Building Mental Discipline

What follows is the journal I started for the purposes of recording my experiences with developing mental discipline.  I made a point to meditate as much as possible over a five month period as part of my Dedicant Program.  Since it was a journal the language may at times seem informal or even grammatically incorrect.  I read through it a few times to check for spelling errors and to remove erroneous material.  Some entries were written the next day but are organized according to the day described.

 

1/2/08

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve  written anything here.  It’s also been awhile since I’ve seriously sat down to meditate.  It’s hard to do it during the semester.  I get so tired and stressed out – it’s really hard to try and relax my body and mind. Yet I know that it’s something I need to do.  My body and mind need to relax, especially during such stressful times.  It’d be better for me than vegging out in front of a tv or game.  My soul craves it during the semester.  Without it, I seem to become extra sensitive and edgy.

I’m alone in Ron’s apartment.  After some lazing about, I decided it was time.  It was a good opportunity.  I was alone and the house was quiet.  I was wide awake.  I made an offering to the kindreds to ask them for peace through meditation.  I gathered some matches, a candle, and some incense.  Preparing Ron’s room, I washed my hands as an act of purification.  I then put on some meditation music and sat with my back against a pillowed wall.

My thoughts ran wild, but slowed to a sleep-like state afterwards.  I must have meditated for twenty or so minutes, which was good.  I didn’t want to do too little because I feel that’s been the case for the past few months.  Yet I didn’t want to do too much.  I was starting to fall asleep – I was a little too relaxed!  I need to ease myself back into it and make it a common practice, even if it’s every other day.

I feel peaceful, accomplished, and sleepy all at once.  I saw some images as I started to settle: A tree, a flower girl with her arms outstretched, a bearded man, and a woman with long hair.

 

1/8/08

 

I attempted to meditate before bed last night.  I felt my mind start to slip into that all familiar, high-like state where my body feels light.  However my body was so very tired that I decided it was best to go to sleep.  I decided to try again the next day.

 

1/9/08

 

Ron and I meditated together!

I’m so glad I got him to do it with me.  It wasn’t a tree of life or Two Powers meditation per se.  I want to go slowly, especially with him.  He doesn’t meditate very much at all.  I decided it would be best to put on a meditation instrumental for a few minutes.  We would relax and breathe deeply just for one song.  I hope to work up to several songs in a row.

While I breathed, I quickly fell into a relaxed though mindful state.  Towards the end, I suddenly envisioned myself as a tree.  I was very pastel – all soft browns and oranges.   My green branches reached into the sky and pulled down the sun’s rays.  I felt buzzing inside of me.  Then my roots extended and sucked up the life giving water.  I felt so close to the world outside, even though I’m in a city.

 

1/10/08

Meditated before bed.  Just a simple Two Powers.  Really tired.  Not much to say.  In some ways I felt like I was just going through the motions…  I’m sorry to admit that.

 

1/11/08

Attempted a better Two Powers meditation.  It was a bit improved, although I have to do these things earlier in the day.  I feel that I rushed myself so I could just go to bed and, therefore, did not get much out of it.

 

1/12/08

 

I’ve started to do a Two Powers meditation before my daily devotionals again.  I really need to put in the effort to do it if I’m to develop the skill.

It felt great to do it.  I didn’t so much see but feel the sky and earth energy flowing into me.  It was really relaxing.  I found it helpful to focus on the fact that I’m connecting to nature and all of the spiritual realm.  I think it’s good to remember that before doing the ritual.  The meaning is brought to the fore.

 

1/13/08

 

There was a Mohawk Valley Pagan Network meeting tonight.  We did a ritual with meditation.  The purpose was to sort of …  reestablish our connection to each other and infuse blessings upon each person present.  There were some slightly awkward moments as two of the newer members were nervous and unsure of what to say or do.  We made it through and I had a pleasant, spiritual experience.

I enjoy guided meditations.  I’m able to just let my mind go with only a slight, fuzzy focus on the speaker.  We began by visualizing a rock.  This is a typical MVPN meditation which I enjoy.  I always envision a light grey rock covered in Celtic spirals.  We were then told to walk around the rock, clockwise, until we found a door.  We entered the door and explored the innards of the rock.  There was a chamber for us to meditate in, but we passed that for the time being.  We entered another chamber where we met the spirit of the rock.  It was the same spirit I’ve always met when visiting this rock.  He’s obviously Celtic.  He speaks English to me, but he has a strange, Irish-Scottish accent.  He has a big, red beard and a friendly, hearty personality.  He greeted me with a heavy pat on the back and a deep, booming hello.  He bid me to sit by him and asked if I brought him some whiskey.  I asked him if Druidry was the path for me, and he said, basically, “Why not?!”  He explained that it was associated with my ancestors and that it doesn’t insult him.  He asked that I remember him in my worship.  I gave him a spiritual gift of whiskey, but I would like to offer him real whiskey sometime.

We then entered a silent, unguided meditation.  I found myself in a swirl of dancing Tuatha De Danna.  It was mesmerizing and lovely to feel like I was really there in their halls.

 

1/14/08

Before my daily devotional, I sat before my home shrine and breathed, preparing my body and soul for the Two Powers meditation.  It was strange.  I was tired, yes, but my new-found determination seemed to override that factor a little bit.  I say a little because there were times when it was hard to simply not fall asleep, but for the most part, I was easily able to slip into that “in-between state” where awareness seems to go inward and expand outward.

I felt the stretch of spiritual branches from my head as I reached to the stars for the sky energy.  I’ve begun to reach for the sky before the ground.  I’m not sure why, yet.  Maybe because I do the earth first and I’d like a change.  I don’t think it matters.  If anything, it invigorates me more as I view the sky energy as fire energy, and I’ve always had a special connection to fire.

I felt the tingle in my head, heart, and loins as the fire energy coiled in them.  I felt the same when I pulled up that cold, earth energy.  I basked in the brilliance, knowing that I was connected to the sky and to the earth – to the whole cosmos.  I don’t think that I only am so during these meditations or rituals.  I think we always are, but these exercises serve as powerful, visceral reminders.

 

1/15/08

 

I tried to get Ron to meditate with me before bed, but by the time he seemed ready, it was very late and I was very tired.  I needed to do my daily devotional and that would require the last of my energy so we put that activity off for the next day.

I prepared myself for the Two Powers, again, by breathing deeply.  I find myself breathing in threes.  Everything is in threes.  It’s very reflective of my hearth culture.

Anyway, the meditation went well.  Better than yesterday, I think, except that I had a cat on my lap.  This was ironic as my devotional was dedicated to the Nature Spirits that night.  However his weight was a bit distracting until I adjusted.  Then I just fell into that meditative state…  It was hard to come out to do the actual ritual.  It felt good to just float.

 

1/16/08

 

I meditated before my evening daily devotional.  I felt rushed due to fatigue, but at the same time, I actually felt the heat of the sky energy and the coolness of the earth energy.  In retrospect, I find it strange that the earth energy is cool as, when considering molten lava, the center of the earth is quite hot.  I suppose it makes sense when taking the coldness of a rock into account.  Perhaps it has something to do with the ground’s frozen quality at the moment (it is winter, after all…).

 

1/17/08

 

Again, a two powers meditation before the daily devotional.  I felt the heat and coolness of the sky and earth energies, respectively, but I can’t help but wonder if the energy really feels that way, or if I’m making myself believe it feels that way.  I also wonder if the energy is really there…

The funny thing is, I have no problems believing in, and even feeling, quite powerfully, the existence of deities, nature spirits, etc…  Yet sometimes energy is a bit harder.  It’s not that I don’t believe in energy.  Energy is all around as is made evident by the fire of my altar candles, the heat of sex, the attraction of lovers, or the biting winter air.  And yet, are we really able to direct it so much?  Am I really pulling down sky and earth energy, or is it just a symbolic gesture to acknowledge my connection?  Would it matter if that’s all it was?  These are questions I must sort out for myself.

 

1/18/08

 

The more I meditate, the more I feel the temperature of the different energies.  I really don’t know what to make of it, but I guess, in the end, that is the basis of faith.  One experiences something that is hard to explain.  By accepting that oddity, they put faith in something that others would scoff at.

In continuing my thoughts from the previous entry, I’ve started to wonder if, instead of directing energy, I’m simply opening myself up to it?  Slipping into that “in-between” state has become easier and easier, and so perhaps that’s why I’ve been better able to feel the tingling, and now hot or cold, sensations of the energy.

 

1/19/08

 

Meditating while grumpy and sick feeling isn’t easy.  I tried my best, even if I decided to forgo the Two Powers Meditation and simply do some deep breathing.  It relaxed me so much that, by the time I was done with the meditation and my daily ritual, I felt really relaxed and all of my tension had gone.  For the time being, I felt fine.

 

1/20/08

 

I felt really sick on this day.  My head was pounding and this was making me nauseous.  I just wanted to go to sleep.  All the same, I didn’t want to fall out of the habit of honoring the Kindreds.  Deciding to do a simple ritual rather than open the gates and do a meditation, I simply decided to breathe easy and light a candle for Brighid.  I was pleased that I was able to do that before crashing into bed.

I then felt guilty for not doing a full mediation.  It’s something I want to do more of, after all.  And it had made me feel a bit better the night before.  So I laid on my back and attempted to meditate but simply could not due to the pounding headache I had.  It was too much and I’m afraid that I’m not mentally disciplined enough to focus on something other than the pounding.  I tried and just could not.

 

1/21/08

 

Meditating again!  It felt good to do it after the short break due to illness.  I can still feel coolness and heat in the energy I allow to circulate through me.

 

1/22/08

 

I did my meditation after opening the gates.  I had been meditating before opening the gates but doing it after seems to make more sense to me.  I envisioned myself reaching up or down through the gates to gather the energy.  It was a more powerful experience.  I think I will continue to order my rituals that way.

 

1/23/08

 

I felt that I rushed my meditation this night.  I was really tired from having stayed up so late, and nervous about getting enough sleep before school, so I rushed through my meditation.  Doing this started the decline in my daily devotionals last semester.  Great way to start out spring.  I really need to stay disciplined!

 

1/24/08

 

Meditation was really good tonight.  I made sure that I had time and energy to do it, however it was late at night before bed, so I felt that it was easier to fall into that “in between state.”

It’s easier and easier to work with the energy of sky and earth.  I tend to pull the sky energy down first.  Along with the temperature, I’m able to feel the pulse and swirl.  Like sparks.  I felt that I could have meditated for longer after doing the Two Powers, but I needed to go to bed.  I’d like to make time for deeper, longer meditations.

 

1/25/08

 

Meditation is becoming shorter again…  Stress levels from college rising…

 

1/26/08

 

I was able to meditate a little bit today.  I’ve shortened my ritual with the intention of doing a full one each week.  I still hope to meditate before the rituals, though.  I just did a basic two powers meditation before lighting candles for the Kindreds.  I don’t think that doing the Two Powers without opening the gates is a bad thing.  However my experience is beginning to teach me that I can feel the powers of earth and sky more when the gates are opened.

 

1/27/08

 

I specifically honored Brigid in my devotional today.  After lighting her a candle, I meditated on her for a bit.  She expressed the desire for me to make her a doll as an offering for Imbolc.  I shall begin the doll soon.  I think it’s important for me to honor her desire.  I was pleased to receive this vision from her and feel close to her after honoring her.

 

1/28/08

 

I did some deep breathing today.  I was really stressed out from school work and figured that it would help.  I didn’t “see” anything, but I did feel myself relax a bit.

 

1/29/08

 

I didn’t even meditate this day.  I was so tired after having stayed up too late that I did a short devotional and went right to bed after.  I tried to meditate in bed, feeling guilty, but fell asleep.  I don’t want this to happen with such frequency.  Last semester, I stopped meditating almost entirely due to fatigue and poor time management skills.

 

 

1/30/08

 

Why do my energy levels have to fall to such a low this time of year!?  And why does stress have to make meditation so difficult?!  It’s truly frustrating that I can’t focus or discipline myself enough to start earlier.

 

2/1/08

 

I made sure to do my ritual and meditate today.  For Gods’ sake – I’m leading a ritual on Sunday and I need to be on top of my game.  Meditation will help me prepare and relax.  It was easy to get into a relaxed state today, and I think it’s because I hadn’t done anything all day.  No classes, no work…  I was free to do as I pleased.  Those days are the best for me when it comes to spiritual growth.

I had been working on the write-up for my upcoming Imbolc ritual when I realized how late it was.  I went to my altar, sat before it, took three deep breaths for relaxation, and then jumped into a Two Powers meditation.  It felt quick in some ways.  It seemed that as soon as I had stretched out my spiritual roots and branches the Two Powers came thundering through me.  In some ways it was disconcerting.  Why so fast?  Why at the same time?  It felt really nice after a few days of failing to meditate, that’s for sure.

 

2/2/08

 

I opted not to go to the Muin Mound Imbolc ritual today due to dubious weather. I decided to do a private run-through of my upcoming ritual.  This included a Two Powers meditation.  For the most part, everything went really smoothly with the ritual.  The meditation went really well too. In addition to the Two Powers, I am planning to guide a meditation.  As I went through this I spoke aloud to myself.  I’ve found that speaking aloud while meditating is a strange experience.  Sometimes it can be effective, but I find that it’s more distracting for me to lead myself.  I’m more focused on what I’m doing rather than just meditating and relaxing.  Maybe this will change one day.

 

2/3/08

My ritual went so well!  Everyone was really pleased with it.

I had meant to do the Two Powers meditation before making offerings to the Kindreds, but due to a little slip up, we did it after.  No one seemed to notice, however.  It all went really smoothly.

Standing up while meditating is still strange to me, no matter how many times I do it.  Coupled with actually leading the meditation, and thus speaking aloud, it was all odd.  I felt something but it wasn’t as intense as when another person leads or I do it on my own in silence.

All the same I’m glad that everyone else enjoyed it.

 

2/4/08

 

I attended my first Crafting Magic and Ritual class today.  It’s lead by my Wiccan friend, Katrina.  We introduced ourselves and then delved into some deep questions about life, Paganism, magic, and who we are.

We then went into a meditation lead by Katrina. It was a tree of life meditation, one I’m quite familiar with, but it seemed really long and drawn-out in some parts.  It started off really well.  We imagined that we were trees with tap roots. In the meditation she explained that most trees don’t have a tap root.  It seemed distracting and besides the point.  All the same, I intend to read about roots soon.  We then went on with the standard stretching of our roots and pulling up energy.  But then it went in a direction I wasn’t anticipating and it was kind of distracting.

We stretched out runner roots, four in total, to each of the cardinal directions.  I was visualizing myself as the world tree, thus a huge plant that was enormous on the globe.  Katrina warned not to tangle our roots, but it was too late.  I’d already envisioned myself as THE tree.  I don’t know what that says about my personality, but I wasn’t getting tangled with the other peoples’ roots – I was dominating them.  It was really strange.  Perhaps it had something to do with my level of experience within Paganism compared to the others, yet I know that sounds haughty and I don’t want to seem that way…

We then prolonged the meditation further by making the sounds we consider a tree to make.  Most people were reluctant to do this, and so it seemed like a long, unnecessary, and even intimidating meditation for newcomers.  The meditation ended with many people feeling sore.  Not a good sign, I don’t think…

 

2/5/08

 

Oh gosh…  I was so tired last night, I could barely meditate.  I did my ritual quickly and went to bed…  I think stress makes meditation harder because stress makes me dwell on all the things I need to do or should do.  It makes focusing on the Two Powers or anything spiritual very hard.

 

2/6/08

 

Repeat of last night…  I am annoyed with myself.

 

2/7/08

I tried to meditate.  I really did.  But, being so tired, I fell asleep while doing it.  I should have sat up by my altar to do it.

 

2/8/08

 

Yay!  I managed to meditate.  I sat before my altar and quieted my mind before my ritual through some deep breathing.  I breathed in, held my breath, and released each for a count of four.  I did a Two Powers meditation while envisioning myself as a tree.  I think that meditation works best when it’s to the point.  I’d rather do it that way than imaging my roots spreading out to different directions and such.  I felt the energies happily flowing through my body.  It was simple but powerful.

 

2/9/08

 

I meant to meditate but fell asleep…  That’s what I get for putting it off and then feeling tired…

 

 

2/11/08

 

I went to Katrina’s class today.  As usual she lead a meditation.  We did the rock meditation.   I’ve actually become quite fond of it because it’s always the same rock and the same spirit within.  The rock is covered in Celtic spirals.  I walked around it clockwise while feeling the texture.  It’s always grainy and I can feel the bumps of the carvings.  Eventually, the rock formed a door.  I entered a chamber, passing a room or two.  When I got to the main chamber, I found the spirit of the rock.

For me, it’s always this middle-aged, Celtic warrior with red hair, a long mustache, and beard.  He’s in some armor but is jolly and hospitable.  He always greets me with a hug and calls me daughter.  I think that he is both an ancestor and a God – he hinted at being An Dagda this time.  This makes me feel good because I’ve been feeling distant from him lately.  Not on purpose, of course!  But with Imbolc and my flame keeping, I seem to put a lot of emphasis on Brighid.  Luckily, An Dagda seems loving towards me all the same.  He is a male deity and perhaps he feels it best for me to be closer to a female deity.

I gave him a gift of the first thing I thought of from my spiritual pocket.  I pulled out chocolate hearts.  He liked them, but was confused with the tin foil wrappings.  He kept them anyway, considering them precious metals.  We bid each other farewell until the next time.

I then went into another chamber of the rock where I grounded.  We later entered the meditation again, working on shielding ourselves with energy.

I imagined the energy like a yellowed web.  It surrounded me and yet, like a dream catcher, allowed good in while keeping the negative out.

We also worked in partners, trying to feel each others’ energy fields.  I felt buzzing and fuzziness.  My partner felt temperatures, especially heat.  It was interesting.

All in all, the meditation this week was much better.  It seemed more focused and I was better able to relax.

 

2/12/08

 

I meditated very, very quickly today.  I was grateful to the Gods for protecting me as I traveled through bad weather (mostly slippery snow).  When I returned home, I offered them whiskey out of thanks and took a moment to breathe.

 

2/13/08

 

Quick meditation before bed.  I did a Two Powers.  I felt rushed but I could still feel the energy.  I then lit the candles for my devotional.

 

2/14/08

 

I sat on my bed, my back against a wall, and took three deep breaths after closing my eyes.  I kept breathing, focusing on three.  Eventually I fell into that beautiful state where you feel as if you could almost float away.

I did a Two Powers meditation.  This time I did something I don’t usually do.  When I pull the earth and sky energy into me, I visualize it curling in my loins, heart, and head.  I usually, when letting it go, just let it go.  But this time I visualized it uncurling out of these areas.  It seemed to make the meditation all the more powerful.

 

2/15/08

 

I made sure to meditate today, although I was tired.  It was okay – but college is really burning me out.  There’s got to be a better way to balance everything…

 

2/16/08

 

I managed to do some deep breathing before my altar today.  It was relaxing.  Perhaps, some days, our bodies just don’t want/need to meditate?  Or perhaps that is just an excuse on my behalf…

 

2/17/08

 

Quick breathing exercise before bed.  I hate this…  The exercise usually relaxes me, but I’m too stressed out for even that.  Maybe Buddhist monks are better able to meditate because they devote their lives to it?

 

2/18/08

 

Meditation at Katrina’s today.  Heidi led the grounding and focused on earth, it seemed.  We went inside a mountain and met the spirit of the mountain.  I sat in a crystal chair.  The meditation felt awkward for me, mostly because her descriptions were full of light and I imagine the inside of a mountain to be dark or at least dimly light with firelight.  This is where guided meditations kind of fail, in my opinion.  When the leader is too descriptive it can throw off someone’s instincts and own personal perceptions.  The vaguer the guided meditation, the better.

Katrina lead us on an elemental meditation, focusing on the four elements of Wiccan theology.  I’ve done this so many times that I figured it would be the same for me.  When I got to fire and water, however, Brighid and Danu were there.  They were powerful, passionate women.  It felt great to connect with them so vividly.  Especially Danu.  I never work with her…

 

2/19/08

 

In preparation for a ritual with Katrina and some other Pagans, I had to come up with a grounding ritual, but they wanted something other than a tree or a rock.  As we were celebrating the eclipse and the moon, a lunar meditation seemed best.  After thinking about it, I decided to walk myself through it while lying in bed.  Unfortunately, I was so tired that I fell asleep halfway through.  I was too tired to feel much more than fatigue during the first half, though…

 

2/20/08

 

Ron and I went to the lunar ritual at Katrina’s.  It was more of an Esbat fashioned after a Wiccan rite, but it was still an experience and is therefore valid, in my ever-evolving opinion.

My grounding ritual seemed to go over well, but I felt really awkward about it.  I’m not used to meditating on moon beams…  As my friend Gina said afterwards (she’s also in ADF), it’s good to try new things and experiment.  I do agree with her, but I don’t think it was exactly my thing.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve not tweaked the meditation.

All the same, leading a meditation feels so different.  Unlike my Imbolc ceremony, I invited everyone to sit down.  I’m much better at meditating while seated.  While leading, I felt my body buzz and spin.  I usually only feel this while I’m leading a ritual.  Perhaps I induce a special type of trance-state onto myself.

 

2/21/08

 

I made the point to meditate before bed.  It’s easier when classes and work are over and I have a few days off ahead of me.  I feel lighter and less exhausted.  Refreshed, I guess.

So I made the point to meditate before bed.  I shut the lights off and sat in my bed, letting my mind quiet down.  Then I went into a Two Powers meditation.  It was a bit hard to relax and fully lose myself in it.  I guess, even when classes are over and I have some time off, I still have a lot to work on between homework and costumes for an upcoming play…  Tomorrow I have my flame keeping ritual for Brighid.  I hope I can relax a bit for that…

 

2/22/08

 

Meditation before bed was short and sweet.  My purpose was to connect to the realms and Kindreds and I think I accomplished that.

 

2/23/08

I tried to meditate but fell asleep.  I stayed up too late sewing and reading.

2/24/08

 

I was able to do a really quick Two Powers meditation before my short ritual.  It’s amazing how much practice has helped.  I feel better able to tap into the energies of sky and earth.  Sitting before the altar allows for a better experience compared to doing it while laying down in bed.  I always fall sleep then…

 

2/25/08

 

I found out that ADF was doing podcasts.  I got a hold of the Imbolc edition and was pleasantly surprised to find a guided meditation at the end lead by Ian Corrigan, I believe.  It was a very basic meditation meant to relax the body before trance.  First, I relaxed my feet, then my legs, and I moved upwards.  It felt really good, and even helped me to distress after a terribly stressful day.  Even my jaw, a body part that’s been aching a lot lately, seemed fine for a moment.

 

2/26/08

 

My boyfriend needed to go to bed earlier than I’m used to last night.  That being the case, I was able to successfully meditate while laying in bed!  It felt good to do so, actually.  I’m always more comfortable meditating while laying down rather than standing.  Sitting up is okay, but only if I have really good back support, like a wall.  Unfortunately I usually fall asleep doing it in bed.  Luckily I was awake for a change!

I combined the relaxation meditation from the podcast with the Two Powers.  The relaxation came first as a way to prepare my body.  I then did the Two Powers.  Although my back feels more supported while lying down, The Two Powers is hard to do in such a state.  It’s the only downside to meditating in this way while in bed.  I imagined roots coming out of my tail bone, and a tree growing out of my naval.  The rest of my body acted as runner roots, I suppose.  It wasn’t that powerful of a meditation but it was relaxing.  While I like to meditate lying down, sometimes it’s not always the best for experience.   That said, the imagery it created was interesting…

 

2/27/08

 

I did some deep breathing before bed, but I didn’t meditate…

 

2/28/08

 

I was feeling stressed out so I just did some deep breathing again.  I will try to meditate tomorrow.

 

2/29/08

 

Very brief Two Powers meditation at my devotional.  Even though it was fast, I felt that I was able to connect and feel the flow of energy.

 

3/1/08

 

I did a meditation while in bed but fell asleep.  I’ve been very busy at play rehearsals and was just zonked…

 

3/2/08

 

I Did some deep breathing before my altar while lighting candles as offerings to the Kindreds.  Sometimes it’s all I need to do to feel connected.  I suppose an actual meditation would have been better, but focusing on my breathing is a way of practicing, right?  I need to exercise that skill so that I can continue doing deeper meditations.

 

3/3/08

I went to my crafting magic and ritual class at Katrina’s.  We did a strange grounding and meditation that I didn’t really like.  We had to visualize ourselves sitting in front of an apple tree.  I know it was tying into her discussion on the wheel of the year, but I just wasn’t digging the meditation.  I was able to visualize just fine but I didn’t feel anything.

 

You know, I think the biggest issue was that my back hurt.  I really need to lean against a wall to meditate while sitting.  Otherwise I slouch and don’t breathe as well.

 

3/4/08

 

I did a very quick meditation that was more like deep breathing. I first took three deep breaths to ready myself. I then breathed in, imagining my feet as roots digging into the earth, then breathed out, imagining earth energy flowing up through me.  I breathed in again, only this time reaching into the sky.  I breathed in sky energy.  The last set of breaths was to release any negative energy.  I should probably do that first.

It was quick but I felt the energies.  Every time I do a meditation it feels easier, so long as I’m comfortable.

 

3/5/08

 

I breathed deeply before my altar at night.  At least I had the energy to do that…  I find myself breathing in on a count of three, holding for three, and breathing out on a count of three.  Everything is turning into threes!

 

3/6/08

 

Thursday nights are always better.  I’m done with college for a few days, and it’s such a relief.  I usually find the time to meditate on Thursdays.  I did so today.  I can’t think of anything to say about it (it was mostly relaxing…  nothing profound).

 

3/7/08

 

I’ve been trying to do deep breathing before I do any sort of artwork.  I breathed while focusing on Brighid and her energy, and I thanked her for her gifts.  If anything, it helped me feel really connected to her and to Imbas.  I’m starting to think that the act of sewing, something I enjoy very much, is a form of meditation.

 

3/8/08

 

I didn’t meditate today and I feel really guilty about it.  At least I’m being honest…

 

3/9/08

 

I tried to meditate while focusing on the moon.  It’s waxing right now.  It was a bit challenging.  To begin with, I’m always more perceptive and in tune to the moon when it’s full.  It seems more powerful then.  Perhaps that’s the problem – I’m not as connected as I could be and only focus on the climax.  Anyway, I attempted to meditate on the moon and it wasn’t that great or deep of a meditation.

I decided it would be more fruitful to do a full ritual at my altar.  I’ve not done it in awhile because of college.  I breathe before my altar and light candles for the Kindreds – it’s much shorter than the usual ritual I do – but I feel a bit less disciplined and connected when I do things that way.

I sat before my altar and did the whole thing, even giving offerings of oil to the gatekeeper.  I faltered a little bit but it felt good to reach out to the otherworld like that again.  I did the tree of life meditation during this and it felt slightly rushed, but I was able to connect all the same.

 

3/10/08

 

Katrina led us through a lunar meditation tonight.  That’s why I was trying it last night; she wanted us to practice.  I wasn’t that keen on it even when she led it.  We were supposed to imagine ourselves on the moon – I can do that but the moon is so barren in my opinion.  Maybe it’s just because I react very positively to forests and fields but not desert-like environments.  Then again, there’s life in a desert – but not so on the moon.  It felt hostile and desolate.

When we visualized ourselves going into the moon, I was able to connect better.  We were to meet the moon spirit.  She seemed childlike and carefree.  She gave me a drink that seemed to have a narcotic in it because it gave me a momentary buzz so that I felt I was floating.  I gave her a marble.

 

3/11/08

 

I breathed before my altar today.  I’m feeling overwhelmed.  I don’t know if I could focus on meditation if I wanted to…

 

3/12/08

 

I did that exercise where I focus on each part of my body and then release the stress in that area, thus relaxing it.  It’s quickly become one of my most favorite meditation exercises.  I really feel, at least for a moment, as if I’m relaxing my whole body.  It’s a great way to practice focus and visualization in relation to one’s body, I think.

 

3/13/08

 

I did some deep breathing today.  I think I’m getting really good at focusing on my breath.

 

3/14/08

 

I must work on my discipline…  Breathing before my altar is nice and works to connect me, if only very simply, to the Kindreds, but I think full meditation is the best and most powerful way.

 

3/15/08

 

I wrote out a meditation for the upcoming final ritual at Katrina’s.  It’s the core of the ritual – a meditation that walks us through the woods.  We’re each on our own individual path until we come to a gathering where everyone is celebrating life and spirituality.  We join them in a chant.  We end it by returning to our paths, knowing that we are different and yet interlaced.  I hope they like it…  Since it’s a group meditation I won’t really know how effective it is until the ritual.  When I did it by myself I think I felt more during the solitary portions while walking through a spiritual forest in my head.

 

3/16/08

 

I did the relaxation meditation before sleeping this day.  I can’t remember much of how it felt, but it certainly helped lull me into a restful state.  When lying down I prefer that meditation to the Two Powers and Tree of Life.

 

3/17/08

 

Today was my last magic and ritual class at Katrina’s.  I was sad to see it end, but all things end and I’m in dire need of some free time.

The purpose of our final ritual was to dedicate/rededicate ourselves to our path.  I came up with the idea because it seemed more appropriate for a final class ritual than anything else.  It was Wiccan-inspired, but I wanted to make sure we were tolerant and open to other ways.  Obviously, it was important because we don’t all identify ourselves with Wicca.  I’m on a Druidic path, Dave is a Presbyterian with Pagan-leanings, and Jess is somewhere between Wicca and Buddhism.  I decided to, for my part in the ritual, lead a meditation focusing on this theme.

After closing our eyes, I started us out by walking, in our mind, into a dark forest.  We were to take note of the vegetation, the energy, any symbols in the environment…  We were to take note that we were on a path, no matter how well worn.  Eventually, I directed everyone to imagine distant music.  We walked towards it and found people celebrating.  I directed everyone to join in a chant.  I started, softly at first, with “I am of the earth,” a one-lined chant that I came up with for the event.  Everyone joined in and took it where they needed.  I felt it really added a powerful energy to our rite.  I felt buzzed during it, as if I would float away.  I want to incorporate the chant into a future ritual.  I felt that it added so much to the meditation.  Chanting while meditating!  What an amazing combination!

 

3/18/08

 

I did a Two Powers meditation before bed.  I was able to feel the energies, but I feel bad because I didn’t put much time into it.

 

3/19/08

 

I decided to do the relaxation meditation this night.  I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep right away so it felt like a perfect thing to do while lying in bed.  I’m not sure if I finished…  I think I drifted off…

 

3/20/08

 

I was really bad and didn’t do anything today…  I’m just…worn out, stressed, and tired.  I will try to make up for it tomorrow as I celebrate Ostara.  I can’t seem to focus or quiet my mind.  There are too many things bothering me and I’m the sort of person who has a hard time relaxing when I know there are things I need to do…

 

3/21/08

 

Having not done any meditations or offerings the day before, I was really guilty and sorry feeling.  After waking up and going through my more mundane morning ritual, I did a full devotional at my altar.  Of course, I included the Two Powers.

It felt strange to do it all in daylight.  I’m used to doing rituals at night now.

Later, in the evening, I attended an Ostara ritual led by my friend Gina.  She’s also in ADF and this was her first public ritual.  I really liked her Two Powers meditation.  She has a very relaxing voice, even though she read it off from a paper.  For most people, that detracts from the meditation, I think, but Gina’s voice makes up for it.  It’s very relaxing.

 

3/22/08

 

Ron and I went to Muin Mound to celebrate Ostara today.  I was happy to go because I didn’t get to for Imbolc.  It was nice to see everyone and be remembered.

I had a hard time meditating and relaxing, though.  The children who inevitably attend were really rambunctious tonight and it was rather distracting.  I don’t fault anyone for it, of course.  Family is important, and I feel that children should be exposed to such things.  However the energy was just too high strung for me to focus…  It helped when I shut my eyes.  My inner eye was better able to put me in a more relaxed, open state.  I envisioned the fire, well, and tree transforming into portals.  They looked like swirling vortexes to me.

 

3/23/08

 

I’ve been trying to pay homage to Brighid before any artistic pursuits.  I sometimes breathe in front of her statue and ask for her inspiration and aid.  I sometimes light a candle or incense.  I would like to develop this into an actual meditation sometime down the road.  Perhaps, before beginning a new project, I could light a candle or incense, pray to her for inspiration, then meditate on what to do.

As always, these meditations take discipline.  My discipline seems to fade during the semester.  It frustrates me that I can’t seem to bring myself to meditate every day.  I try to do something relaxing and spiritual, of course, but to feel that I have no energy so that I can’t even meditate is just not right.

 

3/24/08

 

I’m stressed about going back to college after spring break.  I feel like I barely had any time to myself to meditate or anything.  It’s really my fault.  I keep myself too busy with too many commitments.

I like my free days, though.  I’m able to stand before my altar and breathe for awhile.  Today I did a Two Powers meditation before my altar.  I felt the energies swirl through me.

I do so many ritualized activities in threes.  I started doing it to revere my Celtic path and ancestors.  Now it’s so internalized that it’s nearly obsessive.  I need to start and end every meditation with three deep breaths, for instance.  I don’t feel purged of enough excess energy if I don’t take three breaths.  Irrational, perhaps, but it helps.

 

3/25/08

 

College.  Work.  Blah.  Nothing like a double whammy of going back to the grind stone.  Needless to say, I was pooped by the time I returned home.  I lit candles on my altar and took some deep breaths, but nothing long and drawn out. It helped to ground me for a bit but I once more feel stressed.

 

3/26/08

 

When I went to bed on this day, I laid down feeling terribly stressed.  After a few deep breaths, I started the relaxation meditation I’ve grown so fond of.  It may only serve as a temporary relief, but it’s something.

I’m starting to wonder if I need a massage. I’ve found that I notice the aches in my back more when I’m meditating.  I wonder if it’s simply because I constrain myself to a certain position for several moments and so the stiffness becomes worse.

 

3/27/08

 

I stayed home from college.  I was drained.  My sleeping habits are screwed up.  I feel like I have so much going on and I’m overwhelmed.  I write short blurbs about these feelings and worries because I think they directly affect my meditation.  Or at least they are an indication of my inability to relax.

Staying home helped me to calm my nerves.  I was able to complete several things that I had been putting off.  With that out of the way, I lit my altar candles, did some breathing, then did a relaxing Two Powers meditation.  I feel that the Two Powers works really well before my altar and during ritual.  It’s a way to remind myself of the connection I already have with the cosmos.  The exercise strengthens that connection.  I feel the energies of earth and sky run up and down me like electricity.

 

3/28/08

 

Sometimes it seems that making love is a form of meditation.  It is a great form of magic.  I can feel the electric bond between us…  It’s beautiful and can be very relaxing.  I seem to remember reading about people who can meditate during an activity like walking.  Perhaps this is similar?  And yet perhaps it is not meditation after all.  Perhaps making love is ritual and emotional/spiritual magic.  Maybe sometimes meditation and ritual are separate?

 

3/29/08

 

I told Ron about my difficulties with letting go of things that have yet to be completed or taken care of before meditating.  I explained that these difficulties make it really hard to experience the deep meditations that are so relaxing and so profound.    He said that that is sad and that I should work on that.  I know I should, but I don’t know how…

I tried to do a relaxation meditation in bed on this day, but I must have fallen asleep because I really don’t remember it…

 

3/30/08

 

I lit the candles on my altar and breathed before it, standing as I did the Two Powers meditation. I wanted to practice standing up today since it seems to be an area I could work on.  I felt the energy move through me, but I felt that I was rushing it.  I don’t think this had anything to do with standing or sitting.  I feel that my spiritual life has been put on the back burner, and I don’t like that feeling.  My altar area is cluttered so that I have to move books to sit before it.  I’ve turned my daily devotional into a really quick ritual that I’ve even skipped a couple times due to fatigue or illness.  Skipping because of illness is fine, I think, but just because I’m tired it shouldn’t be an excuse.  I need to make the time.  I think my failing stems from staying up too late and spending too much time watching late night television with my boyfriend rather than winding down.  I need to be able to watch the news and say, “Ok, I’m going to meditate.  Then we should go to bed.”

 

3/31/08

 

While at Ron’s, I took advantage of his high powered internet connection and downloaded the latest ADF podcast.  I look forward to another meditation.

After listening to some of the podcast, I felt really inspired to go up to my room and do a proper daily devotional.  I filled a blue glass pitcher that a friend had given me as a gift with oil.  It now sits on my altar, ready to give offerings.  I used it to give offerings to the gate keeper, Brighid, and An Dagda.  I lit candles for the Kindreds.  I realize now that I’ve left out the Earth Mother…

I did the whole devotional last night after a Two Powers meditation.  It felt wonderful to partake in the ritual again.  After, I decided to create a cycle for my devotionals.  Keeping in mind that I am to keep Brighid’s flame for a flame-keeping group on the 2nd of April, I put together a schedule in my head.  This night I honored everyone (sans the Earth Mother, but I shall make amends on the next round).  Tomorrow I will pay homage to An Dagda.  On the 2nd, I will honor Brighid as part of my flame keeping duty.  Then on Thursday, I shall honor the nature spirits, Friday for the ancestors, and Saturday for the Gods.  I think I will honor the Earth Mother on Sunday, then everyone on Monday.  I hope this works out.

 

4/1/08

 

Today was Dagda’s day.  I still opened the gates and meditated beforehand.  I didn’t want to do a typical two powers, though.  Instead, I walked until I saw a door.  It was rounded and had a big, brass door knob.  I realized that the door was in a tree.  I entered and found myself in the hallow of a large tree.  I continued to breath and then connected with the earth and sky spirits.  It was different in that I wasn’t extending roots or reaching up to the sky – the powers entered through the tree and then entered me.  Perhaps I will try this again down the road.

The meditation was really relaxing.  I took some time to breathe away all of my worries.  I would dedicate one breath to each annoyance and push it away with a soft exhalation.  I only did my ritual once I felt free of burden.

After making offerings, I meditated on the Dagda.  I’ve only done this once or twice before.  For the most part, I feel that I have a good, growing relationship with Brighid, but I’ve become a bit distant with Dagda.  I always had a hard time envisioning him.  When I closed my eyes this time, he seemed to move before me – and there he was!  His description actually matches the lore, as well.  He had semi-long hair and a beard.  He was roundish.  He didn’t look like my grove leader, though, who could also match such a description!  An Dagda wore a tunic that was just about too short because you could sometimes see his masculinity peeking out from underneath.  He was hearty and greeted me.  He also made it known that he’d like ale or whiskey.  I promised I would find him some.  It was a good ritual and meditation, I think!

 

4/2/08

This was Brighid’s day.  I meditated after making offerings, but didn’t have the vivid vision I had had the night before with the Dagda.  I sometimes wonder if I’m just forcing visions.  I get worried that I’m not “seeing” anything, and so I worry that suddenly I make myself see things.  I suppose it could be half and half.  You don’t see anything and your worry of disconnect heightens your need and thus your call, and the deities are more likely to hear you – maybe.  Then again, that could be truly detrimental to people susceptible of delusions and such.

 

4/3/08

 

I honored the nature spirits today.  I was tired and didn’t really meditate.  I did a Two Powers meditation. I can’t help but wonder if meditating every day is good or not.  Some Buddhist monks train to meditate for hours every day.  Yet I wonder if it’s as spiritual every day.  All the same, the mind needs discipline.  That being said, I feel myself slipping out of my pattern again…

 

4/4/08

 

I was tired on this day.  I went to bed vowing to meditate and do a devotional the next day.

 

4/5/08

 

I dedicated this day to the ancestors and the Gods.  I felt guilty about skipping my ritual last night, so I decided to honor these Kindreds together in one day.  I didn’t necessarily think it was a bad or disrespectful choice.  In my opinion, the Gods are a type of specialized ancestor.  I hope they didn’t mind.  I felt that my meditation was, again, rushed.  I am stressed about homework and an upcoming craft show.  When they’re over, I hope to regain my focus.

 

4/6/08

 

The Earth Mother is my ritual’s focus this evening. I gave her a kiss as is customary in Muin Mound as well as some oil.  I would like to offer more herbs, but it seems impractical for me to keep them readily available in my room.  For starters, my room is very small and so I only have so much surface area to work with.  As a result, many of my herbs are stored in a cabinet.  The cabinet is hard to get in and out of due to piles of books stationed in front of it, and then the basket with the herbs is also hard to get out due to a box of gems.  The process seems too annoying to repeat every day.  Leaving the herbs out in an unclosed container is out of the question due to the cats and ferrets.  I should look for another jar with a lid.  Or maybe I should stop being lazy and just build up this darn mental discipline I’m supposed to be working on…

I know this doesn’t have much to do with meditation, but the practical side of ritual is just as important in many ways.

 

4/7/08

 

I laid in bed on this day and did some deep breathing.  I inhaled, held, and exhaled my breath using a count of four.  The pattern must have lulled me into a deep sleep because I don’t remember any dreams.  I don’t know why I decided to focus on four rather than three.  I used to do that all the time and I found it a bit easier to breathe because of it.

 

4/8/08

 

I did some deep breathing and a quick Two Powers meditation before my altar.  I say “quick” because it was one of those instances where the energies suddenly rush through me.  My whole body seems to shiver on such occasions.  I find that it happens after not doing a Two Powers meditation for one or two days.  I think it may also have to do with my visualizations which have grown quite vivid.

I’ve been meaning to make a note of visualization.  I am able to see things very clearly but I cannot hold them for long.  Perhaps this is something that I need to work on more.

 

4/9/08

I performed a full devotional rite for the Kindreds today.  I did some deep breathing before the ritual began to help put myself in the mindset and prepare my faculties. I’ve had a lot of stress to deal with lately.  An upcoming craft show, homework, money…  it all adds up and makes it really difficult to stay on task with meditation, a skill that takes focus. Some focused breathing before the ritual seemed to really help.

I like to envision myself breathing my frustrations away into space.  I really do feel so relieved after visualizing my stress floating away like a ball…

 

4/10/08

 

I am disappointed in myself today because I did not meditate.

 

4/11/08

 

On this day I meditated and performed a small ritual before bed.  I felt that it would have been wrong to not acknowledge the Gods in any way before a major event (a craft fair).  I feel that Brigid, especially, inspired me in much of my work.  I wanted to thank her and ask for both her help and Lugh’s as he is a God of crafts and even merchants (or so I’ve read in some sources).  I gave an offering of Irish cream.  I did not feel as if I entered a trance-like state, but the meditation certainly made me feel better.

While I’m thinking about it, I’m noticing that I feel something when I open and close the gates.  It’s very subtle but it is something – even if it’s only a shift in my focus.

 

4/12/08

 

Today I focused on the spindle ogham.  I pictured it in my mind while I did a deep breathing exercise using a count of four.  I experienced a lot of lucid thoughts during this exercise that I think had to do with the ogham – home, doing artwork in the home, and caring for family.

 

4/13/08

 

I was really exhausted today.  I didn’t want to go to bed until doing a ritual though.  I lit candles for the Kindreds.  Now that I’m developing relationships with the spirits, it seems rude to randomly ignore them.  I did not meditate but I think I’m realizing that doing a devotional ritual just about every night is a form of discipline.  My mind may not be prepared for deep focus but the act of going to the altar and taking that time to say “thank you” helps to connect me.

 

4/14/08

 

I did a Two Powers meditation as part of a ritual.  I feel that I can do it faster and feel connected so much faster.  I’m used to meditation and mental work being a slow, relaxing process, but I’ve found the two powers to be electric and energizing.  Having practiced with it, I feel better able to realize the connection I have with the powers of land and sky more readily.

I remember feeling surprised when I first visited a grove.  The Wiccan rituals I’ve attended in the past spent a long time working through guided meditations.  In ADF rites, at least on the high days, the focus is more on honoring the Kindreds.  The Two Powers meditations are very fast but I’m now finding them to be effective in formal ritual.

 

4/15/08

I wanted to try the new meditation from the ADF podcast.  I can’t remember who lead it, but it focused on the cauldrons.  The inner cauldrons are a concept that seems similar to the Eastern Chakra system, only we only worked with three cauldrons – one in the loins, one in the heart, and one in the head.  I can’t remember what they each represented – I will have to work with it again.

I couldn’t feel myself that drawn into the meditation, though.  Beforehand, the host of the podcast warned that such a meditation can lead into a trance and that the practitioner should be in a safe environment before listening.  I felt relaxed but not trancelike.  Maybe next time.

 

 

4/16/08

 

I did a very short meditation as part of my daily devotional today.  Again, I felt the quickly reaffirmed connection with the earth and sky.  It’s like a buzz of electricity.

 

4/17/08

 

Feeling like I had enough energy, I tried to meditate before bed and after doing my devotional.  I must have fallen asleep while attempting to meditate.  How disappointing…

 

4/18/08

 

I meditated while standing before my altar.  I never fall asleep doing it that way, but I also never feel that I can do a nice, long meditation standing either.  It’s always very quick and meant to reestablish my connection to the earth and sky.  I’m glad that I’ve gotten back into the habit of honoring the Kindreds before bed.

 

4/19/08

 

On this day, I made another attempt at meditating in bed.  It always seems like a good idea at the time.  I’ll have been lying in bed for awhile, unable to fall asleep.  I’ll decide to meditate as a way to relax my body and further my spiritual growth.  I’ll do a simple relaxation meditation.  Next thing I know (or don’t know) I’m asleep.  I woke up realizing that it had happened again.  At least it relaxed me!

 

4/20/08

 

After performing my daily devotional, I decided to meditate before bed while sitting up against a wall.  It was a good night to do it because I had the energy and the ambition.

I’m leading a Beltane ritual for my local Pagan alliance in a couple of weeks.  One of the deities to be honored is Angus.  While I make an effort to honor and grow close to the Irish Gods in a general sense, I don’t get to know them on an individual level (besides my patrons Brighid and Dagda).  My goal was to meditate on Angus.

I had a difficult time.  To begin with, I couldn’t really clear my mind.  It’s something I need to work on.  I kept refocusing on Angus and my desire to speak to him or know him in some way.  I spoke aloud to him, stating my intentions.  I didn’t really experience much.  I grew tired, I suppose, and decided to try again soon.  I hope to do that for the next day.

 

4/21/08

 

Today was a very, very special day.  Ron proposed to me on top of Bald Mountain, right by the stump where, last summer, I made an offering to An Dagda.  Prior to the proposal, I had made another offering to An Dagda at his stump.  I had collected a few mementos on my way up and left them there, along with some of the last of our water.  The stone I had offered during our last visit was still there and still nicely hidden.  I sat and meditated after that, just focusing on how good it felt to be in the Adirondacks atop a mountain while worshiping a God.  The proposal after was just perfect.  I felt that An Dagda was smiling at us.

 

4/22/08

I did a quick meditation before bed.  I did a relaxation meditation followed by a Two Powers meditation.  I realized today that I don’t seem to notice the temperatures so much anymore.  What I feel is more akin to electricity.  I feel tingling in my hands especially.

 

4/23/08

 

I attempted to meditate on Angus again.  I’m having a hard time with it.

 

4/24/08

 

Before bed I did a quick Two Powers meditation.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m rushing.  Sometimes it seems as if the buzz I feel is self-produced due to a tension I create with my muscles.  But how do I know that it doesn’t happen because I’m opening myself up to higher powers?

 

4/25/08

 

I focused more on connecting to the nature spirits through recycling today.  I did not meditate, but I did faithfully honor the Kindreds by making candle offerings to them at my altar.

 

4/26/08

 

Excited by the good weather, I brought a blanket out back and, after making offerings at my shrine, I faced the forest and meditated.  First I breathed in and out deeply three times.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m breathing properly.  I know that, when meditating, it’s often better for a person to breathe into the stomach, however sometimes it feels like such an effort for me, especially when sitting.  Am I doing it right?  Maybe my posture is bad?  Or am I just not used to it?

I then did a relaxation method, trying to focus on specific bodily regions before visualizing the tension dissipating.  Next I did a Two Powers meditation followed by some simple breathing.

I didn’t experience any visions.  Again, I had hoped to make a connection with Angus or Flower Face, but no such luck.

Later, while doing a devotional, I realized that I could find them everywhere, from the flowers, to the budding leaves, to the many beautiful things outside.  Perhaps this is the best way to feel connected to these Gods.

 

4/27/08

 

You know, I can’t recall if I meditated or did my ritual last night.  I think I fell asleep…  I feel really guilty now, and I guess saying that I had a busy weekend is no excuse…  I need to make sure, in the future, that I do my devotional beforelying in bed to read.

 

4/28/08

 

I did a meditation as part of my daily devotional.  I felt that it was too short.  Then again, I’m able to feel the connection with sky and earth very quickly.  Perhaps another type of meditation is in order.

 

4/29/08

 

Before sleeping, while lying in bed, I meditated.  I did a Two Powers meditation before my altar as part of my devotional as well.  I tried to elongate the process.  I tried to really feel and enjoy the sensation of earth and sky energy.  I tried to really feel them mingling.  It felt like a low buzzing, but very deep.

In bed, I just tried to relax my mind.  It was a bit hard as I had a cat in bed with me and he sometimes kneaded my arm.  However his purring seemed to act as chanting or drumming would and I felt nearly trance-like.

 

4/30/08

 

In preparation for my upcoming Beltaine ritual, I sort of “rehearsed” it as part of my daily devotional.  I did a Two Powers meditation, but I felt kind of discouraged with it, I guess.  I think it’s because I was nervous about the upcoming ritual.

 

5/1/08

 

I did another full ritual as a rehearsal for the Beltaine ritual tomorrow.  I feel that the meditation went much better this time, although I’m still nervous.  Instead of imagining the powers of earth coming up from the deep parts of the planet, I just imagined the earth’s surface as crawling with untapped power.   I imagined my body as already full of water.  From the sky, I pulled energy down into my head.  In this way, I reconnected myself to the land, sea, and sky.  I think I will use this tomorrow for my ritual.  Now, I just need to relax my nerves…

 

5/2/08

 

I think the ritual went really well, but there were a few minor hiccups.  I forgot to call on the Bardic deity, which may have caused the other snafus.  We were going to call on Brighid, though, as I have a good relationship with her, I hope she realized that it wasn’t on purpose.

We also forgot to do the chants after honoring the Kindreds.  It wasn’t a huge, huge deal, but I felt silly after having gone through the chants and printed up chant sheets.

I think the meditation went really well though. I discovered something that I think worked wonders.  I did what I planned to do – described energy flowing across the surface of the earth, water already in our bodies, and energy in the sky.  However, when I instructed everyone to pull the energy up or down through their bodies, I used my hands and slowly raised or lowered them as I imagined the energy moving.  I felt that it really added something to the experience for myself.

 

5/3/08

 

Today I felt really sick.  I was supposed to go to Muin Mound Grove to celebrate Beltaine with my friend Gina, but between the cold and the wet I didn’t think it would be smart for me to go and get myself in a worsened state, especially when I have to work the next day.  Instead, I did a very, very quick meditation before my altar.  I couldn’t breathe well due to congestion, so a full meditation would have been frustrating.  I wonder what Buddhist monks do when they’re congested.  Do they get congested?  They must, being human, but perhaps their minds are trained so well that they are able to disregard it…

I watched an interesting video on youtube a few days ago.  It featured a type of monk  (I’m not sure what kind) and he was using chi to chop through blocks, withstand blows, and other amazing things.  He concentrated it in certain parts of his body.  I thought it was interesting and recalled it as I thought about my hand movements during the Two Powers meditation.

 

5/4/08

 

Another quick meditation due to my congestion.  I feel bad for not doing a full meditation, but I can’t help it…  I don’t feel that meditating is very effective at all in such a state.

 

5/5/08

 

Again, I am feeling ill but not so congested.  I tried to meditate before bed.  It was relaxing, and I certainly felt myself enter a trance-like state.  However, I soon fell out of it and decided it would be best to just go to bed.  At the very least, I was relaxed.  I hadn’t had a real goal anyway.

 

5/6/08

I performed a Two Powers meditation today.  It went smoothly.  It made me more aware of how clear my nasal passage had become compared to a few days ago.

 

5/7/08

Another successful Two Powers meditation today.  I did my best to focus more and just drift in the feelings.

 

5/8/08

 

Maybe it’s because college is ending and I have a ton of finals and final projects to finish…  I just feel exceptionally exhausted.  I don’t feel like I could meditate well at all but I will try…

 

 

Imbolc

Imbolc is a celebration of the Celtic Goddess Brighid.  For this reason, the holiday was always a strange one for me before coming to Druidry.  When I first started out on the path of Paganism, I considered myself Wiccan and tried my best to form relationships with Greek and Egyptian deities.  I was reluctant to delve into Celtic mythology because of the strange names.  (What an ignorant and lazy youth I was!)  As a result, the Wiccan adoption of Imbolc was foreign for me.  I knew little of Brighid and it felt wrong to celebrate a Celtic holiday while applying it to different cultures, different religions, and different Gods all together.  Imbolc wouldn’t make sense to me until I grew up a little and finally heard the call of the Irish Gods – in particular Brighid.

Now Imbolc is a holiday I look forward to.  It is my lady’s special day; a day when I can dote upon her and thank her for all that she does for me through a large ritual.

Brighid is interesting in that she is both a Goddess and a Saint.  Celtic Christians adopted her as a saintly figure, thus preserving many of her traditions.  Being a Pagan, I am most interested in her as a Goddess but I appreciate the glimpses of ancient lore provided to us through the writings of Christian monks.  She shows up in every Celtic nation, albeit with a different but similar name (Freeman 47).  To the Irish, she is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  She is the daughter of the Dagda (47), wife of Bres, and mother of Ruadan (Cath Maie Tuired). She is “a goddess of healing, midwifery, blacksmithing, poetry and fire” (Myers 46).  There are also references to her acting as a Goddess of “dying, weaving, and brewing,” and to her protection over farm animals (Freeman 47).  Considering these, I think of her as a patroness of art and creativity.

Her festival, which falls on February 1st (Freeman 46), celebrates the first lactation of sheep as they give birth to lambs (46).  Thus Imbolc is a time of renewal and birth.  In addition to the milk, Brighid’s association with fire probably played a vital role in her rituals.  Flame keepers in Kildare guarded and tended to a sacred flame in her honor.  Supposedly, this particular cult was for women only (Freeman 49).  The tradition, after having been stopped by the Church for years, was rekindled and there are numerous flame keeping circles today (50).  Many flame keepers, such as myself, pay special attention to their patroness on Imbolc.

There are numerous traditions surrounding Imbolc, many having to do with fertility and healing.  Some people made brìdeag (little Bride) dolls in honor of her.  There was a whole ceremony associated with it, as the doll was brought into the house, welcomed, and placed in a special bed (Freeman 55-56).  It was also believed that the Goddess herself travelled through the land on her holiday.  It was believed that she blessed her people and the farm animals. Some would put out a rag, believing that she would touch and fill it with healing powers.  The next morning, it was believed to have been transformed into the brat Bríde (Brighid’s mantle).  It was thought that the mantle would aid in labor of both humans and animals (Freeman 63).   People also crafted Brigit’s crosses out of rushes and hung them in their homes for protection (64). In addition to these traditions, the more practical ritual of churning butter was said to have taken place on Imbolc thus linking Brighid, again, to dairy animals (63).  Many people still follow these traditions today.

Imbolc is a special holiday to me now that I’ve started to form a close bond with Brighid and my Celtic ancestors.  I hope to one day practice some of the old traditions in my own house with my own family.  In such an industrialized society where farm animals are too often treated like machines rather than sentient beings, I feel that, even if someone doesn’t feel a connection to Brighid, they can still take the day to remember where their dairy products come from.  When I was a young Wiccan, I seemed to have missed this crucial point.  If I have children, I would like to set aside Imbolc as a time to honor Brighid and her beloved livestock.  I can see us making dolls, mantles, or crosses, and perhaps making butter, eating cheese, and meditating on rebirth and where our food comes from.  As usual, the holidays should remind us of our ties with the land because, unfortunately, we often forget.

 

How I Celebrated in 2008

On February 3rd, 2008, I lead an Imbolc ritual for the Mohawk Valley Pagan Network.  I was really nervous about leading, especially as the majority of the Pagan alliance is Wiccan.  Most have not had any prior experience with ADF liturgy.  In the end, only six other people came.  I was kind of relieved to lead in front of a smaller group of people.  As they chatted, I set up.  The ritual was held in a member’s house in Utica, NY, but was open to anyone who happened to search for us.

Since it was an Imbolc ritual, the deity of honor was Brighid.  I brought a doll that I had made to represent Brighid.  She stands on my altar as a statue.  Also on the altar was a representation of the Bile, a large cauldron with some water, a candle, a small cauldron to collect matches, a pitcher of oil, and a pitcher of water.  I placed a special bowl in the south for the outsiders.

The ritual itself went smoothly!  I’d been going over it all day and meditating so that I would calm down.  The process was worth it.  I was amazed at how poised I was in front of everyone.  I felt like a real priestess – like a real Druid.  I credit the smoothness, in part, to the pre-ritual briefing I did.  I sat everyone down and explained the purpose of the ritual.  I went through the format and handed out some parts.  We sang through the chants as well.  I explained that offerings would be made at a specific time and that I would invite everyone to come forward with a gift for Brighid.  I ended the briefing by asking if anyone had questions.

Everyone was enthusiastic about participating.  My boyfriend, who is usually quite happy just to stand and listen, made offerings to the Nature Spirits.  It meant a lot to me.  When we got to the section for offerings to be made, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people had brought gifts!  One woman read a poem about a fairy.  Another gave a word of love.  A third gave milk and coins.  I gave a doll I had made for Brighid.

There was one small mistake in the ritual, but no one seemed to realize it.  I had meant to do the Two Powers meditation before calling the Kindreds, but I got a bit absent-minded and had to do it after to avoid ruining the flow of the ritual.  I don’t think it mattered that much, in retrospect.  The Kindreds were honored, after all.   I also omitted drawing an omen.  In the ritual briefing, I explained the tradition, but also confessed that I don’t feel proficient enough with any divination tools to perform this part of the ritual.  I decided that if the house erupted in flames, it would be obvious that the Kindreds were upset with something!  I would, however, like to practice with a divination method so that I can incorporate it into future rituals.

After the ritual, we gathered in the dining room to share food and chat-chat.  Everyone was pleased with the rite.  This was a huge relief to me.  There was a sense that I had crossed an important threshold in the Pagan community – I had led a public, albeit small, ritual.  I’m sure it will be the first of many.

 

Winter Solstice

When the stores begin to play holiday music and plaster their shelves with red and green ornaments, I can’t help but get excited.  Of course I have to admit that the sensation is very much a carry-over from my Christian upbringing, but having learned a bit about the background of Christmas and the Winter Solstice, I realize that there are several similarities and, through converting, I didn’t lose much!

There isn’t any definitive proof that the Winter Solstice was celebrated by the early Celts, however the Germanic tribes did celebrate something (Ellison 155).  Snorri Sturluson described some of the Germanic festivities in which sacrifices were made for “an easy winter” on the holiday of Winter Nights, and that sacrifices for a good crop the following year were made at Yule (Hutton 7).  Ronald Hutton inserts, however, that Sturluson may not be the best source. The Romans also celebrated a holiday around this time of year called Saturnalia.  This holiday was sacred to Saturn and was supposed to be the most popular feast of Rome (Hutton 2).  “Shops, schools, and lawcourts were closed, gambling in public was allowed, and there was general noisy rejoicing.  Presents,  especially – candles, symbols of light – were exchanged,” Ronald Hutton explains (3).  To Wiccans and many NeoPagans, who have embraced the name “Yule”, the Winter Solstice celebrates the “rebirth of the sun” as the divine child (Ellison 156).  This compares nicely to the Christian holiday of Christmas in which the birth of Jesus, a divine child, is celebrated.

Many Christmas traditions come from a Pagan background.  The Saxons are said to have introduced the Yule log and Christmas tree.  Ellison asserts that “there is no evidence that the Celts adopted this custom directly from the Saxons but it has come down to current NeoPagan practices through the English” (158).  The custom of decorating with evergreens is also old.  For example, the Romans brought greens into the temples for the celebration of Satrunalia (Hutton 2).

Within my own household, my fiancé and I have decided to use some Germanic traditions in our celebration of the Winter Solstice.  While I’m focusing on an Irish hearth culture, I also have Germanic blood and so I often find that observing the Winter Solstice is a nod to that aspect of my ancestry.  We like to set up a Yule tree and decorate a Yule log.  At  the present we don’t have a fireplace and so the Yule log is never burnt, however its symbolism is powerful enough that we include it in our festivities.    We also exchange presents.  Recently, we’ve been trying to simplify our holiday celebration.  We both feel that Christmas has been too commercialized.  Celebrating the Winter Solstice, we’ve been able to get in touch with our ancestry and learn about the simple gifts they gave.  I try to make some of my gifts, and we both try to give only a limited number of things to each other.  The gifts feel more significant that way.  We’ve also stopped sending paper cards.  We’ve realized that most people just throw them away and it seems wasteful.  Instead, we use the internet to send messages of good cheer during the Yule season and try our best to be nature-friendly.

In Upstate NY, we don’t always have a lot of snow around the Winter Solstice.  It’s a good time of year to gather evergreens for decorating because we don’t have to trudge through several feet of snow and the evergreens aren’t so wet when brought in.  I look forward to having a family one day, and possibly a grove, and making it a tradition to decorate the tree and bring in evergreens on or right before the festival.  I would also like to continue our simplified gift-giving.  The Winter Solstice is a holiday of togetherness and should act as a reminder that we can survive the dark times of winter through hard work and simplicity.  All the same, fun should be had by all to ensure that we don’t get cabin fever and to remind everyone that there is light after the darkness.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

I attended the Yule celebration at Muin Mound on December 15th, 2007.  The ritual happened to take place on my birthday and so it felt extra significant to me.

The ritual was conducted indoors and was lead by our Senior Druid, Dennis.  A lovely ritual space was set up and included a representation of the tree, a candle for the sacred flame, a cauldron filled with water, and an offering bowl.  The ritual took on a Welsh character as we honored Cerridwen and her servant, Gwion Bach, who would receive the knowledge of her cauldron.  The ritual went very well, and it seemed especially fitting that we were receiving snow on this night.  Several attendees remarked that we were finally experiencing a “real December.”   It felt special to be warm inside, celebrating the cycle of the year, comforted by the fact that we had a feast following the ritual.

I felt that it was time for me to volunteer to do something during the ritual.  I offered to honor the Earth, so at the appropriate time I sprinkled the offering around the ritual space while chanting, “May the Earth not open up and swallow us.”  I was proud to have finally done something.

I did not have anything to offer, and I felt bad because it was my birthday and I should have, in retrospect, given something to thank the Kindreds for my life.  I shall remember to do this in the coming year, I hope.  An omen was taken, and while I remember it being positive, I do not remember exactly what it was.

Afterwards, we feasted and exchanged gifts.  Ron received a collection of Adirondack photography.  I received a Gnostic DVD on sex.  It was an amusing gift exchange and a fun Yule celebration to be sure!

 

Samhain

What is Samhain?

Samhain is one of my favorite holidays.  Even when I was little and it was still Halloween to me, it was such fun.  Dressing up was my favorite part.  Little did I know I was taking part in an ancient tradition. 

Historically, Samhain is one of four Celtic holidays and was probably equivalent to a Celtic New Year (Mac an tSaoir).  It falls on the eve of November 1st and is nowadays traditionally celebrated as Halloween on October 31st.   The celebration is associated with fire, the end of the harvest season, certain mythological events, and the dead.  In Irish Gaelic, Samhain is the name for November and translates to “summer’s end.” The communal fires were extinguished and then relit (Mac an tSaoir). The final crops were harvested and preparations for the winter were underway.  Any crops left on the vine after the 1st of November were considered to have been tainted by the Pooka and were not to be eaten (Mac an tSaoir).  The herds were brought back from their summer fields for the winter.  The sick or weaker cows were slain for consumption and preservation.  The healthy cattle were driven through the bonfires to instill protection and health (Mac an tSaoir).

On Samhain, the veil between the worlds is said to be thin.  I feel this is a reference to the cloak of Manannan Mac Lir.  In Irish mythology, he uses his cloak to separate Fand, his wife, from Cú Chulainn.  Symbolically speaking, Manannan separates the Otherworld from the mortal world.  On Samhain, the veil is thin and creatures from the Otherworld, including the dead, can return to the mortal world for a visit.  In regards to the Gods in Ireland, Samhain was the time when the Dagda mated with the Sovereignty Goddess, the Morrigan, to ensure the victory of the Tuatha de Danann over the Fomorians.  Samhain was also associated with the Cailleach, a hag-like Goddess with the power of cold and ice (Mac an tSaoir).  She is said to conquer the land until summer returns with Beltaine or, in some myths, Imbolc.

To the Celts, death was not something to be feared.  They believed in an Otherworld where life continued in some way (Mac an tSaoir).  The ancestors were honored and even depended upon.  On Samhain, homes were opened wide so that the ancestors could return.  Offerings of food and drink were left for the dead, and the ancestors were entertained with music, dance, and games (Mac an tSaoir).

Some of our modern Halloween traditions derive directly from Samhain.  Jack-o-Lanterns were once carved turnips.  These were believed to be protective charms (Mac an tSaoir). Our custom of dressing in costumes comes from Samhain existing as a time of misrule.  It was a time between time, a transition between the summer and the winter, and so chaos ruled the night.  Along with the dancing and games, some people cross-dressed.

Other cultures were celebrating the coming of winter or the dead around October as well.  According to the Ásatrú Alliance, winter begins on the “[Saturday] between the 11th and 17th” and is a celebration of the harvest and the fertility spirits responsible for the bounty received.  The celebration especially honors Freya.  Libations and offerings are given to her and her female followers, the Disir.  The Greeks celebrated a holiday called Thesmophoria that was associated with the grieving Demeter.  According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, it was celebrated by married women who underwent chastity and purification ceremonies throughout the duration of the festival.  Thesmophoria involved throwing pigs into a chasm where they were killed by snakes.  The remains were brought up by the women to be used as a fertilizer for the fields.  The whole ritual seems to be about agriculture, as with the Celtic and Germanic tribes, and the dead due to Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, becoming the queen of the dead in Greek mythology.

Following an Irish hearth culture, I’ve embraced Samhain.  Although I continue to carve jack-o-lanterns and dress in costumes, I’ve added the tradition of making a meal for my ancestors.  I also do a ritual each Samhain to both acknowledge the ancestors, and honor the Dagda and the Morrigan.  Following the rituals are feasts to celebrate the bounty of the summer.  In the future, I hope to incorporate some food preservation into my Samhain celebrations so that I not only celebrate the end of summer, but prepare for and anticipate the coming of winter.

It should be easy for me to continue celebrating Samhain each year and incorporate the traditions into my family.  Although my fiancé is not Pagan, he adores Samhain and looks forward to it as much as I do.  I’m sure the joy will be infused into our children.  I hope to carve pumpkins and turnips with them, enjoy the harvest, dress in costume, and honor the dead with them as a family.



How I Celebrated in 2007


This holiday was spent with my boyfriend, Ron.  We couldn’t go to Muin Mound to celebrate, so we had a little celebration at my home.  The night started with us visiting some relatives. We then carved turnips rather than pumpkins to connect to our Irish ancestors and their Samhain traditions.  I then gathered material for the ritual.

We celebrated Samhain on October 31, 2007.  The ritual began at 8:00 pm and was held in my bedroom as it was becoming quite cold outside and we didn’t have warm clothing out. Next year, I would like to be better prepared so that we can worship out of doors.  My room is cramped and the ferrets we keep in there are sometimes noisy, but they are nature spirits so their presence can’t be too bad!

I lead the rite, and it went well, I think.  I use the ritual formula suggested by ADF and Skip Ellison, but may take things a bit out of order, or I omit things that are unnecessary for a two-person ritual.  For instance, we didn’t do a processional.  We also didn’t chant as neither of us are great singers and are therefore uncomfortable.  We instead began with a two powers meditation.  I’ve found it very relaxing and mood inducing.  Once we were done, I called to the gatekeeper, Manannan Mac Lir.  After offering him some Guinness, I opened the gates and called to the Kindreds.  I realize, now, that I did not make offerings to the fire, well, and tree.  I should probably do that in my next ritual.

The deities honored were An Dagda and the Morrigan.  I took the opportunity to tell the story of their mating on this occasion.  I think my boyfriend enjoyed that element. Following the praise of the Gods, we partook in a very simple toast and boast before thanking the Kindreds and closing the gates.  No omens were taken as I do not yet feel comfortable doing so.

I thought the ritual went well.  My confidence grows each time I lead one.  I no longer feel embarrassed.  I wasn’t as rigid either and allowed for a bit of fun.  I believe that the Gods should be treated with respect, but they do have a sense of humor.  I think my boyfriend also appreciated that as it allowed him to enjoy the ritual as a fun activity rather than a chore.  I think the gaiety of the ritual was also partly because of An Dagda.  I believe him to be a humorous deity who likes to have fun with his tribe.

After the main ritual, we put a plate of food out for the ancestors.  This was hard for the rest of my family to understand, but it was important to me to honor my ancestors.  More than any year past, I feel very connected to them.  Samhain was a great occasion to express my gratitude to them and my hope that our relationship will continue to grow.

 

Sensuality

Upon examining the virtue of fertility, I came to the conclusion that fertility should not always be a virtue of modern Pagans in regards to our bodies.  Instead, I believe that modern Pagans should adopt sensuality as a virtue as far as sex is concerned.  Sensuality can and should be applied to other areas of our lives as well and should always be considered with other virtues before making life decisions.

Dictionary.com defines” sensuality” as “unrestrained indulgence in sensual pleasures” and even “lewdness.”  “Sensual” is defined as anything “pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites.”  In other words, to be sensual is to be concerned with pleasure, and thus the virtue of sensuality is to seek out pleasure.  Although one could be tempted to take it to the extreme, the other virtues are in place to help us balance our lives.

In regards to sex, I think sensuality is more important than fertility in our modern world because not everyone can have children, there is a population problem, and sometimes the Gods just have other plans.  By making fertility a virtue of the mind, land, and the body, ADF could put pressure on some people, making them think that they should really try to have children.  Even if that is not ADF’s goal or intention, there are some people who are not able to have biological children who may be sensitive to the use of fertility as a virtue.  Homosexual couples and infertile men and women can be put off by the Pagan culture’s embrace of fertility.  I know several such people who feel alienated by the Pagan community because of this.  In addition to this fact, the population of the world is too high.  While I would never condemn a family who was able to conceive naturally (a child is a blessing, after all, and who am I to argue with the plans of the Gods?), I think the Druidic community, with its emphasis on environmentalism, should embrace adoption as an alternative.  I am also not arguing that people should stop trying to conceive naturally.  There is a very strong part of my soul that would love a biological child, and I commiserate with others who would love one of their own.  I just don’t think modern Paganism should be so pushy and “in your face” about fertility of the body.

Sensuality is a far better virtue when it comes to sex.  Now that sexuality and sexual expression are increasingly acceptable within most developed nations, it is okay for people to experiment and practice kinky acts.  As Pagans gather to gyrate and celebrate the joy of union, they often do so in the name of fertility.  While that’s fine and good for the fields, I think what’s really being celebrated is how good sex feels!

When thinking about sensuality, the virtues of piety and integrity should always be considered.  I like to think of piety as a sort of loyalty when it comes to other humans.  Is the sensual act you want to commit something that would be unfaithful to your partner?  If yes, you should probably reconsider and first discuss the options with your partner.  Integrity should also be of concern.  Your partner may want to try a sensual act, but if it is against your sense of integrity, you shouldn’t have to do it, even on the off-chance that it will feel good.  Only when all partners are ready and in consensus should acts of sensuality be considered acceptable.

Compared to wisdom, sensuality is more about the body than the mind.  All the same, we should be thoughtful of the repercussions of sensuality.  We need to refer to our wisdom and our sense of moderation so that we don’t have too many sexual partners and compromise our health, so that we don’t eat too much tasty food, and so that we don’t spend all day just reading or listening to music.  Sensuality must be moderated in order for it to be safe and continually enjoyable.

Courage can help a person become more sensual.  Sensuality is important in developing relationships and, often, one or both people are a bit afraid of developing any sort of intimacy.  Courage is needed to get past that stage.  Once an intimate stage is reached, hospitality should occur and both partners should cater to each other.

I’m not arguing that sensuality should be cut off from fertility.  A couple that does indeed want to conceive should not forgo the sensual sex.  A couple engaged in sensual acts should not forget about the possibility of fertility!  As always, the virtues are intermingled.  Sensuality can and should be a part of the fertility of the mind as well.  If you are a creative person, you obviously want your creations to be pleasing to yourself and to others.  The senses need to be pleased in order for a creative endeavor to succeed.   Artists also need perseverance when wanting to create a sensual piece of work as well as the courage to undertake the task.

While I’m not arguing for fertility to be replaced as a virtue, I do think that sensuality should also be considered.  What fertility means to modern Pagans needs to be reevaluated.  Sensuality fits nicely into the virtues as it reflects the human need to express oneself and experience the world through the senses.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Fertility

As I sit down to write about the final virtue, fertility, I realize that it is perhaps my favorite, and not because of the implied sexuality.  When I think of fertility, I obviously think of sex and the resulting offspring, but I also think about food and art. The Oxford English Dictionary defines fertility as “ The quality of being fertile; fecundity, fruitfulness, productiveness.”   The Dedicant Manual describes fertility as the “bounty of mind, body, and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc.”

I feel that fertility is very important and, while I don’t necessarily see that sexual fertility is a virtue, I feel that fertility of the mind should be something we strive for.  Fertility is my favorite virtue because of its association with creativity and art. When considering actions based on the virtues, as far as fertility is concerned, I can ask myself whether or not an activity is productive – is it fertile to my mind, body, or society as a large?  Am I learning from it?  This virtue could potentially help people moderate how much time they waste if they value productivity.

In my own hearth culture, that of Irish Paganism, I’ve come to understand that art is highly valued.  Music, fiber arts, metal works, and storytelling were among the most valued of pastimes.  As a fiber artist, I feel the influence of inspiration and creative fertility often.  I put these energies to use in the clothing and toys that I make.  As an English major, I appreciate the fertility of the writer’s mind.  As I start to garden and learn about permaculture and sustainable living, I see the value in agricultural fertility.  The tribe’s ability to feed itself is indeed important, and if we can find ways to do so, both productively and in harmony with nature, it would be a wonderful thing.

Many people frown on Neo-Paganism’s focus on fertility, and this is likely due to our community’s emphasis on and/or openness with sex.  In my college science classes, we learned about the population problem we are experiencing.  There are just too many people crawling around Mama Earth’s back.  While I am not one to condemn natural birth and the natural mating habits of humanity, and while I would emotionally love a biological child, I don’t think encouraging fertility is necessarily a smart thing in this day and age. Adoption may be one of the most eco-friendly practices at the moment.  I would suggest, as far as sexuality is concerned, that sensuality become a Pagan virtue rather than fertility of the body.   I will discuss this suggested virtue in my next essay.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Moderation

More people need to familiarize themselves with moderation, especially in the United States.  ADF defines moderation as “cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical) through excess or deficiency.” The Oxford English Dictionary first states that, originally, moderation meant “the quality of being moderate in harshness or intensity; mildness, clemency” and that it later became known for “the quality of being moderate in conduct, opinion, etc.; avoidance of excess or extremes in behavior; temperateness, self-control, restraint.”  My understanding of moderation is that one should neither have nor be too much or too little of something.

Too much or too little of anything can be bad for a person.  Too much food will make a person obese and possibly diabetic, but too little will lead to anorexia and starvation.  Too much water will cause a person’s brain to swell, but too little will cause dehydration – and so on and so forth.  Moderation doesn’t only apply to things necessary for life but to recreation as well.  I think that my fiancé practices moderation with his games.  He plays video games but not to the expense of his family, friends, or grades. This is a wonderful thing considering how many people are addicted to video games.

Every person of every social standing should practice moderation.  Priests and academics should moderate the amount of time they spend in study and contemplation.  People need to have fun with friends and family, dabble with creativity, and relax.  Warriors should not over-exert themselves with exercise and aggressive activities.  A balance of physical exertion and relaxation is a must.  Producers also need to take time out of busily creating things to sit back and think.

As I said, the virtue of moderation should be adopted by more people, especially in America.  As I struggle to simplify my life and become more environmentally friendly, I look around me and see the same amount of excess despite the gas and food crisis occurring.  People seem to feel that they need so many silly things – a double whopper, a million kitchen appliances, the right brand name clothing, and bigger cars.  I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do feel that I’m making more strides than most, mostly because I feel that to be an environmentalist is to embrace moderation.  I know that I don’t need to eat as much as the typical American does, for instance, and so I’ve started to avoid fast food as much as possible and became a vegetarian.  At the same time, in the spirit of moderation, I try hard not to depress myself for the things that I cannot yet do because of time or money.

I’ve tried to adopt moderation into my spiritual life as well, in part because I feel that environmentalism is essential to Druidry.  I make sure to maintain a healthy balance of academic study as well as spirituality.  I feel that many Pagans lean too heavily in one direction, quite often in the spiritual direction to the expense of the academic.  Pagans who do that, I believe, can become too deluded, while Pagans who don’t practice meditation or magic as much may not be as spiritually grounded or practiced as those who are buried in books.

 

 

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Hospitality

According to the Dedicant manual, to be hospitable is to be “a gracious host and an appreciative guest.”  Hospitality also involves “friendliness, humor, and the honoring of ‘a gift for a gift.’”  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a hospitable person as “given to generous and cordial reception of guests.”  I feel that these definitions aptly describe the virtue of hospitality, and I believe that the definition given by the Dedicant manual is better than that of the dictionary.  Hospitality should not just be reserved for a host.  Guests should also be giving and willing to help out, or at least give off a friendly disposition.

In retrospect, I wasn’t a very hospitable person when I was younger.  I didn’t like to share my toys or my food with my family and, while I had friends over, I wasn’t very good at making sure that they were comfortable.  It wasn’t until I grew older that I finally understood the value of hospitality, probably through meeting someone who was just as inhospitable as myself.

My mother is one of the most hospitable people I know and I think her virtue has finally reached me.  I grew into someone who realized that people want to feel welcomed and appreciated.  In a community, it is important for everyone to chip in and do their part.  I can understand why this would be a Druidic virtue because the Celts, who were a tribal people, depended on hospitality to keep their communities running smoothly.  After having read a few books on Celtic history, I’ve come to understand that the Celtic Kings, at least in Ireland, were expected to be hospitable to their people in exchange for the tribe’s continued agricultural support.

Along with the Celts, I know that the Greeks also valued hospitality.  An example of this can be found in the story of the famous Argonaut, Jason.  He helped an old woman to cross a river and she happened to be the Goddess Hera in disguise.  The Greeks believed that anyone could be a God incognito and so hospitality to strangers was of upmost concern.  We can modernize this idea.  Even if we don’t believe that someone is actually a God or Goddess in disguise, we can still recognize the person in question as a fellow creature of the Earth, commiserate with his or her wants and needs, and do our best to treat him or her as we would want to be treated.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Perseverance

The virtue of perseverance is certainly helpful to have when undergoing the Dedicant Program!  The Dedicant Manual describes perseverance as the drive and “motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.” The definition on dictionary.com is roughly the same in more or less words.

Perseverance is important in order to achieve one’s goals.  Everything worth getting requires a certain amount of work whether the goal is to obtain a college degree, maintain a happy marriage, or bake a loaf of bread.  It is both the energy that you exert to reach your desires and the attitude you hold in regards to it. I also believe that the ability to persevere is dependent upon a person’s ability to visualize or think futuristically and in the long term. I think perseverance has a well-earned home among the other virtues of ADF.

I think that I possess this virtue.  I have many hobbies and make a point to always complete my projects.  I’m also able to persevere through the challenges of college life, whether they are academic, emotional, or financial and I think my ability to do so has something to do with my futuristic thinking, my desire to improve upon myself, and the knowledge that I will be better for having completed the tasks.

When I think of examples of perseverance in regards to my hearth culture, I automatically think of Cú Chulain, the hero of Ireland.  Though I only have a novice’s understanding of his exploits, he never gave up his quests, even when faced with terrible obstacles.  For example, despite the difficulties, he manages to cross the perilous bridge to Scathach’s fortress in order to receive training.  The God Lugh also displayed perseverance before the gate of the Tuatha de Danann when he presented every skill he was capable of until he was finally admitted into Nuada’s court.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Integrity

Integrity is a very important virtue in my life.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary explains that to have integrity is to have a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”  The Dedicant Manual describes a person with integrity as having honor, trustworthiness, honesty, fairness, respect, and self-confidence (15).  These definitions are helpful in understanding the full scope of what it means to have integrity.

It is important for a person to possess a sense of integrity.  Without it, a person’s identity is likely to be diffused and inconsistent.  A person with a sense of integrity knows who they are and what they stand for.  For the most part, integrity requires a moral code, such as the acceptance of the Nine Virtues of Druidry as a guideline, or the acceptance of the Ten Commandments as rules to live by.  I am pleased that the dictionary also included “artistic value” because artists such as myself have standards to live up to that we set and strive to meet.  This is also a type of integrity.

You can find examples of integrity in lore.  I have read multiple times that the Celts and many Indo European people detested oath breakers.  It was perhaps one of the worst “sins” one could commit and so you find most ancient heroes have a deep sense of integrity and personal loyalty.  For example, Sir Gawain of Arthurian Legend sticks to his moral code (after some temptation and with the help of a magic belt) and keeps his promise to the Green Knight, meeting him in battle despite the high likelihood of failure.  To have run away out of cowardice would have been against Gawain’s personal code.

In regards to oath breakers, I think it’s especially important to maintain integrity when dealing with the Gods.  If you cannot be honest with them, then who else can you be honest with?

 

 

~Grey Catling, 2008