Today is the first day of snow for my area.
First snow, always feels like magical snow and when one has a 6 year old near a park, then its a time for playtime full of wonder.
As I turned to leave the park where my Son and Husband continued to play in the snow, I began to take in all of the environment of wintertime. The smells, the chill, the change and all of the details on this special day.
Immediately, I noticed a Bald Eagle flying overhead most of the way home. Not quicker, not slower. Just there, all the way home.
A couple weeks ago a Red Tailed Hawk was perched outside my window, in plain view, as if watching me sew my Yule gown.
Apparently I have a thing with Birds of Prey this season. I live in a city...but have a small wetland area near me, not large enough to warrant large Birds of Prey I would think, but clearly that is not so because they have made themselves quite known lately.
I also collected a vase of freshly fallen first snow for future use this year, these pure winter waters I will call the waters of Cailleach, the ancient waters of wisdom, prophesy and transition.
2015 was a year of Piety. It was a year of Wisdom. It was a year of Vision.
Last year I fully rooted into my current path with Druidry through ADF and my local grove. I devoted myself to study, to outreach, and to devoting myself to my own spiritual path and Patron(s). I discovered things about myself that I had no idea I would and inspired others (and myself) while doing so. I learned how to be strong, I found my voice and I became a leader in the eyes of many. I worked closely with new Deities and Hearth cultures with an open heart, I experienced High Days both in public and in solitary practice. I meditated, I explored, and the Gods know, I studied my backside off.
2015 was an amazing year and I genuinly look forward to what the future has in store.
I have been pondering since Winter Solstice which new direction I want to focus into for 2016 and a resounding voice echoed in my head:
At first, I thought this to be the voice of The Morrigan who seems to be hovering over me lately, testing me, and pushing me to believe in my fearless self. The Morrigan, who refuses to accept defeat or weakness but has been help destroy the broken parts of myself and walk fearlessly forward. The Morrigan who clearly has a plan for me, and when she has a plan including you, you do not refuse her, you accept your place at her side and listen to what she commands. 8 months ago, The Morrigan were Goddess's I was intimidated by, and I think thats one reason she found me. Because there is absolutely NOTHING I should fear and she would either show me that or I would be nothing to her. Writing her invocation for Lughnasadh was me opening that door for her let me know this, with all her fierceness.
But it was not just The Morrigan who I felt was speaking to me as this word kept playing through my mind...the sound of iron on iron, the tale tale sounds of Smithcraft could be heard and the heat of a powerful fire was obvious. This is Brighid, in ways I had not truly felt her before now, calling to me. Brighid has been almost a maternal figure in my experience, she has been nurturing, warm, diplomatic and genuinely inspirational. Never has she seemed like a queen of battle, until recently. I hear her anvil fall in my dreams and often when I meditate, it has become obvious to me that she is also pushing me along the path of the Warrior.
So what does this mean?
When I did my Winter Solstice personal ritual and took the Omen from the Shining Ones, I called Brighid, The Morrigan, and Cailleach by name and the card they gave me was
I felt a chill as I drew the card but I also laughed under my breath, as if it confirmed everything I had been assuming already. This was my message, they were not only suggesting but encouraging me to block the idea of fear. To be Fearless. To choose Bravery. To walk the Warrior path.
I've been assessing this over the past few days, what exactly can I do to walk this path, to explore this option? Obviously, I can study. I can learn the history of the Celtic peoples and their wars/battles. I can learn their weaponry, I can work with and learn the Warrior aspects of my Patrons. But that isn't enough. Last year was focused on study, this year I need to focus on doing.
I need to test myself, I need to challenge myself, physically. I need to not only learn through books what it means to be a warrior in theory, I need to get back to that place where I FELT like a warrior, physically.
So I have decided to set some goals for 2016 to push myself out of my comfort zone, to finally do some physical things that I have talked myself out of far too often. My list of activities include:
Taking Archery Lessons
Taking Blacksmith Classes
Improve on Natural/Camping Survival Skills
Go Scuba Diving
Go Rock Climbing
But more importantly, to push myself physically to do more things that I generally talk myself out of.
I am very excited to start this path and I look forward to the challenges that 2016 has in store for me, but one thing is for sure, as Brighid and The Morrigan will it, I will face them, with courage.
A couple years ago I did a photoshoot with the wonderful artist Kamina Kapow and I have finally been granted permission to share the photos. They were kept rather quiet for publication reasons but now I am able to share. I love them dearly.
I also miss modeling tremendously as it was always a devotional expression of my own heart and creativity. I modeled for myself, for fun, and to constantly feel inspired and inspire others. It was a hobby and a passion and maybe I will go back to it eventually.
This is not a dedicant book.
This is a book I read for pleasure and because it had been recommended as an excellent starting place to get some basic information about The Morrigan. I figured it would be quite a bit beneath my general academic reading level but I really wanted something lighter to enjoy while lying in bed at night waiting for sleep. This book was all those things.
The writing style was very easy to read and the Author did a great job breaking down each Goddess attributed to The Morrigan, their stories (no matter how conflicting), and how she, herself, views the goddess in her own practice. The book also has a great deal of invocations and prayers that are fun to read (as a budding liturgist I am pushing myself to write more personal devotions and examples are always super helpful to me).
Multiple times the author states that topics are "beyond the span of this book" and encourages the reader to continue researching beyond this sort of "Intro to the Morrigan" book and I like that. She makes this extra work very exciting and makes no illusion that all the answers can be found in her book.
I loved her simplistic breakdown of old Irish tales only focusing on the parts with the Morrigan Goddesses because it is so very helpful to someone unfamiliar with reading stacks of books to get an accurate summery (and multiple interpretations) at the beginning of their journey.
I learned some things I did not know, such as the possible connection between The Morrigan and Áine and learned more about the unique stories between the Goddess Nemain and Badb (which can sometimes be lumped together as one Goddess, like so many other Irish Deities and especially Goddess' of the Morrigan)
I found myself wishing the book were longer with more content in each chapter as the writing style was so exceptionally fluid and the book was really quite fun to read. I know a lot of people dislike her citation style, but it did not bother me one bit (as a science student I am use to this style of citation). The Bibliography in the Ebook version of this book includes links to several titles sourced and that is a fantastic tool. The endnotes were also very helpful.
I enjoyed this book, it was certainly researched. It may have a bias towards some Deities over others but it does a good job of covering them all at least on an introductory level.
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Today I picked up a wooden Oath ring that has the words:
"May the earth open beneath me, may the sea rise up against me, and may the sky fall upon me should I forswear my oaths."
As often as I communicate my oaths to my kindred and with a new year of new spiritual progress I feel that this is something my altar needed for sure.
I also picked up wooden pieces that are burnt with each of the 9 ADF virtues on them. This will help me remember them and to also draw them as meditation tools to better understand my interpretation of them.
Lastly I picked up a token for Brigid as a permanent fixture to my altar or to take with traveling altars. It has a a Brigid's cross and the words
"I am the healing well, and the purging fire"
There is no reason not to spoil my altar at this time of year ;)
'There are three great ages; the age of the yew tree, the age of the eagle, the age of the Cailleach.' -An ancient Celtic poem
The Goddess Cailleach is a mother of gods, she is an old crone, a witch, and the Mother of Winter. She is so vastly ancient that the Celts when they arrived in Ireland two thousand years ago, addressed her as already ancient and powerful.
Cailleach was reborn again, an old crone, each Samhain and went about chilling the Earth to halt new growth, to frost the ground with a long wand or flick of her hand, and by calling down the snow. She was a tempest who controlled storms and weather along the shores of Ireland and Scotland and she is still spoken of in winter storm myths and legends today. Her staff had the ability to turn plants (and herself) into grey stone, therefore making lonely standing stones sacred to her.
It is said that her long fingernails carved the rivers and valleys of earth, and that she created the mountains from the stones that fell from her apron. Her appearance was fearsome, she was noted to have sharp red teeth and hair white as a frosted snow covered mountaintop. She was a goddess feared, a goddess respected. In many ways, she was Death personified.
Another Celtic goddess, Brigit was the goddess of new beginnings and birth, the sheering of sheep and the budding fertility of the spring. Twice a year, a challenge was issued with Cailleach against Brigit, the Cold Dragon against the Warm Lamb. At Samhain, Cailleach would triumph over Brigit, but at Imbolc the reverse would be true allowing spring to win over winter and warm the earth once again.
Terrifying old crone, witch, Cailleach, we feel her chill and deathly presence in our bones, our roots hit her frozen waters. We all must follow her crisp air into the dark cold winter of the wood. Here the old hag will test us, and we will be allowed to grow new again by the will of the Gods.
For Yule, my husband bought me a snail necklace! I love it so very much!!!
I have always loved snails, insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, bats, newts and other such creatures that others dislike.
This past year especially, my affinity for snails has grown as they help serve as a delicate reminder for me to slow down and appreciate life. As a manic person I need this reminder often because I will miss so much if I rush around all the time.
Take time to be slow
Take time to meditate
Take time to mesh with your environment
Take time to notice
Take time to overcome unexpected obstacles
You have your home, your support with you always ( on your back or in your heart), take time to remember it.
This holiday season has been a fantastic one, I co-lead our grove's Norse Yule Celebration. I worked with my hands and constructed the most complicated ritual gown I've ever attempted. I handcrafted my first paper mâché project ever; a 3D boar for oathing sacrifice to Freya. It was a great ritual, with great company.
I always do an Annual Yule Feast on winter solstice for all of my friends. I've been doing this for over 5 years now as my alternative to Christmas. In my heart, the holidays should be about giving thanks for all of those people you care about and letting them know what they mean to you.
I receive their love, their attention, their support ALL YEAR LONG. Far too often I am so busy that I cannot make time for them all, I cannot buy them all gifts for Christmas, there is no real way for me to show them the thanks they deserve. The thanks I feel in my heart.
So I decided years ago that I can give them one night. I can give them my attention during this chaotic time of year, I can cook them a feast from my heart ( I love to cook) and I can give them the gift of company and good food in thanks. Its how I honor the relationship of reciprocity. they give, I receive. I give, they receive.
It's all I can do, but it carries more meaning than a store bought gift can.
We had dozens of people at my Solstice feast, people of many different faiths but we were all there for one thing, to celebrate our holidays and friendship.
It was a beautiful thing.
In addition to these events, I had one more special trip I wanted to make with my family before Christmas Eve would take over. I wanted to see snow. My husband, boyfriend, son and I drove the 2 hours to the mountain and even though it was dark out, the snow was so bright and we had so much fun playing with it's cold simplicity.
Forget the malls, forget video games and movies, forget the presents under the tree.
Those moments when everyone was laughing and playing in the winter snow were the best holiday gift for me. The sacrifice was gas money, but the reward was my heart expanding.
The rest was a blur, Christmas Eve with my parents. So many presents and chaos. Christmas day, again, wrapping paper thrown around, chaos and drinking. There was much joyous celebration in the overly-Commercialized Christian *tradition*
But whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would think of the night time snow and the near full moon over the three most important men in my life as they ran around throwing snow at each other. When winter was just THERE to experience, not to be bought, and with no crushing deadlines (aside from frozen fingers).
When I felt overwhelmed, I'd think of my Solstice event and all of those faces I don't see often. I see their smiles and and the love in their hearts. I feel their hugs and gratitude and again, you simply can't buy that feeling.
When I felt overwhelmed, I'd think of my Grove members and our Yule Ritual and Feast. There was so much merriment, so much dedication, so much energy and genune beauty in the room. Sure there were errors here and there, but my Grove members are some of the closest friends I have and we all celebrated together as one Tribe the way we wanted to spiritually. This is my Spiritual Holiday with my spiritual community and friends.
This Yule offered me everything I could ever want this time of year and I will spend the next year showing my gratitude and practicing the balance of reciprocity, because that balance is so important in all things. With the birth of the sun again, my warmth and love rises yet another year, stronger and more vibrant than before.
*My submission for the Yule edition of my Grove's newsletter*
Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) lists Nine Druidic virtues that resonate within those of us who are walking the Druidic Dedicant path and for those looking deeper into our own spirituality.
The nine virtues are:
The Virtue I will focus most on for this edition of Kindred Connection is that of Piety.
As defined by Ár nDraíocht Féin, Piety is “Correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.
As a member of Columbia Protogrove, I took on the task this past year to devote myself to this virtue above all others. This year I became a very strong force within our grove, devoting myself to my community, my grove mates, and focusing my personal self to Deity connection and scholarly learning.
But there is one other thing I added to help display Piety; I sew.
Every single high day this year, from Imbolc to Yule, I have sewn a gown (sometimes 2 depending on the events I attended) and each one I did respectfully, allowing myself to be inspired by not only the High Day from my personal Celtic hearth culture, but by the cultures represented by my grove. The week before the high day, I engrossed myself in study, I listened to the languages and songs of these cultures and I picked patterns and/or fabrics that inspired me for that High Day. This process not only caused me to slow down and focus on delicate things, but also submerged me in an ancient process (sewing) and reflected my dedication and piety.
As the wheel has turned, I now have 8 new gowns, each one has experienced new faces in Ritual, and each one is a symbol of my Piety and devotion to my study. These gowns even became focal points of inspiration for our Grove members and community.
I have been inspired, and I hope that my devotion inspires others as well. Mixing study, with creativity and preforming and writing ritual for my local community has been my example of Piety this past year and it is a virtue worth thinking about, no matter your spiritual path.
I have not been very active in updating this blog and for anyone who has followed it, please forgive me.
It has been a very difficult school term for me (a massive understatement) and my time has needed to be devoted to my studies, and my family.
With that being said, I have not lost focus on my ADF Dedicant studies. I have been active with my local grove in numerous ways including active involvement with High Days and scholarly conversations. I have continued to hold monthly Dedicant Group meetings to discuss assignment topics (even though I have not written them here) I have not stopped anything aside from updating this blog due to lack of time to type.
I have been keeping a paper meditation journal that I plan on updating here with important meditations (the ones I wish to share that is) and I have been working on developing my relationships to my Deities on a daily constant basis.
I have been very focused on the impact I leave on the world and have made adjustments to live greener and more earth-focused. I have started working actively with giving back to our local homeless community as part of our grove. I have been BUSY and certainly have not been avoiding ADF diligence.
In fact, I consider myself connected stronger to my own spiritually than I have 4 months ago, 6 months ago, and honestly, ever.
So please forgive me for my lack of updates on this blog, I have been LIVING life through ADF eyes and mind and simply have not had time to journalize regularly.
That being said, school term is out on Dec 8th, so expect a HUGE amount of assignments to be posted as, like I said, I have not stopped...If anything, I have only gained more momentum. <3
Ever since yesterday's brush with the Morrigan, I can't get her out of my head. Today I have spent a great deal of time studying about her from various perspectives and I went looking for some artwork that helped visually connect me to her. These three images really capture the battle goddess as I feel her.
Im going to write today while everything is super fresh in my mind, I will do my ritual write up later but for now I really need to freewrite.
Lughnasadh was probably the most powerful ritual I have ever been too or been a part of.
I'm not being overdramatic here, it genuinely moved me.
Lughnasadh marks my 1 year anniversary attending High Day rituals with this grove and I have made them all with the exception of the Spring Equinox Hilaria ritual due to my breaking my foot less than 24 hours before hand.
Being an anniversary for me, I spent a lot of time reflecting on why I am here, how much I have changed, and really solidly connecting myself with my spirituality. I have seen all the seasons and celebrations through the eyes of an ADF druid now and with an awesome array of people. I have researched more history and traditions within this year than ever before. I have found ways to connect with Hearth cultures I am not drawn too. I have been INSPIRED each high day in the ways of our ancestors. I have seen happiness, I have seen teamwork, and I have seen GROWTH.
I have grown. My dedicant path is far from over but this is the first time in my life I have devoted a my full attention to the wheel of the year without interruption. I feel a sense of completion already and a sense of awareness and confidence that I have never known before. Its a beautiful feeling. I will be the first to admit that my spirituality has always been sporadic and all over the place, I was a self researched solitary for years and years and always felt "weird" for practicing anything around others. But this year I took a wrecking ball to those walls and all of my friends know of my spirituality. Several friends have even joined me!
This is a very emotional anniversary for me because I am deeply proud of myself. I feel grounded. If for any reason I need a break from our grove or something happens, I feel those roots with my own Druidry that will carry on beyond our grove because my spirituality has a wholly different importance to me now.
As for the ritual itself, the energy was beyond words.
Obviously, I came into this ritual with my own growth and sense of pride being my 1 year and all but there were a lot of things I did not expect.
First, I called upon the Warrior Goddess Morrigan this ritual to protect our rite. I wrote my invocation fluidly and without reference before hand as if she were a Goddess I had worked with before but I have never once called upon the Morrigan. In many ways, she has intimidated me so I have given her respect from a distance but never directly invoked her.
It was a big deal for me to write my first Invocation truly from the heart without using examples as reference. I was really proud of it but with spear in hand, as I shouted the words to her, something happened with me that I cannot fully describe.
She was there.
It felt as if in my opening statement I had been stabbed in the heart with the warning "Don't dare say this unless you truly mean it, girl!"
I was cold, but charged by her. The words came out perfect and carried more power than even I had had intended. I gave myself goosebumps by the end and after I finished, I kinda lost my place in the ritual.
I felt, "removed" from the general routine of these rituals and this feeling actually continued a lot during this ritual for me. I am sure it was not noticeable to others but it felt like a sudden rush of adrenaline had built up and then it had no where to go.
Confession: I've been a very violent person in the past, and I've struggled with adrenaline balance for YEARS, so this was a feeling I know well but not one I have ever experienced in a ritual.
It was like feeling ready to fight for my life and realizing I was alone without threat, then I blinked and saw all the grove guests standing there as David said the next part of the ritual and I had to mentally catch up to where we were.
It really really was undeniable how strong I felt the Morrigan.
This ritual dealt with death and celebration on several levels. Our deities of the occasion were the Warrior God Lugh and his foster mother Goddess Tiailtiu and we mourned her death and celebrated her sacrifice, love and harvest. We also mourned the loss of one of our Grove founders, Deb, who passed away and joined the ancestors 2 weeks ago.
I volunteered before the ritual to say something on Deb's behalf and to do the Grove offerings for her, and this was another hugely powerful part for me. Already feeling affected by the Morrigan I spoke for Deb and tried desperately not to let my voice crack and break. I was very in the moment and later another Member of our grove told me that a crow landed a branch above us when I began to give my speech to Deb and shortly after she counted 3 additional crows who flew away with the first. I wish I would have seen that myself, but I do not doubt the words for a moment because I know how deeply I felt the Morrigan there. The offering and words were powerful enough, but the added visual of the crows was something truly unbelievable to me.
Another part of this ritual with great meaning to me was that while our Seer was taking the omen I felt a tickle on my hand and looked down to a beautiful black and white jumping spider on my wrist. I giggled and showed another Member sitting next to me and let the little guy/girl wander up my wrist and then jump off of me. Given my general relationship to spiders this was a very welcome visit by a wonderful little jumper. This is a species I have seen for years and years but when I looked up its genus and species (Phidippus audax) I discovered its common name is "Bold Jumper" and that they are fearless little spiders who tend to prey on food much larger than themselves. I've never thought of how brave and bold this particular spider was but given my experiences with the Morrigan in this ritual, again, another element seemed to add to the "Warrior" aspect.
There was a great deal of sadness in this ritual and generally speaking, I am not the person who cries easily in public. I might get teary eyed, but tears generally do not fall. There were 3 offerings from Grove guests (and a member) that reached me deeply. I connected with their words, I was moved by their honesty, I felt their passion, their pain, their loss. Then there was the breaking moment where it all became overwhelming to me and for the first time ever, I openly sobbed during a ritual. Tears streamed down my cheeks while a member gave offering of song, I was so thankful for my relationships with my deities, I was so proud of my 1 year anniversary, I was overwhelmed by the loss of Tiailtiu, of Deb, of many of our guests personal stories that shadow my own dark past, I just lost myself in the moment. It was in that moment that felt tremendously connected to the nature and the people around me.
Despite all this sadness and adrenaline from the Morrigan, this ritual had an amazingly upbeat energy around it. Every guest I talked too said that our energy was amazing. The warrior games were a lot of fun, the meditations went very well, the bards sang fabulously. Somehow, we had managed to invoke a multitude of emotions in so many people that nearly every guest I spoke too said that this ritual left them changed, charged, and thankful to have been there. That is an incredible thing to hear over and over.
We had 25 people attend and at the arrival time, our grove was visited by a downpour of rain and thunder. I thought for sure people would leave. I worried that we couldn't continue on outside but as soon as we were ready to start, the sky cleared and by the end of the ritual there were blue skies and sunshine blessing us. Lugh had brought us rain, and thunder, and the sun all at once. Oregon has been so desperate for rain that every person there rejoiced.
This ritual moved me in ways I could never fully express in text. Im still tremendously emotional about it. In the comforts of my own home I have sobbed off and on since coming home just remembering all the details of the day and how much I appreciate each of our grove members for all the hard work they put into this ritual.
My Druidry is my heart. My Grove is my home. My Grove members are my tribe.
Morrigan, I still deeply fear you (as one should) but I feel you there and I respect your power and honor your presence.
*Warrior Invocation to the Morrigan*
Powerful Morrigan. Shapshifting Goddess who circles above battle fields and carries the seriousness of death and destruction where she flies.
Warrior Goddess! Worthy of fear, admiration and deepest respect.
She who reminds us of our own fragile mortality.
We call you today and ask you to join us and protect our Warriors Rite in Celebration of Lugh and his foster mother Tailtiu.
Morrigan, Mother Death, you strike terror into your enemies!
May your Dark and Beautiful presence today guard us from those who would do us ill.
Lady of Battle, Warrior Goddess, Morrigan we offer you this Whiskey as a symbol of our gratitude.
Morrigan, Accept our Offering!
My Lughnasadh high day gown. I need to fix the back because its too big but the tabbard and tiered skirt turned out very well. The belt I made for Midsummer worked amazing with this. I constructed the gown the week before our high day as I generally do in my process of getting inspired for the ritual at hand.
As the time is drawing neigh I have picked out my pattern and found the fabric for my Lughnasah ritual gown! I'm really excited. I genuinely love this creative tradition when I can do it because it helps me deeply connect to the high day. For Lughnasah my tabard will be the green color as it's the first harvest and the world is still full of green but the skirts will hint of Autumn to come. I can't wait to start!
I am very angry with technology tonight. I spent over an hour writing up my week 18 assignment and then my browser crashed and it was lost forever.
I guess its time for a little yoga to calm down and then rest because fuming about this certainly does not help anything. Hopefully I can get more work done tomorrow before our study group.
It's been rather nice taking a bit of a break from the fast paced world of Portland. I've continued reading regularly (I've moved from Druid books to WWII memoirs for a bit) but I have also looked for opportunities to remove myself from technology. As bit of a pro and con, this summer my area is experiencing a drought and record high temperatures. The sunshine is lovely but its also damaging so my family and I are limiting our time out in it. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees in an area that rarely sees 85-90, it's been very drastic. I keep trying to find the silver linings and welcome the sunshine but I cant help but fear for our forests as this is going to be a truly dry season and lightning could destroy so much, so quickly.
Last week, despite the heat, my husband, our son, my boyfriend, and boyfriend's sister all went camping for a bit over 24 hours. It was phenomenal to get out of the city and into the beautiful forest. We camped along a river and it was so bright and clear that we could camp with our rain fly off and stare up at the stars through the trees. We could hear the fast flowing river next to our tent at all times and at night time it was amazing. We tried desperately to see Venus and Jupiter as they are SUPER visible and bright right now but the amount of trees around us obstructed our horizon view.
One part of this camping trip that was exceptionally important to me was that we were camping on the night of a full moon. The moon was HUGE and BRIGHT and absolutely perfect. I walked everyone to an area that was in full view of the moonlight and propped up a white taper candle among stones and lit the fire. Ive always believed that when in doubt of a spell, or ritual, do what you feel is respectful because it will have the most meaning. I know ADF has full moon rituals, but I was camping and did not have access to them so I made something up that felt right to me. Lighting a beacon from the children of earth to the moon I felt that we had created a bond between where we stood and the radiance of the moon. One spot on the whole wide earth lit up in the moonlight, we lit our candle, held hands and danced in a circle 3 times around the candle in the moonlight. Enjoying, experiencing, and rejuvenating under the moonlight. In a time when our nights are so short the moon seems lonely to me, by celebrating in the moonlight I think we did our part of lighting up the night sky and making the moon shine a bit brighter.
The next day we all wandered to the lake and I swam in a lake for the first time in over a year. It was incredible. Not only was I thrilled now that my foot is healed enough to support the ankle movements of swimming but the atmosphere was phenomenal. Swimming in a pool is nothing like swimming in the lake, when I swim in a lake I feel LIFE all around me. I feel life in the water in the aquatic animals, I feel the trees and plants along the shore line, I feel the animals hiding in the bushes, I feel the birds flying over head. I can watch and hear squirels and birds. Swimming in a lake is a way for me to connect with an element of life, water. It was near sunset and we swam in crystal clear water and watched ducklings swim along the shoreline. We threw rocks making various ripples and sounds and genuinely enjoyed the nature around us without the temptation of looking at our phones or any other form of technology. I couldn't have asked for a better day.
The next day we were lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy Amusement Park full of hundreds of parents and kids in 100 degree weather waiting for fireworks that night. Nothing about Independence Day was relaxing like camping had been, until the fireworks started. As we sat down on the grass at sundown I looked out across the horizon and there they were, Jupiter and Venus BRIGHT in a horizontal line on the horizon in the direction we were facing to see the fireworks show. I could have watched the stars and been just as content as watching the fireworks but there was something sorta magical about watching the the fireworks against the backdrop of two magnificent planets. Here on earth, we celebrate summer, we celebrate our country, and maybe, just maybe, the cosmos could feel that I sat there connecting all the dots. Between the planets, between the seasons, and between nature and the modern world.
This is my Summer Solstice Home Shrine.
I added the beautiful sun fire roses
I added the belt from my Summer Solstice gown that I made from scratch. I'm exceptionally proud of that belt and the fabric used inspired the entire gown.
The Ritual pilar candle my husband and I are both sharing this Solstice so it moves between altars but glows bright like the sun.
I added my Amber Spider pendant as Amber is golden like sunshine and spiders have deep meaning to me.
I added some new stones and gave my image of Brigid and Faerie Divination cards stronger focus.
My offerings have been Solstice inspired loose incense to the fire, the golden stones to the well to warm the waters and water from the golden pitcher to "Sigmond" my world tree.
I have a great many things to write about over the past half a week but most important to mention is the focus on tremendous nature immersion and awareness. I've been enjoying daily nature walks when I have the ability to do them and last Wednesday I went to the Lone Fir cemetery for several hours and tried to connect with the ancestors. I have always found a sense of calm and peacefulness in cemeteries even as a small child. I have never feared them but instead approached each grave marker with a sense of wonderment about the amazing person who was buried beneath it. Cemeteries have always been full of a sort of story telling magic to me. Even if I do not visually see ghosts or anything I always imagine the various types of people walking around the cemetery as they would when they were alive, each one dressed differently, speaking different languages, playing, reading, chatting with a friend, etc. Cemeteries have always felt a bit like people watching in a big city to me. There are some images that strike alarm in me and although I might be curious I approach them with caution and others who's joy make me quite literally burst out laughing and grin from ear to ear. Cemeteries tell stories to me, and even I don't have the details, I can FEEL the depth of the lives once lived deep within the ground. However, even though I can feel alive with human story telling energy, I also have a sense of calm. That this is a place of rest. This is the end of one life's journey and a place where emotions can be amplified. This sense of calm is closely tied with my deep respect for the cemetery and the people who's grieving families visit.
The members and friends of Columbia Protogrove who were able to attend the Summer Solstice ritual at Trout Lake Abby Druid Sanctuary.
I was very inspired to create a Summer Solstice gown for this ritual. This entire gown, belt included was created sewn and created by me within 12 hours. <3 Doing artistic projects like this really help me express my inspiration and devotion to the High Days. I was sewing like a madwoman while lighting midsummer incense and listening to music I felt was fitting to Summer Solstice. I chose the colors of the sunshine for obvious reasons! :) That belt was constructed from a pillowcase pattern and was my source of Solstice inspiration. :)
Its been difficult to bring myself to open my laptop the past couple days because I have been having so much fun being away from it.
Look forward to reflections on various wetland nature walks, cemetery connections, my adventures in tree identification in said cemetery, and birds.
I have been trying so hard to be mindful about the importance of slowing down and noticing the details. Im trying to break the overly busy industrialized mindset that I generally have with deadlines, and such. Im always needing to find ways to slow down, ways to breathe deeper, to break away from the city life that surrounds me.
I've noticed a trend lately among many parents in my area, if the weather is above 70 degrees they all keep their children inside and the playgrounds are empty. As a mother of a 6 year old boy (an only child), this gets frustrating. I try to make it a point to get outside each day with him but when the playground is empty, I have to provide all of his entertainment. (And if I am being honest, he has a lot more energy than me as I am still learning how to re-walk on a recently fractured foot) I don't mind this too badly but its a shame that we live in an area with beautiful wetlands, wonderful trails, many playrounds and park benches and yet the children are always missing until almost sunset.
So today I told my son that we would go on our first real nature walk and he could collect leaves and such to bring home and we would make a collage picture with them. He loved that idea. I use to do them all the time for cheap entertainment with my Grandmother as a child. It's one of the many ways she encouraged a deep love for the outdoors, creativity, and art at a young age.
We also decided today to bring Midsummer offerings to the Sidhe, he choose some cherries (his favorite fruit right now) and I brought a sun shaped cookie that my husband and I made together for Midsummer offerings. We wandered a bit off the trail to an wetland area with beautiful cattails sticking up and placed our offerings. Kiddo and I spoke warm wishes to the the Sidhe this Summer Solstice and thanked them for their friendship, I also gave offering to those Sidhe who are of darker ways in thanks for their avoidance of me and my family.
After, while kiddo played for a while, I consulted my Faerie Oracle deck for a Midsummer message/omen from the Sidhe. I received the card "Little Boy Blue"
The Little Boy Blue card stands for Hope, new beginnings, excitement, dreams coming true, celebration, and the return of the soul. So many happy things!! I interpret this for myself as a message of celebration of the freedom I have this midsummer in my break from school and recovery from my broken foot. The message that I should be excited, I should celebrate, learn and grow (like a new child does with every little new wonder). I lit up when I saw the card because it is genuinely fitting for me right now. Since school ended I have been creative and artistic, I have been able to read for recreation and for personal growth, I have been able to meditate, I have been OUTSIDE! My foot is healed enough that I can WALK! Im a long ways from running, but I can walk again among the trees and speak to the flowers and wind in the ways that make me feel most alive. I interpret the message of the Sidhe as understanding that so many shackles have been removed from me and I am like a baby, born again to learn and explore everything around me. Such a perfect Midsummer message <3
Today is a good day. Today my husband and I stopped in at our local metaphysical shop and it is own and ran by a very nice and lovely self titled Witch. She loves seeing us pop in even if it is only but once every few months or so. She makes hand blended loose incense and I LOVE her recipes dearly. Today we had no real reason to drop in aside from just wanting to see if we wanted anything for Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Litha, Alban Hefin etc.
She had a special "Helios" blend of incense made for Midsummer and it was the most beautiful yellow. It also smelt incredible and we picked some up. My husband plans to use some as offerings in our Greek/Hellenic Summer Solstice ADF ritual tomorrow.
We also picked up one of her Sabbat candles for Midsummer. Her candles are special in that they are a hand crafted collaboration with another candle maker (Sticky Wickets). Together they place trinkets in the wax (such as charms, stones, shells etc.) that are revealed as you burn your Sabbat candle. They are also charged by the witches who make them and each candle is given with a spell for burning. The Midsummer/Litha candle card reads:
"We come together on this Litha day
To observe the same magic of our ancestors at play
Together, we dance to feel the power
Beneath the reign of the summer sun's hour
Lord of the Fires, Lady of Light
Connect with us through this solstice night
Come quick and sing it's timeless tune
For autumn shall soon be here all too soon"
Another unique thing I picked up this time was a New Moon spell kit. This kit contains a candle, incense, bath salts and a stone as well as a unique spell for the New moon. I have been meaning to try her New or Full Moon spell kits for a while to see how they work with me. The next New Moon is on Tuesday so I will give it a try then. I have also decided that I need to look into Full Moon rituals more with ADF as the moon truly as a powerful thing to me. If I can find a way to incorporate Wicca and ADF Druidry on Full and New moons I think I want to go that route. If nothing else, I will try both Wicca and ADF on these days to see what practice "feels" most right for me.
This visit there were also Cedar and Rose petal wants available and they smell absolutely divine. I am so deeply in love with this wand and I think it will be a wonderful offering to the gods and goddesses at tomorrow's ritual.
We also picked up a ton of incense per usual and had a jolly time chatting with the owner. I always feel so delighted talking to her.
Today I am also creating ritual offerings for tomorrow. Our grove has started offering small sacrifices for purchase (like .50 cents) to help raise money for the grove and to also help those new to our rituals struggle a bit less with individual high day connection during times that their Hearth culture is not represented. So far this has been well received and tomorrow I am contributing some Sun shaped shortbread cookies colored in yellow sugar crystals for Helios. Im excited!
My local grove does a newsletter that I regularly submit too. Here is the content I submitted for June on Selkies. Complete with the first drawing I have done in YEARS. I am very happy with it <3
The Selkie-folk are a super natural race of shape-shifting seal creatures. They exist in Northern European, Irish, Celtic, Scottish, Norse and Icelandic mythology. Selkie-folk are ocean creatures in seal form and are able to shed their sealskin and then take human form. It was most important for the Selkie to not lose its seal skin for it was that which gave them the ability to return to their original seal from. Often times Selkies shed their skins to sunbathe on the beaches in human form.
There are many versions of the Selkie myth but generally two versions stand out universally: one female, one male. The female Selkie is often a otherworldly beautiful woman who is “captured” by the man who finds her, unable to return to the water because the man has taken possession of her discarded skin. She is surprisingly devotional and loyal to her new husband and often raises children with him but her heart always longs for the sea. If her skin is ever discovered she will not resist to put it back on and be gone for the ocean that calls her home.
The male Selkie is also renowned for his seductive beauty and charm. When he comes upon land and sheds its skin, he is often noted for his ability to seduce and satisfy the unhappy and dissatisfied women of the area. Fairly often, these women bear his children, usually children with some sort of “deformity” or oddity about them. In some myths the male Selkie returns for these children after they are born to take them home to the sea to learn the ways of the Selkie beside him.
In some versions of the Selkie myth, Selkies are more active at Summer Solstice and in others at times of the Full Moon, but most stories carry a sense of tragic romance and unrequited love.
We are approaching the Summer Solstice and while we have a clear High Day for many Indo-European hearth cultures, we don't have this luxury for the Irish Celtic hearth.
According to the ADF website, there is no real proof that the solstices are celebrated by ancient Celtic peoples but we can assume that it was still likely they did. This is where I start seeing where ADF and Celtic recinstructionists would clash.
There was a quote on the ADF site that really resonated with me:
"Do we, following a Neo-Druidic path of spiritual exploration, limit ourselves to not using powerful themes, even those established by the regional predecessors of the Druids, simply because there's a lack of evidence for the Druids having used them? I think that, just as long as we aren't found doing something in the style of the Stonehenge folk, saying "the Druids did this...", we are freer to follow the Spirit of Ancientry, as we see it, without the unnecessary constraints of "scholarship" de jour."
This is where I tend to realize I agree with Neo-Druidry and ADF more than that of Celtic Reconstructionists. (No offense intended whatsoever <3) I find that I like the freedom for modern religious interpretation. Yes, I value the history we can interpret, but I also remember, much as most modern Christians do, that times change and adaptations are important. We no longer need to sell our children into slavery to pay off debts, we no longer need to marry virgins, we no longer stone people to death for crossing us, we no longer have any need to practice human sacrifice and so on. So if we can make these modern adaptations to ancient religions, why not with Druidry as well?
I will never consider myself a historical Druid, because I am not. I live in the modern society of 2015 and relate to many elements of ancient druidry but not all. Im not an ancient druid, I am a modern neo-druid. This is where academia breaks away to spirituality for me. Academia will only give me fragments of an ancient people, my spirituality lets me take those fragments and form my own spiritual path with them as elements to work with and admire. Do I wish there were more material available on the Ancient Celtic druids? Sure. But I would likely still do exactly as I am doing now with that material, use it to shape my individual spirituality, not let it rule me as word of unyielding fact.
The last thing I want to mention is the comments on the Sun being a forgotten element of worship for most modern pagan societies in favor of the Moon or other "feminine" deities.
I will admit, my initial path to pagan faith was through Wicca and it was the idea of powerful women and anti-male power structure that I really wanted most. Having been part of Christian structures where women were not allowed to be pastors or leaders (outside choir directors or Sunday school for children) it was clear to me that women were secondary to male leaders. Yes, years ago I would have avoided contact with any male deity likely in favor of a sisterhood spirituality. This has changed for me now.
I can understand the male association with a Solar Deity or the Sun itself but I suppose I have never truly gendered the Sun for myself. The sun is a crucial part of our earthly existence. Without the sun we would have nothing and so why would I not celebrate this amazing aspect of one of our Kindreds? Just as I connect to the moon, I connect to the sun as well. Thinking about how so many cast off solar deities in favor of darker pagan elements (gothy, witchy, nocturnal, things) made me also realize that unlike many other pagans I know, I don't gender the moon as well. I suppose I don't gender ANY natural existing thing outside of Gods and Goddesses who present their gender preferences clearly. It just seems silly to me to avoid nature and its elements one could consider "masculine" either in antiquity or now. It could be my libra brain going nuts here but I see the importance in balance. Dark and light, Power and weakness, male and female, and the entire spectrums between them.
The ancient Celtic peoples may not have formally celebrated the summer solstice like other Indo European cultures who celebrated the sun at this time but I can.
I am a neo-druid, I celebrate nature, I worship the gods and goddesses, I connect with my ancestors. I appreciate balance, and I embrace and celebrate the sun without guilt.
This was my Beltaine home shrine.
I shifted my arrangement slightly to incorporate various elements and added a stick incense holder. For Beltaine I regularly lit pheromone incense for sensuality.
The Maypole I constructed myself after nearly 3 hours of figuring out how to do it! I am very proud of that Maypole :)
I placed two taper candles, one at each end to signify the fires of Beltaine. All offerings and my voice itself passed between the two flames.
I have two wooden images now, one of my Patron Brigid and the second of the Morrigan. These were gifts from my husband as he knows I relate to both of these Goddesses. I think in the future I will replace the Morrigan image as I am not really a fan of the depiction but it will suffice for now.
I also choose to decorate my alter with lots of flowers. In this case these flowers are fake, but several of my offerings were of real flowers fitting for the season.
I wrote this on May 17 2015
I am in the process of exploring divination methods that work for me and trying to build a relationship to Tarot and my new deck. In this process tonight I have been asking my deck questions about itself to better understand the nature of its answers and it's become very clear that this deck is very blunt and truthful. (This is something I really appreciate as my oracle deck speaks more in riddles)
The question I asked is "At this point in our relationship, which card best describes your opinion of me?"
The answer: The 4 of Swords.
The card that reminds us to SLOW DOWN and rest our injuries. That reminds us that being addicted to activity is not always healthy.
Much like everyone around me lately, even my deck feels I need to take it easier and heal my foot, even be the dreadful word *boring* for a while for my own good. My deck already knows Im a stubborn and prideful perfectionist and it isn't afraid to call me out on it.
It's been almost a year since I discovered our local Columbia Protogrove and started attending rituals. And a LOT has happened in that year.
After attending 3 rituals with the grove, my husband expressed interest in taking on the Dedicant Program. I had my reservations, not for any other reason aside my personal fear of overextending myself.
After one study group meet-up I decided to start the Dedicant program after all. The group consisted of a few of other grove members and I thought that it would be a fun experience as opposed to an overloading one. I was still a bit hesitant to take on the responsibility as I was in my first college term back to school after nearly 9 years.
I turn 30 this year. Going back to college is a big deal to me and I am a tremendous academic overachiever. Here I am, 3 terms later, finishing my first year with a 4.0. Needless to say my academic study time has really affected my social life and extra curricular activities. I'm pre-med (Pharmacy student) so my grades are VERY important.
I am a mother of a happy and healthy 6 year old boy, I am a wife of 5 years to my loving Husband (we have been together 8.5 years now), I am a girlfriend of almost 3 years to my loving Boyfriend. I am polyamorous, and balancing my family is, and will always be, my number 1. focus. We all get along great and my relationships are strong, but they do require my time and energy to keep healthy.
Around the time of Imbolc this year I was starting to get really excited about Columbia Protogrove and its members. After that one study group I decided "YES" I want to do this, I "CAN" do this and I signed up with ADF immediately. I was happy to have found a positive community that I could grow in.
Then something rather drastic happened, the day of our public Imbolc ritual, two important grove members quit our grove all together. These members were the ones leading our study group, they were active members in the Imbolc ritual, and just like that, they were gone.
It's times of conflict that reveal roads to us. It's the paths we choose to take that help shape us. I chose not to be overwhelmed and feel lost, I chose to help rebuild. Our grove leader asked my husband and I to help out and we ran with it full force. Before I ever got my physical copy of "Our Own Druidry" in the mail I decided to help run our grove study group. Being an active member of this grove was something I wanted to do, something that the grove needed desperately at that time, and I don't regret that decision one bit.
After Imbolc, I began writing invocations and helping construct public ritual parts. I learned. I grew. I became a face for Columbia protogrove and was accepted despite the fact that I was still learning the ins and outs as I went along. Unfortunately, my dedicant assignments suffered a bit due to time management obligations but I continued to lead our study groups and while I haven't written much in my blog since Imbolc I have more than enough content to write about in my head and heart.
Another setback happened right before our Hilaria ritual when I fractured my foot. I dealt with casts, surgery, and pain. I was in a cast for 6 weeks and am still re-learning how to walk. I struggled but it taught me a lot about what I am capable of.
Our grove has been doing nothing but growing and getting stronger since the leadership restructure around Imbolc. We now have a thriving Study Community, a strong Bard group, we are doing all sorts of extra projects with endless ideas for the future. I am so very happy to be a part of this group.
As I finish my first year back to college, I am proud of my accomplishments. I am proud of my involvement with Columbia Protogrove and I am proud I didn't run away when it felt like everything would be too hard.
Now that I am officially on summer vacation I plan on devoting massive energy and focus into my Dedicant program. Who knows what next year will hold in terms of how challenging my life will be, but I am happy to be part of a community that wants me to succeed and offers support when I struggle. <3