became aware of my beliefs was respectful and even interested in it.  I'm glad to hear that the superintendent for this other school, Steve Smith, is supporting the Wiccan student's right to religious expression.

Halferty's argument, that if Christians can't express themselves, Wiccans shouldn't, is bogus.  Most schools I know of allow Christian students to form after school bible study groups, to pray around the flag before school starts, and to wear crosses.  They even have that "under God" statement that remains in our Pledge of Allegiance!  Give me a break.

When I was in shop class, back in 7th or 8th grade, the big project was to make an analogue clock.  We all got to choose a face for our clock out of a catalogue.  Were there crosses?  Oh you betcha.  Were there pentacles, triquetras, Thor hammers, Brighid crosses, Stars of David, Buddha's hands, script from the Koran, or any other religious symbol?  Of course not.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I wanted to share a couple photos with you*. The first is of my in-progress traveling altar.

It's made from a small wooden box purchased at a craft store.  I painted it with two coats of dark green.  It probably could have used more but live and learn.  I like my little amateur triple spiral on the top.  :D  I have yet to work on filling it with anything, but I'm hopeful to finish it by next weekend.  I'm supposed to be in Utica for a reiki workshop and will be staying over night with my parents.  I hate being away from my altar during such visits.  I feel less than pious.  I'm planning to put two candles in it - one to represent the fire and one for keeping Brighid's flame should I be away from home on such a night.  I'm considering using an LED candle for that in case I'm in a hotel.  Lighting a tea light for a quick devotional is one thing, but leaving it on for several hours is quite another.  I was hopeful that my husband would draw me a picture of a tree but, alas, he has been distracted by video games.  I'll have to think of something else.  I would also like to find something to represent the well and an offering bowl (a tiny one).  Maybe even a vial of salt and oil?  Oh and matches.  Can't forget the matches!

The second photo is the most recent shot of my altar.

Everything is pretty much the same as the last photo except that, instead of my fairy wand acting as the tree, I finally hung the tree tapestry my husband gave me.  Isn't it lovely?  I think it makes my altar. There are still changes I would like to make.  For example, I could really use a better storage system below.  I'm also not keen on keeping my matches on top but, due to the mess below, it is the most convenient place to keep them for the time being.  I also need a dish to put under my three-wick candle.  Once it shrinks, my altar will be in greater danger of burning down without one!

Other things on my alar that I love-

My sister designed a print of the prayer I say every morning and evening.  It's framed below my tree.  The harp represents An Dagda.  The doll is Brighid.  (I'm planning to make another at some point.)  The cauldron is from my brother-in-law (to be).  The wooden carving of the horned man is something my husband made.  The rock is from the mountain he proposed to me on.  The little cauldron holding my matches (by Brighid) is from my mother's toy stove.  The little white statue under Brighid was made by my sister-in-law.  My offering bowl (absent from the photo) was given to me by an old Pagan friend, Bruce.  Lots of beloved mementos make up my shrine. :)

* For my lj friends:

Spring is Coming

I heard geese today!  That's a sure sign of spring!

It feels so comfortable outside.  I love these transitionary moments.  I can feel the energy and the potential in the air.  Things are stirring.  Life is stirring.

In other news, I finally attended a CUUPS meeting.  It was held in the Watertown UU (Huge, lovely building, by the way.  I was surprised at how large it was!).  My husband came because I was nervous about meeting new people - Pagans in particular.  You see, as much as I love my religious community, it can't be denied that we attract some folks with questionable stability and, sometimes, morality.  I was delighted to find a group of inviting, intelligent, sane people.  Really, I've only had a couple of freaky experiences - both relatively minor to others I've heard of.  But still.  It doesn't hurt to play it safe, especially as a woman in an area full of testosterone, economic uncertainty, and a pool of people potentially dealing with PTSD.

Anyway, first impressions are everything and, as I said, these seemed like good people.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and prepare for the Spring Equinox.  I was a little put off by the use of an Edain McCoy book, but otherwise the research was pretty spot on to a lot of history books I've read.  Of course there was the usual duotheistic slant I've come to expect from most eclectic groups, but I am fine with that so long as they understand (or try to understand) the cultures from whence the holidays came.  I was even more impressed that the group was attempting to have a casual ritual open to people of all paths.  There will be no calling of quarters, no main deity called, no offerings given, etc.  Basically, the point of the ritual is to welcome spring and raise some energy that will be put back into the Earth.  Following that there is to be a potluck.  I offered to bring quiche.

I am looking forward to the ritual but also have some minor trepidations with the group.  Again, it is not their personalities or anything of the sort.  I think, more than anything, I feel really new but also really experienced.  The two women doing most of the talking have been Pagans longer than me, and that's awesome.  But everyone else seems really new and quiet.  I felt that I had a lot to say but was really reluctant to open my mouth for fear of overstepping boundaries.  I'm also uncertain as to their true feelings about ADF.  I was impressed that they knew about it, Muin Mound, and some of our beliefs.  They said they had done some ADF rituals in the past but I got the feeling they really weren't keen on them.  Something about being too complicated (they're long but logical, in my opinion).  They're not for everyone, but I definitely get something out of them and I would hate to work with people who turn their noses down on my tradition.  I guess I'll just see how things go next time and consider whether or not I go back... It's hard being the newbie.  I'm uncertain how they see me and what they really think.

You see, I'm struggling with wanting to find a local community and friends that I can feel safe with, and feeling like I already have too much going on.  Whenever I participate in ADF chats or attend Muin Mound, I feel really fulfilled.  I like being on a similar wavelength to others, and it's not like I've severed ties with my eclectic Pagan friends in Utica. I just...  I don't know.  I'm lonely but then I'm not.  Growing pains, I suppose. I guess I'll just see what happens!  At the very least, I would like to give the CUUPS a chance and maintain a positive relationship with them.