Sunday, October 31, 2010

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

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

Samhain Snow

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

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

The wheel of life turns.

My Samhain plans?

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

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

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

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

Blessed Samhain to you and yours!

( For My LJ Friends: )

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fairy Costume

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

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

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

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

( For My LJ Friends: )

Ready or Not, Here Comes Samhain!

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

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

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

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

( For My LJ Friends: )

Monday, October 25, 2010

Magically Mundane Mondays - Enjoy Autumn!

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

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

( For My LJ Friends: )

Sunday, October 24, 2010

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

The After Life

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

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

( For My LJ Friends: )

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Magic 101

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

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

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

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

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

( For My LJ Friends: )

Winter is Coming

We turned the heat on today.  We've been putting it off for as long as possible.  We're from northern NY - we have long, cold winters which result in expensive heating bills. Weretoad and I would rather bear the cold for as long as possible than pay more for heat.  If we didn't fear damaged pipes or, more importantly, uncomfortable animal companions, we would have put it off longer.  Oh well.  Today was the day and now our home is toasty warm.  

It's very chilly outside.  I've been waking up to frost and, apparently, there was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning.  The trees look more skeletal every day.  I want to visit the forest but hunting season makes me wary.  I would like to go up and make an offering tomorrow but stay close to the housing area.  Hunters can't legally shoot so close to homes so I should theoretically be safe.  All the same, I occasionally see archers walking in and out of the forest.  It is that time of year - just as the ancient Celts culled their herds of cow, the modern hunters go into the woods to cull the wild herds.  It is not my calling in this life, though, so I simply stay out of the way.  

I wrote before that I brought most of my plants inside.  Others - mainly the beans - were left on the patio to go back to the Earth Mother. I didn't have much success with them anyway.  They slowly wither away around the bright orange pumpkin.  

Winter is coming.  I can see and feel it in the air.  

( For My LJ Friends: )

Monday, October 18, 2010

Celtic Culture in Ottawa

I've returned from Canada, dear readers! Ottawa, to be specific.  Yes, Weretoad and I finally got our passports in order and took advantage of our extreme proximity to our northern neighbors.  Ottawa was an absolutely beautiful city.  I could compare it to other cities I've been to, but that wouldn't be fair.  It would be easy to say how similar it is to London due to the Parliament, references to Victoria, and red-coated guards,  but that overlooks the obvious influence of France, Ireland, the Netherlands, America, and many other countries.  I felt really at home in Ottawa.  There was so much culture!  The city was surprisingly very bilingual.  I've never been to an urban area that was so, so friendly to pedestrians and bikers.  Weretoad and I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast owned by a Swiss couple.  It was in an excellent area near the Byward Market - a place similar to Boston's Quincy Market.  We were close to organic/fair trade/local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.  I was in heaven.  I want to live there.  Oh if only immigration weren't so daunting...

Some of the ancestors on my father's side, including the woman whose grave I recently visited, came to Ottawa from England and Ireland.  Some of them moved to NY State, but others undoubtedly stayed there and worked on the Rideau Canal.  As we toured the various historical sites, we learned that many Irish immigrants came to Ottawa for work - hundreds died there and were buried in mass graves.  They were honored with the beautiful statue pictured above near the Bytown Museum - a building that many insist is haunted by Irish ghosts (myself included after a frightening incident Friday evening!).

The Celtic spirit was not buried beneath the streets with the bodies.  Although the English and French fusion is often most noticeable, the Irish influence on Ottawa is still alive and well.   Walk towards any destination and you're likely to run into a pub.  I was thrilled to stumble across this lovely little place in the Byward Market area - The Druid Pub. The photo is a bit small on the blog, but if you look you can make out the awen on the sign.  Weretoad and I visited The Druid after dinner on Saturday night.  I had a pint of Harp beer* while Weretoad sipped some coke - we watched a hockey game and listened to a band play - mostly contemporary stuff.  I wish there had been some traditional Irish music - but I suppose we'll have to go back for that another day.  The closest we got to Irish ditties were U2 covers.

Follow Rue Elgin towards the Museum of Nature, and you'll come across The Manx Pub.  Clearly the Irish aren't the only Celts with a hold on Ottawa!  Although we weren't able to visit the pub this visit, I had Weretoad take a photo of their amazing signs.  Look at the Manx cats and the beautiful Manx triskelion!  I definitely want to check this place out next time.

* Guinness isn't vegetarian...

( For My LJ Friends: )

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bulleted Update

  • I'm working on a fairy costume for Samhain.  I scrapped my original idea which involved a laced vest.  I'm going to try and make myself a chemise type dress with a girdle/faux corset thing around the chest.  I'm trying to go for an elegant but wild look, if that makes sense.  I bought ear tips and need to paint them...
  • I'm signed up to participate in an artisan trading card exchange through the ADF Artisan Guild.  I'm excited about it but need to figure out what to do...  The deadline is approaching...  
  • I really, really need to finish reviewing a DP that was resubmitted to me...  
  • Work is draining me.  It was a short week and everything, but I return home and feel so out of it.  I just want to sit, watch things, and sew/crochet.'s not like I'm being a total lazy bum, but there are definitely other things I need to work on.
  • Still chugging along on Magic I.  
  • Still chugging along through "The Two Towers."
  • I've been slowly working on two dolls.  Their clothing is coming into existence.  I'd like to get a felting needle to help me with some accessories.  I also started another tree spirit yesterday.
  • I've been really horrid about meditation recently.  My discipline gets completely out of sorts whenever I visit family.  I don't blame them at all - I blame myself.  Still, I see them so infrequently that I can't justify pulling away to be by myself when I'm down there.  I'm hoping to attend a meditation class at a local yoga center this coming week.  I hope it helps reenergize and refocus me.

( For My LJ Friends: )

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Secret of Kells - A Review

I finally got around to watching "The Secret of Kells," the animated feature from Cartoon Saloon.  It was recently added to the Netflix Instant Queue and several Druid friends were recommending it on the ADF mailing list.

The story is about Brendan, a young brother in the Abbey of Kells in Ireland.  His uncle, the Abbot, forbids Brendan from leaving the abbey and insists that he helps fortify the walls in preparation for the impending Viking raids.  When the illuminator, Brother Aidan, arrives with his cat and unfinished manuscript, Brendan is suddenly encouraged to explore his more creative side and pay more attention to the natural world - which Aidan claims can teach more than any book.  When asked to fetch an ingredient for ink, Brendan encounters the wolf spirit  Aisling who befriends and helps him throughout the story.

Despite the presence of Christianity, the Pagan world is still alive in "The Secret of Kells."  The Vikings are referred to as Pagans (which they were at this time).  On some levels, the portrayal of the Vikings was unfortunate as they were shown as dark, almost infernal monsters.  As they invade, one of them slashes through a cross - a scene that even made me sit up.  One must remember, though, that the Irish probably saw the invaders as monstrous. Cromm Crúaich, a dubious Irish deity, is also in the film.  There is mention of him in Irish lore - mostly in association with St. Patrick.  Cromm is known for demanding the sacrifice of children for a good harvest.  He is a very negative, demonic being in "The Secret of Kells."  He's portrayed as a snake who, once dealt with, is drawn as an ouroboros - one of many spiraling symbols in the movie. What could be a negative portrayal of Paganism is balanced by the sidhe Aisling.  She is the protector of the forest, a shape-shifter who, while friendly with Brendan, is also a hunter and a killer as a wolf.  Aisling, to me, represents one of the best portrayals of a Pagan deity in modern culture.  She is mischievous, powerful, and ageless yet benevolent to the deserving, and possessing of her own faults and weaknesses.  

The animation was stunning.  You will see triquetras and spirals in the forest that will make you gasp.  The Celtic knots are just amazing.  The cat, Pangur Bán, is transformed into a spirit that looks like a feline Celtic knot.  The Book of Kells is brought to life at the end with exquisite detail and love.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves Ireland, mythology, or a good story.  There are possibly some frightening scenes for children, so I recommend that parents watch it first if you're uncertain.  If your child wasn't bothered by Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," he or she will probably love "The Secret of Kells."  If you're concerned that your son or daughter will come away from the film with a poor impression of the Vikings, make sure to expose them to "How to Train Your Dragon" for a more positive representation.

( For My LJ Friends: )

Monday, October 11, 2010

Magically Mundane Mondays - Part 2: Visiting Graves

My husband and I had the day off so we decided to drive into the city and visit the grave of my great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother.  She was the last Irish immigrant on my father's side, so I was pretty amazed to find out that she spent her final days in the North Country.  My grandfather, who practices genealogy, really wanted me to visit her grave (not that he had to convince me - I was excited to visit and pay my respects).  When he first found it ages ago, he put up a stink because it was in a neglected, old cemetery that had become overgrown.  The way he spoke, I excepted that Weretoad and I would have some weeding to do.  When we arrived we were delighted to see that the city has been taking care of the site.  It's been mowed and fenced off.  My ancestor's resting place is shaded by a large tree with dark berries.  I've been trying to identify it from photos but I think I'll have to visit again to confirm...

I got the feeling that my ancestor was definitely at peace.  There was no negativity about the area at all.  Several animals (mostly chipmunks) had happily claimed the land as their own.  One even had a den under another grave stone.  Touching my ancestor's name and gravestone was interesting for me.  My blood came from this woman and she ties me to Ireland.  I thanked her for inviting me to visit and invited her to visit me in dreams or visions should she ever want to talk.  I left her a small pumpkin gourd as a gift.  I promised to return.  The area is so easy to reach - I hope to bring the rest of the family there someday soon.

Do you have a day off?  Take a moment to visit your ancestors.  Bring them a gift.  Talk to them.  You don't have to perform an intricate ritual to connect with the spirits of the past.  Some might call my adventure positively mundane.  Me?  I thought it was magical.  :)

( For My LJ Friends: )

Magic Missile!

D&D amuses me.  I adore the game and have so much fun playing it, especially with laid back people and a mixed beverage.  Great laughs, great times, and great creativity.  I play a sorceress and I'm enjoying her.  I did originally want to play a Druid but I stepped aside to allow my friend, who has never played before, to have a character she really wanted for her first experience.  I would like to play a Druid next time, that's for sure. This campaign is the third time I've played with a Druid on the team.  Between D&D and WoW, it's interesting to think about the pop culture Druid compared to the "real thing."  The hyperboles in their character seem really outlandish until you consider the symbolism behind it all.  Then it's really not so bad.  They are healers, warriors, and magicians - all very apt.

If I get the chance to play a Druid, I want to take the tree-hugger appeal to the extremes and go absolutely nuts when anyone does anything contrary to what is "natural."  I don't just want to get annoyed - I want to lose it.  I envision a psychopathic Druid who values Mother Earth to the point where she has separated humanity and technology from her, as if there was no connection.  She would be a complete and utter luddite.  I'm thinking true chaotic bordering on chaotic evil depending on the species in question.  Her goal would be to avenge Mother Nature.  She would be especially spiteful of humans and dwarves for their industriousness.  Really, her subconscious is seeking personal validation because she feels herself as a burden to the Great Mother.  In the end, it would be nice for her to develop into a more psychologically and spiritually balanced character.  Or not.  Who knows.

Perhaps she is my shadow self?

*I'm saying this with the various traditions and historical accounts in mind.  Yes I know there is some variability.

( For My LJ Friends: )

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Future?

Reading predictions about the future scares me.  Anything about peak oil, the collapse of society as we know it, and/or the dystopian reality we're supposedly headed to depresses me.  It also fascinates me and inspires me to continue to develop my gardening and other DIY skills.  Signs point to their necessity in the future.

But even if the proverbial shit hits the fan, I still won't feel ready.  Perhaps that's why a lot of people tune out environmentalism.  There's so much doom and gloom.  People don't want to think about changing their routines, perspectives, and diets because it's hard.  People don't like hard.

Not all of us let the difficulty stop us from attempting to change.  We care about the health of our Earth Mother and brother and sister Nature Spirits.  We accept the responsibility.  We stop eating so much garbage and start eating more local/organic/veggie.  We start to make our own cosmetics and cleaning products out of more natural and less harmful materials.  We slowly phase out our use of plastic bags and  paper towels in favor of cloth bags and rags.  We refuse to buy new furniture from Walmart and Target in favor of antiques.  We try to drive less/walk more/bike more/purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.

And yet despite all of those very important baby steps, many of us sometimes feel like we're floundering.

I once got into an argument with a complete stranger.  She argued that the government isn't responsible for changing the way people behave.  Individuals need to make better and more informed choices and the smallest changes are the most important.  I agreed with her that making small changes is, indeed, a very important part of moving our society towards sustainability, but I disagreed vehemently about the place of government.  The government's arguably miniscule changes in environmental policy this past decade are what gets me so depressed.  I can make all the little changes I can stand but, in the end, the government needs to make big changes.

My biggest pet peeve in Northern NY is the lack of mass transit.  There are buses but they are the least convenient things in the world.  Our ability to utilize them is severely limited, rendering them practically useless.  As I wrote yesterday, I want to walk to work more.  We finally have a local farmers' market but they are still very small.  We were able to go once and walked there, which was wonderful.  We can walk or bike to the post office or the library.  Otherwise, we cannot walk to our local organic/local markets, to the hospital, to the vet, the pharmacy, art supply shops...  We are left dependent on cars.  While I'm very excited about my new car, I lament my continued financial support of the status quo.  I sometimes feel stuck, even while taking control of so many other changes in my life.  My desire for a higher education meant I needed loans which now need paying off.  The economic environment meant I had to move away from a more pedestrian-friendly environment to a rural area because that's the best I could do.  Stuck stuck stuck.

At least I live in an agricultural wonderland full of many local, organic farmers.  At least I get to breath in fresh country air.  At least my house is powered by the local river.  There.  I'm being optimistic.  :)

( For My LJ Friends: )

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Various Random Things From This Weekend - Probably Quite Boring *

I've had an enjoyable weekend so far.  I was able to visit some of my family which is always wonderful.  My husband was able to spend a lot of time with his best buddy and our future brother-in-law (I'll call him Hunter).  Now that I'm older, I get along better with my sister (I'll call her Georgia).  It's fun to to be with her and her fiance.  It's always a very relaxed time, and Weretoad and I can be ourselves.  They always have a new drink for us to try that further inhibits us.

We took advantage of the visit to finally unveil our new car to the immediate tribe.  It's a lovely green hatchback with spectacular headlights which I like to think of as dragon eyes.  In fact, I fancy the whole car a dragon (symbolically, of course).  I've referred to it as a green dragon, but my husband cringes due to the drug reference.  It's been very difficult living in the North Country with only one car - and an old one at that.  We've already had some situations that made me feel uncomfortable and even helpless.  The public transportation system around here is practically non-existent.  There are buses that come to our area, but the hours are so limited that they don't fit into my husband's work schedule at all.  I need to adjust my sleep habits so I have time to walk to work in the morning.  I would really like to develop that habit as reducing my impact on Mama Earth is very important to me. We would have liked to find a hybrid, but they are out of our price range.  We did a lot of research and went for something that achieves decent miles per gallon and can assist us in transporting the kayaks we're getting for Solstice.

Now that we have a new car, I'm thinking about creating a protection charm to hang in it.  It will probably have something to do with Lugh.  The Romans equated him with Mercury, a patron of merchants and therefore travelers.  This opens up the possibility that the Celts (or at least the Gauls) saw him in this way too.  In the Irish myths, Lugh has to travel to the Tuatha de Dannan before he is accepted by them (perhaps a stretch...).  I have been praying to Lugh for protection on the road for years now and I feel that he has heard and helped me.

I spent some time this weekend working on my Samhain costume.  I'm planning to be a forest fairy.  I've got the pieces of the vest cut out and ready to be stitched together.  I found ear tips this weekend but will have to paint them.

Finally, my husband found a Victorian card with a green fairy on it while we were browsing in an antique store.  I absolutely had to have it.  She's Victorian, but not as silly looking as most fairies represented in that era.  I can't wait to display her on my wall.

* At least I'm writing a substantial post!  I haven't done that in a week it seems!

( For My LJ Friends: )

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Witches and Deer

I found a folktale from New York State about a malevolent witch who could turn into a white deer.  It's very interesting...  

( For My LJ Friends: )

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I have pumpkins. Samhain is officially on its way.  Life is good.  :)

Now...  I just need to make plans to find my ancestor's grave.  Soon.  

( For My LJ Friends: )

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Druidic Tools: Knives

A recent conversation inspired this post.  I was talking with a group of (mostly) Wiccans and eclectic Pagans.  They all have varying amounts of experience and knowledge.  Many of them adhere to the belief that a magic practitioner should possess two knives - the athame, the ritual knife, and the boleen, the "practical" or "mundane" knife which is used for cutting herbs, wood, etc...    If you know me well, you know that I hate those words when juxtaposed to magic as if magic couldn't be practical or mundane, or as if your everyday actions couldn't be magical and therefore meaningful.  If you believe that such a distinction is an important practice, by all means continue!  You must remember that I'm a Druid and our practices are, sometimes, different from those of Wicca*.

When I first started to study Paganism, I went to the usual suspects - the Llewellyn 101 books.  They were very nearly clones and I tired of them.  They came with the usual chapters on ritual tools - a shopping list of sorts.  Every book said the same thing - one knife for energy work, and one knife for practical work.  Some of them attempted to explain this because of some tradition they couldn't easily explain - as if every magician that ever was did exactly that.  So much for being a real witch and thinking for yourself!  Some of the books explained that to cut an object with your ritual knife would somehow tarnish the athame.  Really?  Now I could, perhaps, understand if you were more interested in transcending earthly bonds, but a majority of Pagans I know are adamant about being an Earth-based religion.  How can you claim to celebrate the beauty and magic of the world around you while somehow declaring contact with earthly things like herbs or stone to be profane?  That makes no sense to me.  If you are offended, I do not mean to be harsh, but plenty of Pagans point out the inconsistencies in Christianity.  If we're going to be critical of other religious practices, we must first be critical of our own or else we will never grow.

I have a knife.  I use it for ritual purposes and I consider the gathering of herbs and the carving of tools and charms to be a ritual.  I do use kitchen knives and I suppose, in that sense, I do own more than one ritual knife.  Like kitchen witches, I believe that working in the kitchen on even a lowly bowl of gruel is magic.  Preparing the food is magic.  Peeling the veggies is magic.  Chopping them is magic.  Removing the inedible bits is magic.  I believe that the world is magic - the whole world - not just the ritual circle.  Are some things more magical?  Sure, but everything has magic and putting one in contact with the other will not somehow tarnish it.  Trust me.  It may change the energy or transform it (I don't advice touching lava with your ritual knife!), but it won't make the knife profane unless you yourself ritualize such an action and declare it so.  If you are comfortable doing that, by all means continue (I can understand how keeping one knife strictly for ritual space would work as a mental key), but in my belief and practice, magic is spiritual and physical.  My knife follows me outside of my sacred space into the larger, shared sacred space of the world.  Do I sometimes work with one aspect instead of another?  Sure.  Trance is one way where I move more on the spiritual plane than the physical - but I am still seeing the spirit world as I would the physical world.  Our perception is based on the physical and it seems incredibly hard to escape.  I don't believe the two can easily be separated - if that's even possible.  To me, they are interconnected.  They are like inhaling and exhaling - each part of the same life processes.  If I use different knives, it's because I don't want the potentially poisonous juices of an herb to mix with my food.  That is all.  Primarily, I use one knife in my ritual - the knife I use to carve sigils into candles; the knife I use to harvest herbs; the knife I use to cut twine in the garden; the knife I use to carve ogham; the knife I carry on my nature walks in case I need to defend myself.  I use that knife for so much and I believe that it is infused with a lot of energy.  It has the green energy of the garden, the fiery energy of hearthside crafts, the metallic energy of protection, and the wild energy from beyond the hedge.  Through such frequent use, it is one of my most important tools.  It is as multi-talented as Lugh or Brighid.  My practice is very influenced by ancient Irish belief and multitalented spirits were and are highly valued!

And let us be sensible.  Imagine yourself generations back.  If not a wealthy ceremonial magician with ties to masons and aristocratic patrons, you were probably a wise man or woman of some sort.  You were poor like most people.  You were lucky if you could afford one knife, let alone two.  Your magic was practical.  If you want a knife dedicated to a very specific goal, and only want it to be filled with energy relating to that one practice or occasion*** - go for it!  I'm certain that your knife will be filled with power through such consecration and use, and that it will be exceptionally helpful to you in that goal.  Me?  I like my kitchen witch, multi-talented approach.  :)

In the end, all one can say is, "To each his or her own!"

* You also must remember that not all Druids practice or believe the same.  I'm highly influenced by ADF, CR, and, most recently, traditional witchcraft.
**The above photo is from The Witch of Forest Grove. It's an athame she carved.  Beautiful work, don't you think?
*** I know of knives or sickles only used for initiation or the harvesting of one type of plant, for example.

( For My LJ Friends: )

Friday, October 1, 2010

On Eating the American Mandrake

I'm very much a novice at herbalism, foraging, and wildcrafting.     I take my time learning and experimenting because I understand that it can be dangerous if you don't do your homework.  But even if you do a lot of research, you still have to be careful.  You never know what you'll be allergic to, for example.  You have to try a small sample first.  That way, if you are allergic or if your resources left out an important detail - you're more likely to be okay.  Hopefully.

One of my favorite blogs to read is 66 Square Feet.  The author,  Marie Viljoen, is passionate about food and plants.  She decided to experiment with the May Apple - aka American Mandrake (pictured at left - photo by Ms. Viljoen).

I love her most recent entry.  What an adventure!  It's very unfortunate that the authors of the books she was consulting didn't include the detail about the seeds being toxic!  I'm glad she's okay and lived to tell us the tale!

( For My LJ Friends: )