Autumn Update

I’ve been neglecting you all, haven’t I?

It’s not deliberate: I’ve been incredibly busy so far this fall, so busy I even took a brief break from my grove activities! I’ve been doing twice-daily devotionals, working on some study program excitement, engaging in some interesting druidic correspondence, and even trying my hand at a few small works of magic. I took a quick trip to Three Cranes Grove for the autumn equinox, which was very fun: it’s always a delight to see friends and meet new folks. I’ve also been planning for an upcoming all-night Druid Moon.

And that’s not even mentioning my personal and professional life, where things are really cooking, so much so that I’ve finally succumbed to a nasty autumn cold. Yikes. I thought I’d take advantage of the illness-induced slowdown, though, to put down a few musings here.

I spent some time last week reading Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery, which was a truly charming (haha, oh, puns) book. Most of you who read this blog know I’m not really into hardcore magical-practice, that I feel doubtful about spells, ceremonial magic, grimoires, calling on spirits to do my bidding, and other things of the kind. I’m starting to get over my hebejeebs, though, partly for personal spiritual reasons and partly because I’d like to be able to perform workings for those around me.

Household witchery (or domestic magic: pick your own name) has been my gateway magic, if you will. I enjoy crystals, largely because of their beauty and the symbolic magical correspondences assigned to them, though I’d dispute their New Age healing powers I like herbs for the same reasons, though I do credit them with palliative properties. And household magic capitalizes on common, readily available ingredients like kitchen herbs, seeds, candles, and easy-to-acquire stones.

[Sidebar: That's one aspect of Mrs. B's book that I loved: she recommends common ingredients and offers substitutes for the rarer herbs. For example, she recommends using an Earl Grey tea bag for bergamot. Easy, brilliant, and less costly than trying to track down herbs no one keeps in their pantry.]

Herbal magic, candle magic, and the creation of oils or incense: these, to me, all fall into the domestic category. I’d like to create a few basics to use for purifying and consecrating tools, soliciting inspiration, asking for protection, or banishing negativity.

I’m a complete newbie at this side of Druidry, though, so I’m learning as I go. One thing that’s already tripping me up a bit is balancing the spiritual and practical aspects of magic. Am I praying for aid, when asking for inspiration, or putting my own intent for inspiration onto, say, a candle, and willing it into life?

It’s a distinction I need to make for myself, I think. Hmm.

Books and Other Media

I’ve been gorging on druidry-related media in the past few weeks, and I wanted to pass on some of the better bits.

First, I want to give a shout-out to my wonderful mother, who has been more supportive than I could ever have hoped for. She recently sent me a package containing some druidic artwork, a pentacle necklace which will adorn my altar since I wear a silver triskele every day, and two lovely herbal books, A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine and The Herbal Home Remedy Book. The former is primarily a book of Ogham “magic” in the form of quick herbal spells and remedies, while the latter is exactly what it sounds: herbal home remedies. It has been quite interesting so far, and I plan to try making my own cough drops for my chronic allergies-cough and possible some soothing teas.

Next on the list The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Mythology. I bought this one for a song at Barnes and Noble after a grove-mate showed off a copy at the last meeting. This is not the best book, but it is a beautiful and eminently useful book. It lists mythological topics first by place of origin (Celtic, Hellenic, etc.) and then alphabetically. It’s heavily cross-referenced and absolutely filled with beautiful photos and illustrations. (I want a print of this Miranda Gray illustration of Manannán mac Lir for my altar!) It’s a beginner book (the first sentence of Brigid’s entry reads, “Brigid, sometimes known as Brigit, was a goddess of healing and fertility who was believed to assist women in labour.” Huh??), but it’s usually a strong starting point.

On a slightly more scholarly level, I’m reading Mystery Cults of the Ancient World. I’m only about midway through the first section about the Eleusinian Mysteries, which has been fascinating. It amazes me to realize I stood on some of these ancient holy places when I was in Athens, and never even knew it. The book is primarily about the Greek/Roman and Egyptian cults, but it’s a great entry into ancient pagan practices, even if it’s not in my hearth culture.

I’m also working my way through Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, edited by W. B. Yeats. I haven’t made it too far through this one yet, but it’s charming and filled with lovely woodcuts that go along with the stories. There’s not a lot in the book that you can’t get online, but it is nice to have a physical copy sitting on my new bookshelf dedicated to tarot, paganism, and penguins. I haven’t unpacked my camera yet, or I’d post a photo of that, too!

Finally, there’s American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which will get an entry all its own after I pry it from my fiancé’s sleeping fingers. After I blazed through my first ever reading of it, he started rereading it, so I didn’t get the chance to collect the quotes from it I want to write about. So stay tuned for that post.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to mention the Celtic Myth Podshow. If you’re not already familiar with this podcast, go listen! Right now! I’m sure most of you know about the podcast, but the new Android app (or iPhone, if that’s how you roll) deserves a mention. I bought the $1.99 app a couple of days ago because I wanted to support the podcast, if in a small way, and it’s wonderful. Every episode at my fingertips all day long, and the ability to star my favorite episodes? Worth way more than $2. Go check it out.

Read anything great lately? Pass it on, and I’ll add it to my list!

Druids in Urban Fantasy

It’s been pretty serious around here lately, so I thought it might be time to shake things up with a fun book recommendation.

It’s Connor Grey, urban fantasy druid, living in Boston and scraping his living as a police consultant while he tries to regain his lost druidic powers.

This four-book (so far) series is pretty entertaining: your typical private investigator urban fantasy book, but with a fun setting and the druid main character twist. The second book, Unquiet Dreams, deals with Connor’s grove and his druidry a bit more than the others.

I won’t go into full, detailed review-mode here, but I do enjoy the interracial politics in these books: fairy versus elf, otherworldly versus human. The fourth book ends on quite a cliff-hanger, and the fifth comes out in April. I also enjoy that the books balance action-packed “boy book” aspects with a more gender-neutral political aspect.

So, if you like to see druids in fiction, and you’re up for trying a lesser-known urban fantasy writer (as opposed to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series), Connor Grey is a pretty good read.