Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My spirit really wants to take a walk in the woods but my body is very much against it.  For starters, I had a long and wearisome work day.  Second, and most influential - it's dreadfully hot today.

I think it will be a good night for trance.  Maybe.  *crosses fingers*

It is also a good night to work on study programs and catch up with my mentoring and reviewing...

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On the Evolution of Magic

I've been reading Magic in the Ancient World  by Fritz Graf.  While I'm not even halfway through, I'm learning a lot about magic in the Mediterranean world.  The concept changed throughout history, but there was always this concept of the "other" - the enemy or the outsiders - practicing malevolent magic.  Unless I am way off base, it seems that beneficial magic (like healing) was hardly considered magic at all because, for some time, magic was considered a practice apart from the official religion - and healing was endorsed (this became complicated when healing magic was differentiated from medical science). People who attempted to control the will of the Gods were argued to be atheists by some because they questioned the power of the Gods.  It's interesting how concepts change throughout time.

I'm not sure what to assume about the Celts in their many tribes.  We know the Druids and the common folk practiced magic of varying degrees, and yet there is still the concept of the horrible witch - the other apart from the Druid.  She (or he, I suppose) practiced wicked spells and was feared (but usually bested in the end).  Was this a carryover from Christian fear, another way to view deities of death and decay, or did the Celts categorize magic as good and bad; endorsed and prohibited?

Some people have this idea that the witch of ancient times was really once a respected wise woman or man.  That is true for some periods, but not all.  And the witches in the stories are not healers - they are quite the opposite!  Many in our communities today would also ostracize and perhaps even persecute someone who practiced magic for immoral reasons such as stealing another's property.  Thankfully, it seems most Pagans do not aim for such roles.  A normal person detests the wicked witches in the lore - lore that may be propaganda against the innocent practitioners of folk magic from an older, once endorsed religion.

When we look back at magic and how it has been perceived through the years, it is complicated and depends on the time and the place.  It also depends on who you talk to.  Magical history is not so cut and dry as some would have us believe.

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mmm...essential oils...

Today, Weretoad and I went to a craft show in Clayton sponsored by the Thousand Islands Art Center.  It was exquisite with high quality artisan crafts; probably the most diverse and interesting craft show I've ever seen - along with Utica's Indie Garage Sale.  Weretoad bought me a stained glass triquetra.  I bought tea tree and fir essential oils and a foot scrubber from Harmony All Natural Soaps and Oils.  I'm running low on oils lately.  I like to use them as offerings to spirits and for certain magical workings.  I very nearly bought juniper berry oil as Northern Europeans burned juniper as incense and I've found it to be very effective in my rites.  I decided to go with fir needle instead because I recently made (and have been using) juniper smudge sticks and I've never had fir oil before.  I rather like it and think it will be excellent for working with local nature spirits.

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Crafty Goodness

 Here's my first attempt at an amigarumi Earth Mother/fertility Goddess.  I used blue and green yarn to represent earth and sea.  In retrospect I wish I had finished with a darker blue - then it could have been from the top down sky, earth, and sea - the sacred realms of Druidism.  The Autumn Equinox is coming up and I'm thinking of making one in harvest colors for a sacrifice.

And finally, what you've all been waiting for - another tree spirit!  Here she is - a lovely little apple tree.  She was made with recycled felt and stuffing.  Her eyes are plastic beads but the apples are red stones.  She has a wire armature and is definitely not for children.  Weretoad claims that she looks more mature than the first tree I made.  I'll have to photograph them together sometime and get opinions on that!

I'm already working on a third tree.  I emailed Skip today about ADF consignment and whether or not he needs any help getting things on the site because I'd really love to sell these guys through ADF.  I'm planning to make a simpler and more complicated variation so I can vary the price a bit.

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gifts from the Nature Spirits

I took an overdue walk in the forest today.  My bronchitis and some severe rain kept me inside for a week or so.  I couldn't resist the pull any longer.  It was raining a bit today, but not enough to soak me to the bone and obscure my vision.  It was rather atmospheric actually.  In the forest, the rain hardly got through the leaves. It was like a percussive mist.

I gave an offering to the local spirits and spoke a bit to them.  I apologized for being away so long and declared how much I longed to visit.  From that moment it was one gift/lesson after another.  It started with the discovery of tiny bones near the shrine.  At first I thought they were from a bird because they looked so light.  Many of them were cracked, but some were still attached to their hinges.  I moved a tiny bone in its socket and thought of my own body.  I followed the trail, and eventually found the skull at left.  It was some sort of rodent but I'm not sure what kind.  Perhaps a chipmunk?  I thanked the spirit of the animal, for the discovery reminded me just how fragile life is.  I left the remaining bones for the mice and others to enjoy.

I found a few other things - some quartz fragments, a lovely white stone, orange jelly fungi, more jewelweed...  I even got to see a flash of deer leaping through the woods!

And then I found the specimen at right: the skull of a small carnivore, perhaps a fox.  I just happened upon it - a branch running through one of the eye sockets.  The rest of the body was nowhere to be found save the left canine tooth.  "What are you?" I asked aloud.  "How did you get here?  Where is the rest of you?  ...How did you die?"  What a mystery life is.  These creatures had lives and then suddenly - death and decay.  The trees themselves know the secret to this creature's death but they will never give up the story.

I delighted in finding these skulls and took great care in gathering them.  I feel I was very respectful.  I must seem like a strange vegetarian collecting animal skulls, but I gathered them out of reverence and a desire to learn from them.  I'm bleaching them at the moment.  They will undoubtedly end up on an altar dedicated to the nature spirits.  

As my entry from earlier indicates, I do feel the absence of a strong human teacher in my life, but I am very lucky to be forming a closer bond with the Nature Spirits.  For a Druid, witch, or shaman, nature is the best if not only real teacher.

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

I wish I wish...

I had a wonderful experience in the forest earlier, and I will blog about that later - but for now I want to talk about something else.

For me, ADF satisfies three very important things - my desire to worship using reconstructionist models, my desire to be creative, and community.  I love these aspects of ADF and it's why I feel at home there.

But there are times where I find myself wanting more...  And I guess when I say more, I mean more community in the here and now.  I wish the grove was closer and I wish we met more often than on high days.  I know this would be terribly demanding in reality, but there are times when I feel like I could really benefit from a more hands-on teacher.  I read about traditional witches with their apprentices or very close-knit CR groups that practice trance, divination, and other folk magic together.  I try to do these things on my own but I so often feel like I'm afloat in a great big sea.  I have had significant trance experiences, including moments where Gods or a spirit guide help me out, but they are rare.  Often it is only myself.  In some ways, I suppose this is empowering.  I can forge my own paths without bending to the will of an elder, but that's very easy for a young whippersnapper like myself to rationalize.  I know I could gain much from an elder, but few seem spiritually/emotionally/physically available, especially when it comes to CR or CR oriented Druidism.

Anyway, these were just thoughts rolling around my head this afternoon.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on the Esbat and Some Shopping

Today I attended an Esbat - the first in a couple years, I think.  It was put on by the local CUUPs chapter.  There weren't as many people there as there were last time, but still some familiar and new faces.  The ritual was very Wiccan, which isn't a problem, of course, but I've not been to anything like that since leaving Utica.  I wasn't exactly sure what to expect and the ritual wasn't briefed very well beforehand so there were some awkward moments.  We did get some energy flowing, which was fun.  We made some holy water for spells and consecrations which will be nice to have.  The ritual leader never lead us through a grounding which I believe helped trigger a headache.  I did some grounding when I returned home which helped. So...  all in all, pros and cons to the ritual.  I really liked getting to know people, working with others towards a magical goal, and seeing new ways of doing things, but I think they could plan it better.  In their defense, they did admit that they hadn't really planned well to begin with!  I do intend to keep going for now.  There was some good energy and the fellowship is nice.  

I also did some shopping today.  I bought some clothes, some art supplies to make more tree spirits, and the latest edition of Witches and Pagans.  I have a lot to keep me busy!

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

What have I been up to recently?

Besides reading, surfing the internet, and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

I harvested a few herbs, labeled them, and hung them in the art and ritual room.

I've slowly been carving a staff.

I experimented and made a baby griffin.  Here is the front.
Here is the back of the baby griffin.  There are some kinks in the pattern I made that I need to work out - mostly in regards to the beak, but I'd also like to change the paws a bit...

A tree spirit.  I'm in love with him and am planning to make more.

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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Toads

Toads are really fascinating, marvelous creatures.  I don't say that merely because of my husband's nickname, but because I've always felt that.  Finding them has always brought me pleasure.  How many wild animals can a child get so close to?  Touch even?  Of course, it always ended with my mother worrying over disease and, occasionally, toad urine.

As I grew, so did my empathy for other creatures.  Having a strange giant handle you, however gently, must be nightmarish to a wee beast.  I no longer physically bother them unless I must.  Seeing them still delights me.

 I've been going outside just about every night.  I don't wander farther than my front lawn, really.  Each night I see at least one toad on the sidewalk.  I love watching them.  They are so awkward looking in some way - like little blobs.  It's funny to think of them as predators.  They aren't svelte like a cat or deadly looking like an eagle, but they pack some speed and power in their tongues.  They are so focused and intent - you can see it when the moon or artificial lighting reflects off their shiny eyes.  Sometimes they sense the vibrations from my feet and hop away, but some of them stand their ground.  Perhaps they are paralyzed by fear from the giant in their midst, or perhaps they are pretending to be a rock: perhaps both or neither.  I whisper comforting thoughts to them and thank them for their presence.

Tonight there were six toads on the sidewalk.  One was very, very small.  He was hunkered down in a crack in the sidewalk.  Another was quite large - a prince or princess among toads.  Tomorrow morning, the whole court will dissolve back into the quiet places.

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poor Plants

Do you ever feel guilty when you accidentally neglect a garden plant?  I forgot to water my container garden yesterday and now my yarrow and one of my basils is very dry...  I feel so, so bad.  A lot of people probably shrug or lament the waste of money.  Me - I feel bad for the loss of life and the waste of food.  I feel bad because I'm not developing a close relationship with the plant spirits.  How did I not see that they needed water yesterday?  How did I forget?  I could blame my feeling under the weather, but not after I was out having fun anyway.

I've been lazy, that is all.  :(

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

A Lovely Day Exploring the St. Lawrence River

I was recently diagnosed with bronchitis and prescribed medication.  I need to be careful with regards to sex and booze, but my doctor told me that I can go out as long as I cover my mouth when I cough.  Weretoad and I had planned for yesterday to be a "date night."  He was going to take me to a bar I wanted to go to, but that probably wouldn't have been a good idea so we did sober activities.

First we had dinner at The Mustard Seed.  As always they made delicious, meat-free meals.  Weretoad let me have some of his ratatouille wrap and I shared some spring rolls with him.  We each had some chili.  We decided to drive to Cape Vincent next just to see what it was like.  This included a detour to Tibbets Point where we saw gorgeous houses, a real light house, a mink cross the road, and the St. Lawrence joining with Lake Ontario.  We witnessed some absolutely beautiful scenery there.  Cape Vincent looks across to a wind farm.  I understand that several residents are unhappy about that, but I find them serene and lovely in their own way*.  I put my feet in the St. Lawrence for a bit and thought of the River Goddess.

Next we drove along the river until we reached Clayton.  They have their farmers' market on Thursdays and I was delighted to catch it.  We purchased some cookies, French bread, banana peppers, carrots, an onion, and a buttercup squash.  We then had some dessert and sat by the river while a band played.
It was kind of funny, actually.  Until I moved out of my parents' house, we used to go to Old Forge, NY almost every Sunday for a concert in the park.  There were usually rock-n-roll bands (which I love) that played a lot of Beatles, Elvis, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, and such.  As the concert in Clayton started with some old fashioned doo-wop, I turned to Weretoad and commented that someday, when we're old, bands will start to play our generation's music in parks for free concerts.  Sure enough, this band played a number from Blink 182, Green Day, and several other contemporary bands.  I was amused, especially with all the older people dancing to "All the Small Things."  Heehee.  I hope I never lose my sense of youth when I'm older.

We ended the evening by watching the sun set along the St. Lawrence, chased by speed boats and slow steamers.  The rose and orange clouds piled up towards Canada, looking like the background of a majestic Thomas Cole painting.  We looked into the waves and I thanked the Kindreds for such a beautiful place and a wonderful day.  Even though our plans changed, we found joy by the life source of Northern NY in the presence of the River Goddess.

*Not to mention my appreciation for alternative energy!

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rolling in Books

A new book arrived for me in the mail today: Magic in the Ancient World by Fritz Graf.  It's recommended reading for Magic 1 in ADF's Initiate Program.  I've read many titles about the history and folklore of magic in Europe - mostly focusing on the north-eastern parts.  This latest book focuses on the Mediterranean world.  All I know about magic from Greece and Rome is the mythological side - the famous witches like Circe and Medea.  I'm excited to delve into it... as soon as I finish Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales by Rees and Rees towards my Indo-European Mythology class.

I've also been reading from my massive art history book every night.  I finished the chapter on the Egyptians a couple nights ago and am about to explore Aegean art.

Aaaaand while doing all of that, I also picked up The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring finally.  I read and immensely enjoyed The Hobbit when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I always meant to read the trilogy...  I'm loving it so far!

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

Living in Northern NY

As of August 6th, Weretoad and I have been residents of Northern NY for a year.  We moved up here from the Mohawk Valley last year.  It's been a bit of a transition.  I've been meaning to write about it.

In many ways, the North Country is similar to the Mohawk Valley.  It's still NY and therefore we witness similar plants and animals.  Each area enjoys productive agricultural areas and lovely rivers and/or canals.  We're a couple hours away from the Utica/Rome area, so I'm not seriously removed from my family and friends.

That said there are differences.  Few people see wild bears in the Mohawk Valley, but they're quite common up here, as are bobcats*.  There have even been lynx and cougar sightings.  This is probably because life up here is more agriculture than in the Mohawk Valley which is heavily urban and suburban except for a few happy exceptions.  The bigger animals haven't been driven out yet.

The rivers in the North Country seem more appreciated.  They are a central part of life here and not just something discussed in 4th grade social studies.  People celebrate our rivers.  Schools incorporate them into their songs.  The St. Lawrence is huge to our tourist industry, and many people who reside in this area enjoy it for sport, beauty, and sustenance.

The urban and suburban centers, while spread apart, have grown on me.  Alexandria Bay is kitschy but the views are beautiful and the swimming area is great on a hot day.  Clayton is one of my favorite places to go.  It seems to be the artistic center of Northern NY with its textile museum, antique boat museum,  studios, galleries, opera house, and art classes.  The view of the St. Lawrence is just as spectacular there.  The dining is also wonderful and vegetarian friendly.

Potsdam, an hour away from us, is a lovely college town full of cafes, international cuisine, boutiques, and access to the Raquette River.  There is art and academia, and it seems very pedestrian friendly.  I wish it were closer so I could live there!

Our city is Watertown.  While smaller than Utica, it seems cleaner and more alive.  There are many shops, restaurants, a huge and ornate library, and a thriving farmers market that is right in the middle of everything on Wednesdays (although parking is hard to find...) and a second, smaller one closer to the community college on Saturdays.

I am finding things to keep me busy outside of work and home.  There are a lot of classes that I would like to take advantage of when I have a little more money - yoga, sustainable/organic gardening, tai chi, weaving, drumming....  I've even found belly dancing classes a few towns away.  The CUUPs chapter is now providing me a place to practice Paganism more regularly with others.  A second New Age shop just opened up here.  The Mustard Seed in Watertown is my vegetarian cafe.  We have an amazing Thai restaurant, a decent Indian restaurant, and now have hibachi!  We are super close to the Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Ottawa, and Montreal.  The military presence originally gave Northern NY a conservative feel, and I'm sure a majority of people here are very conservative, but the area is more diverse than that.    I'm feeling happier here and more at home, and that's even without me waxing poetic about how I have an amazing job with wonderful people!

There are things I miss.  The proximity to my family and friends is one of them.  My parents, especially my father, keep talking about moving up here.  They really like it.  I wish they would.  I miss seeing them as much as I used to.  There are things about Utica I miss as well: the amazing Stanley theater and the art museum mostly.  The Stanley gets Broadway shows and MWPAI has a spectacular collection as well as their affordable film series.  Weretoad and I used to take advantage of that all the time.  We also miss Minar, the Indian Restaurant in Utica.  The place in Watertown isn't bad - it's quite good really - but the environment at Minar was special.  The staff knew us and the decor was warmer feeling.  Utica also had more independent cafes.  I've found some in Clayton, Canton, and Potsdam, but Watertown only seems to have Paneera and the closest thin in my hometown is a Jrek's Sub Shop.

I also miss how close everything was in the Mohawk Valley.  Unless living in the extreme outskirts, it only took 15-20 minutes to get anywhere.  Up here, we have to drive 30 minutes to Watertown, 30 minutes to A Bay, 40 minutes to Clayton, 40 minutes to Canton, 1 hour to Potsdam...  It's annoying and stressful to someone who wants to be more environmentally friendly.  But even if I were to move to Watertown so I could be closer to everything there, I would then be 30 minutes from my job.  I can't win, aside from moving in between - which is what we'd like to do.  But, as the author of F that S says in her latest blog entry, living in the North Country comes with a lot of driving.  Her entry assuaged my inner guilt, reminding me that the little things one does to help the environment do add up.  Thanks for that!

While I'm certainly not close-minded to moving elsewhere down the road, I am finding myself happy here.  I have days or moments when I am annoyed by the driving, but that's really the worst part, and I want to focus on the best parts, of which there are many.

Here's to another year of exploration and growth in the North Country!

* I've not seen either yet, but my place of employment was on lockdown due to a bear once.

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oath Ring

When I performed my oath rite as part of ADF's Dedicant Program, I decided to wear a ring as a sign of my commitment to the Kindreds.  I found a lovely silver spiral ring and used that.  It weakened and broke.  I decided to replace it with a spiraly ring that had belonged to my mother.  I performed a ritual to renew my oath and transfer the energy from the first ring to the next.  Life goes on.

Today I discovered that the ring from my mother, my second oath ring, is starting to break.  This saddens me because it is doubly special.  I have decided to take it off in an effort to preserve it as I love having a trinket from my mum's girlhood.

I am now seeking a more solid oath ring.

I like this "I am of Ireland" ring but I'm not sure if it's the most appropriate.  I am very proud of my Irish heritage, but I've never even been there...  To say I am of it...  I don't know...

I also like these Druidic triad rings but I can't seem to choose just one and I'm not sure about wearing three rings at once.  Two on one finger seems like enough!  lol

In the end I'll probably go with a nice spiral or Celtic knot.  It seems to be what I love most.

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CUUPs - Take Two

Last Tuesday I gave the local CUUPs chapter another chance.  I stopped going after my first visit because 1) I was ill for their next meeting, 2) scheduling with Weretoad complicated travel and 3) I was honestly unimpressed with the meeting.  They spent most of it discussing the food to serve - an activity better relegated to a sign-up sheet or an online forum.  I was disgruntled and returned to my solitary den, emerging only to celebrate with Muin Mound in Syracuse.

I decided that I had enough of being so alone.  I love my grovies and cherish the time I spend with them, but it's not enough.  I need to make friends up here as well.  CUUPs, with its open, bi-monthly meetings seemed like the best bet.  Only...for a few weeks it seemed they had disbanded.  The organizer's computer was at the 'puter doctor, hence the poor communication.

My most recent foray into the CUUPs world was more enjoyable.  The meeting was held outside where I was able to admire the lovely church grounds.  There were more people than last time.  We all discussed our experiences and/or research on lunar rituals and traditions.  I was called a living book because of my knowledge on Celtic lore.  This amused me because, compared with some people in ADF, I'm such a noob.  Weretoad was at work so I didn't feel like I had to leave right away in sympathy for his boredom.  I stayed and chatted with several people about Druidism, green/hedge/kitchen witchcraft, auras, and local shops.  It felt so good to talk with like-minded people in my new hometown. Perhaps I just wasn't ready last time...  Or perhaps the group has progressed in their organization?

I guess we'll see how it goes.  :)

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hail to Isaac!

I have a few other entries I would like to write, but today I must reflect on the passing of ADF's beloved founder, Isaac Bonewits.

I never had the pleasure to meet him in person, but like many others in the Pagan community, I was profoundly influenced by his work.    When I was a complete novice, I understood that he was a VIP*.  It wasn't until my friend Parallax lent me her copy of Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism that he truly inspired me.  At the time I was searching for something.  Wicca wasn't it for me** and I was feeling a pull from my Irish ancestors.  Through his vision of modern Druidism, and the organization he founded - Ár nDraíocht Féin - I found a spiritual home.    With that came a real sense of belonging and community.  I wish I could have met him in person on this plane to thank him.

His other books I read, NeoPagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work, The Pagan Man: Priests, Warriors, Hunters, and Drummers, and most recently Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic were all incredibly influential on my spirituality.  NeoPagan Rites facilitated my understanding of the importance of well-thought-out liturgy and the effect that good theater can have on one's psyche.  My husband originally wanted to read The Pagan Man and, while I don't think he got very far, I read the whole thing, reveling in the exploration of the spiritual male in a Pagan world that seems so focused on the female.  It's probably strange for a woman to say that, but hey - I'm just as drawn to the Gods as I am to the Goddesses!  I loved that Bonewits created such an important resource for men seeking spiritual guidance within Paganism.  FinallyI picked up Real Magic at the most recent Wellspring Gathering.  As some of you may remember, I'm working though ADF's Initiate Program, and am trying to complete Magic 1. Isaac's first book really changed the way I thought about magic.  His exploration of magic as divided into a spectrum of skill rather than morality was especially formative for me.

One of my Live Journal friends, prophet_maid, commented on the awkwardness she feels about mourning a celebrity, and that's very much what Isaac was/is within the Pagan community.  I never met him and yet I felt profoundly moved by his life and death.  It seems strange to mourn for someone I never met, but to those of us in ADF, he was an elder - a spiritual father, even.  He shared his vision and paved the way for us.  I can't exactly articulate what that means to me, but it was powerful enough that I lit candles and prayed for him to my patrons.  I now consider him one of my ancestors to be honored.  As prophet_maid said of herself, Isaac shaped me into the woman I am today and that cannot be ignored.

If any of you weren't able to participate in the rolling coins movement to help pay for his medical costs, I urge you to make a donation.  I couldn't give much during the rolling coin drive, but I did what I could because I respect him as an elder and know how hard it is for a family when someone passes away due to cancer.  My aunt died at 40 from bone cancer, and it was an expensive ordeal, in part because she spent her last months at home with the help of Hospice.  Giving a tiny bit to his family is probably the best way to honor him as an ancestor at this point.

Isaac, I thank you for your influence and inspiration.  May you continue to guide us as an ancestor and may we honor you in all we say and do!

* "Very Important Pagan," of course!
** Bonewits was a practicing Wiccan, I believe, and also authored a book or two on the religion.  He was actually very educated on numerous forms of Pagan religion.  

[ Photo from ADF's website.  It was taken by Ava Francesca.]
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Moon in Modern Druidism

It is well known that Wiccans hold special rituals during the full and new moons.  Many Neo-Pagans and traditional witches observe certain lunar practices.  For example, some spells are thought to be more effective when performed on a specific day of the moon's cycle.  What did the ancient Druids do and what can/do modern Druids practice?  The moon, with its dramatic and observable changes, has held spiritual significance to many cultures all over the world, yet it is not something Druids within my own tradition seem to actively explore, at least not publicly.  There are a few documented lunar rituals on the ADF website, and our founder, Isaac Bonewits, noted that some groves celebrate the phases of the moon (ADF Q&A).

I'll begin by looking at the ancient Celts.  As always, it is important to note that we have little information on what the ancient Celts believed due to a limited amount of pre-Christian documentation.  Most of what is known comes from artifacts, the contemporary writing of antagonistic leaders or outsiders, and Christianized Celts.  Details from the last two sources, especially, must be taken with a grain of salt.

Pliny the Elder wrote about the Gaulish Druids.  His work includes the famous piece about Druids harvesting mistletoe on the 6th day of the moon (Ellis, Celts 54).  Jean Markale analyzed the symbolism of the harvest ritual, noting that the sickle used to cut the plant would have been reminiscent of the crescent moon (Markale 131).  Modern Druids from the Henge of Keltria equate this with the first quarter and celebrate the Mistletoe rite on such evenings.  They explain that "mistletoe was known as `all heal,'" and take advantage of such evenings to perform remedial ceremonies.  They have a second lunar ritual, the Vervain Rites.

Our other lunar rite is the Vervain Rite. The time of this rite was also chosen from classical descriptions of ancient Druidic practices. It was written that vervain was gathered when neither sun nor moon were in the sky. This occurs sometime during each night, except when the moon is full. We generally celebrate this around the 3rd quarter. This gives ample time for the rite during the evening hours. It also places this rite opposite the Mistletoe Rite in the lunar cycle. Vervain is said to be of aid in working magic. Thus, the Vervain Rite is our time for working magic. The purpose of magic in a Druidic sense is more like prayer. We work magic to help effect change in our lives. Druidic magic may involve contemplation, meditation, ritual or ecstatic dance (The Henge of Keltria FAQ).  
Pliny's writing aside, there is more evidence that the moon was important to the ancient Celts.  The Welsh Goddess Arianrhod may have been a lunar deity.  Some look to Proto-Celtic linguistics and argue that her name means silver wheel - an obvious reference to the moon (Wikipedia).  Others are less convinced due to the variability of her name (Mary Jones).

Cerridwen is another possible Welsh deity with lunar associations.  Etymologically speaking, her name may mean "bent white one" (Mary Jones), a possible reference to the crescent moon.  When considering the symbolism of her transformations, a lunar link could be possible.

The Coligny Calendar may be the most concrete example we have of lunar observation among the ancient Celtic tribes.
Produced before the Roman conquest of Gaul, this calendar is far more elaborate than the rudimentary Julian calendar and has a highly sophisticated five-year synchronisation of lunation with the solar year (Ellis, Druids 230).
Peter Berresford Ellis also notes that Caesar and Pliny the Elder both commented on how the Gauls measured time according to nights and the moon.

Thus we have strong evidence for the moon as a time piece, but  less on other ritual or magical significance.   I am assuming that Carmina Gadelica  will have more moon lore, albeit Christianized.  The moon continued to play an important role in surviving folk magic which has inspired a plethora of modern magical traditions.  The moon seems central to magical thought and I am hopeful to learn more.

Works Cited

Aranrhod ferch Don.  2009.  Mary Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia.  10 Aug. 2010


Arianrhod.  13 April 2010.  Wikipedia.  10 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianrhod>

Berresford, Ellis.  The Celts A History.  New York: Carroll and Graf, 2004.

---.  A Brief History of the Druids.  New York: Carroll and Graf, 2002.

Bonewits, Isaac. "Questions and Answers about ADF."  Ár nDraíocht Féin.  10 Aug. 2010


Cerridwen.  2004.  Mary Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia.  10 Aug. 2010


Frequently Asked Questions.  The Henge of Keltria.  10 Aug. 2010   

Markale, Jean.  The Druids Celtic Priests of Nature.  Rochester: Inner Traditions Int., 1999.

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

Night Walks

My cough seems to be improving, although I am still hacking every now and then, and I think my coughs sound like barks.  They aren't occurring at the same frequency, which is nice.  Still...  I am worried about why they haven't gone...  Perhaps that is the nature of allergies?  Or perhaps it's something worse?

Meditation is still hard to do.  It seems the more I sit and focus on my breathing, the more I'll cough.  I'm able to do brief breathing exercises, such as a Tree of Life/Two Powers visualization.  It's short but sweet.  It can both calm and reconnect me to the cosmos.

I've been enjoying a form of semi-active meditation recently - going outside after midnight to stand, watch, and listen.  I say semi-active because it involves a little bit of walking and occasionally changing positions. There is definitely something meditative and Otherworldly about being outside, alone, at night.  Night is full of paradoxes, it seems.  Everything seems still and yet the Nature Spirits are very active.  There is a hush and yet the world is abuzz.  I find some sort of peace at night.

Yesterday evening (or rather...early this morning...) I observed several toads, listened to the chorus of crickets and frogs, and watched a bat dance loops in the air.  It felt somewhat meditative to be there, still and observing something other than myself.

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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hospitality and Piety

I love having company over.  I so rarely get to see the people I consider my tribe, so it was a real treat to have friends visit.  We had a lot of fun in Alex Bay and Watertown, but we mostly stayed home for chatting, snacking, and playing copious amounts of games.  If only there had been more time for more fun.

Having guests is always a test of virtue.  I try my best and take pride in being a hospitable hostess.  I love to cook fresh meals and share my drink.  Hospitality aside, my piety to the Kindreds is also tested.

They are never far from my mind to begin with, and I pray a lot - especially before eating and while traveling.  Yet when people share my home, my routine is always a bit disrupted.  (Truthfully, it already was thanks to my infernal, cough-inducing allergies...)  My devotionals are shortened because I need to be a good hostess and it is too loud for me to meditate.  I am proud of myself for getting up and doing my full, formal ritual yesterday, but even that was not as usual because of my need to assist my guests.  I felt self-conscious chanting, as well.  I found myself whispering the songs.  It was not a very powerful ritual but I am glad to have done it.  I like showing the Kindreds that I care, and I think they understand the strained ritual when I so rarely entertain.

I believe that ritual, trance, and meditation aren't the only ways that we show honor to the Kindreds.  When we find joy with our tribe, treat others with love and respect, and celebrate life - even in a non-religious context - the Kindreds are there.  Strengthening bonds with the tribe is just as important as ritual on my Druidic path.

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

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wish List and Smudge Sticks

I can't wait until I'm getting regular paychecks again.  I'll feel like I can genuinely buy some of the things I would like for wildcrafting:

  • coconut oil
  • arrowroot 
  • bees wax
  • resins
  • various essential oils
  • various glass and metal containers containers
  • charcoal rounds
I want to be able to make more of my own salves, tinctures, beauty products, cleaning products, and incense.  

Today I harvested some juniper and created smudge sticks.  They look lovely and are currently hanging in my art/ritual room to dry as you can see in the photo below.  My coughing hasn't stopped (although I think it's getting better) so long meditation is difficult and trance is out of the question.  That doesn't mean I can't be productive and spiritual!

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Importance of the Axis Mundi in Ritual

I have another link to share with you, this one from one of my favorite blogs - The Witch of Forest Grove.  This particular entry is about the importance of the world tree in ritual, whether you are of Indo-European influence or a witch.

Check it out for a good read!

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

On the Nature of the Gods

If you are a Pagan and have not read 'Polytheology: Syncretism, Process Theology, and "Polyamorotheism"' by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, you absolutely must.  This well-written and very thoughtful article about cultural appropriation, syncretism, Pagan theology, and religion in general is amazing.  It certainly gave me a lot to think about in regards to the nature of the Gods.  I love the beautiful image he weaves of Gods evolving and/or creating other Gods through romantic or sexual meetings that we have not considered, discovered, or sung about yet.  It almost makes me envision deities as spider plants.  Have you ever had one?  They grow smaller versions of themselves that can be removed and planted as normal.  Are the Gods like that, each a spider plant that creates similar plants (Gods) for different places or even purposes?  It can make sense when considering it in light of the various Celtic triple deities.  Hello American Gods!  Oh the possibilities...

It causes me to look at syncretism a little differently.  Truthfully, I have softened to it already as of late, though I think it must be done with care and for well-considered purpose.  The author himself cautions against doing so without respect, understanding, or proper involvement with the culture.  That is very reasonable, I think.

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

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Promises, Promises

When you make an oath, or even just a little promise, to the Kindreds, you're obligated to keep it.  Maybe there won't be any dire circumstances (I suppose it depends on the being you're interacting with), but there will be less trust.  The more I spend time with nature, the more I get the sense that nature spirits hold promises very seriously with humans.  We're constantly abusing them, even when we don't mean to.  I'm no exception, what with my driving a car and continual (though decreased) use of plastics.  That said, I think when we make an effort to commune with the Nature Spirits - a genuine, honest-to-goodness effort that goes beyond an offering on high days - they really start to respond.  It might not be all at once, and it might not be so very obvious at first, but they are there witnessing your actions and your words.  They see when you make a promise and don't keep it.  Again, this may not always have dire circumstances, but it weakens the trust they have in us.  If you are walking an earth-centered path especially, that trust is, in my opinion, essential.

Those are just the thoughts I had today after visiting the woods and keeping a promise I made the local spirits.

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

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nature Walks and Staves

My cough hasn't completely gone away, meaning I haven't been able to meditate again.  I made up for it ten-fold by going into the forest for a long time by myself.  Something about the experience feels meditative in some way - very peaceful and clarifying.  There's also an exhilaration born from excitement, personal triumph, and fear of the unknown.

I made offerings to the genius loci, talked to the plants and animals, and sat for a long time basking in the glow of the sun with a dragonfly.  I also found more fly agaric which I admired.

My purpose for going into the woods today, aside from the desire to commune with nature, was to find a suitable branch for a staff.  I found such a branch and, judging by the trees I found it near, it looks to be from a red or silver maple.  I need to make further observations before I'm sure which.  All the same, I think it will be a fine staff for practical and magical purposes.  I've already started to remove the bark.  I'm not sure what I'll carve into it yet.  It's something I'll have to meditate on.

When I can meditate again.  :S

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

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh started yesterday for me.  Weretoad had to work but I still wanted and needed to attend Muin Mound Grove.  I had committed myself to make the main offering - a doll of Tailtiu, Lugh's foster mother.  It is because of her that we celebrate Lughnasadh.  The story goes that she cleared the fields for agriculture and, after that, died*.  Lugh declared Lughnasadh as a feast day in her honor.  It was a day when the tribes gathered, judgements were made, and games played.

Because Weretoad worked, I drove all by myself to East Syracuse.  I'd never done that alone before.  It was a harrowing experience for me.  I even managed to get lost and called my husband, sobbing out of fear.  Pathetic, I know.  Worry not!  I reached my destination alive and well**!  I made it to the business meeting (where I was officially elected to be the new secretary) and played some games with the other ladies***.  I won the contest of strength but that's only because I was able to hold a yoga pose for a long time.  Candee was the ultimate champion, however, because she was able to accurately answer the most riddles and toss a nice, if modified, caber.

The ritual went well.  It felt faster than usual, but that was probably because we had such a small turnout.     Tailtiu was placed in the sacred fire and we all grew quiet as she burned.  It's always very moving to watch as a piece of art is willingly given to the Gods, but this is the first time that I sacrificed a piece of my really elaborate art.  I put a lot of work into her and everyone thought she was lovely, for which I was grateful.  I'm really proud of how she came out.

I had to leave shortly after the ritual to make it to Watertown in time to fetch Weretoad, so no yummy potluck.  Hubby and I came home pretty late and crashed into bed.

Today was very relaxing.  To celebrate Lughnasadh, we had a picnic lunch under a couple trees followed by a short nature walk.  We studied the local plants and observed some lovely insects.  I later went out by myself and took a short trek in the forest.  I left an offering for the local spirits, gathered some small pine cones, a few rocks, and some sticks to practice carving.  I also found this lovely specimen.  It looks like a variety of fly agaric, perhaps amanita formosa or amanita guessowii.  I have always wanted to find fly agaric in the wild, and to find it when my interest has been most intense and on a high day was truly a blessing.  I felt little guilt taking this one as it was half-eaten and unlikely to reach maturity as a result.  I wanted to bring it in, properly identify it, and sketch it in my journal.  I'm pretty certain it is fly agaric, but being that I have next to no experience in mycology, and have not done enough research on using it in trance, I only sketched it before putting it back outside as an offering.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to see a fresh fly agaric in person.  I've been able to look at some dry specimens before, but this was a real treat.  After I dug it up, I left a small offering to its spirit and built a little dolmen in the area where I found it.  There are likely to be more and I would love to take a photo of a fully formed mushroom (if it isn't devoured by the slugs first...)

So I think I had a very blessed Lughnasadh indeed!  I hope all of my readers had a lovely, fruitful day.

 *As much as a deity dies, of course. ;)

** The experienced must have really upset me, though, because shortly after getting there, I had a coughing attack.  

*** Strangely, no men came to the ritual.  Skip was away at a meeting, so it was just us hens!  There was something strangely witchy and gratifying about an all female ritual...  

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

Blessed Lughnasadh!

"Lugh" by Mickie Mueller

May your harvest be plentiful, your strength be true, and your company great!  
May the sun shine warm upon you and may your August be filled with joy!

Here, enjoy this lovely ditty by Omnia.  It should get you into the mood.

"Lughnasadh" by Omnia

Also, for your viewing and listening pleasure, a song from the infamous "Wicker Man."  Weretoad thinks it's strange that I find enjoyment from the movie, what with its murder and misrepresentation, but I do so love the music.  While listening to the latest edition of A Darker Shade of Pagan, I heard a familiar tune.  Where did I hear that before?  I googled the name and, sure enough, it was one of those lovely pieces from "The Wicker Man" - "Corn Rigs" by Magnet.

I will post later about my Lughnasadh, complete with photos of the Tailtiu doll.

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