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Archive for the ‘outsiders’ Category

Creating a shrine was not a difficult requirement for me as I’ve been making altars for a few years.  The challenge, however, was making an altar in accordance with a hearth culture and within a Druidic framework.  Having started on a Pagan path through Wicca, I was used to having certain articles on my altar.  When I realized that Wicca was not the path for me, I abandoned some of the traditional tools, such as the athame, and turned my altar into a mishmash of significance.  It was only through the deep introspection and study of mythology encouraged by ADF that I was able to build a shrine that was truly important to me and symbolic of my faith.

When I first started to think about putting together an altar for ADF, I knew it would have to be different from my past altars.  It would require space for offering bowls, something I’d never dealt with before.  My altars used to be built on top of slender bookshelves.  After moving into a new apartment, I decided to use an old vanity that I was not using.

My altar is in the kitchen, the hearth of my home, near the stove.  In the very center of my altar is a representation of the Bile, the world tree.  It is a wand I made from an apple branch, wire, and silver bells, similar to the wand given to Cormac in Irish mythology.  To the right of the tree is a doll/statue I made to represent Brighid.  Below her is a dish with a candle so that I can keep her flame once every month. To the Bile’s left is a large stone representing An Dagda.  I found the stone during a hike I dedicated to him.  Atop the stone is a ring of black twine that is also significant from that hike.  Behind the stone is a lap harp I bought at an Irish Festival.  It always reminds me of An Dagda and his harp of seasons.  Perhaps I will learn to play it one day and I will be able to incorporate it into my rituals!

There is also a representation of the fire and the well on my altar in the form of a candle and a cauldron.  Towards the front of the altar are three small bowls containing tea lights that represent the three Kindreds.  The center candle represents the Gods while the right candle represents the ancestors and the left represents the nature spirits.  In addition to these there is a fourth bowl on the altar into which offerings are given.  There are also a few small incense holders. Everything sits atop a beautiful green altar cloth with black Celtic knots swirling over its surface.  On the wall above my altar are photos of some of my ancestors and a candle that I can light when I want to specifically pay homage to them.  I think the photos serve as poignant reminders of my ancestors and enable me to really connect with them spiritually and emotionally.

All of the items on my altar are significant because they represent something spiritually important whether it’s symbolic of a deity, spirit, or simply the connection I have to the other world or my hearth culture. Seeing these symbols reconnects me and mentally prepares me for the rituals and mediations held before the altar.

I don’t feel that my altar is complete.  There are many improvements that I would like to make to it.  To begin with, I would like to locate more photos of ancestors to put on my wall.  I would also like to find better storage compartments for underneath the altar.  Currently all of my candles are in a cardboard box and everything else is in baskets just sitting there, vulnerable to my two curious cats and all of the fur they shed.  I also look forward to the day when I have a larger home and will have room to expand my altar.  Perhaps I will move it from the kitchen area to the living room to make it more central and accessible to larger worship.  Ideally, it would have its own room one day, complete with prayer mats, a library of Pagan-related books, and soundproof walls for meditation.  One can dream, right?

I have enjoyed creating my Druidic altar.  It has become such a significant focal point in my spiritual life.  Never before did I interact with an altar on a daily basis.  Never before was an altar so important to me.  The altar is not only a shrine to the Kindreds, but a peaceful sanctuary for me.

 

 

My altar as of March 2010.

I moved my altar in the autumn of 2010. Here it is incomplete.

 

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I believe the mystery of the ants in the ritual room has been solved.  What drew them to my den, you wonder?  Why, an offering to the Outsiders!

First, for my readers who are unfamiliar with Druidism, in Ár nDraíocht Féin’s Druidic tradition, the Outsiders are the forces of chaos.  Often, in myth, they were the beings who had confrontations with our deities.  In Irish legend, they are the Fomorians.  In Greek myth they are the Titans.  They are also, I believe, any spirits, both corporeal and numinous, who are disruptive of our households or tribes*.

This brings me to the ants.  While not an infestation, my invertebrate intruders were a tad nettlesome.  As you know, they took it upon themselves to use me as a hiking trail during meditations.  Although I welcomed it as a practice in focus, and recognize that combatting such intrusions while meditating in forest or field would be in vain, it was a challenge to deal with.  Most irksome were the moments of contact just as the links between body and mind were at their fuzziest.  One little ant and snap –  back to “reality”.  This says something about my experience, I’m sure.

I said that an offering to the Outsiders had attracted the ants to my home.  What I am about to relate should stand as further proof of the ditziness of this Druid.

As stated, in ADF we believe in the Outsiders as forces of chaos.  In ritual, we present them with an offering of sorts.  Every Druid seems to have his or her own interpretation and methodology for this interaction.  Some would say the purpose is to make momentary peace so that the rest of the ritual may be executed without disruption.  Others would explain that the offering is to keep the Outsiders distracted.  I use this part of the liturgy to acknowledge the powers of chaos in the world.  I recognize their importance as part of the cosmic balance, but I request peace for my ritual.

Since moving to my new home, I have been using a green, glass votive holder for my offerings to these forces.  There is no reason for the color or material – it’s simply what I had on hand.  I pour a little ale or other alcohol into it, say a few words, and place it on a windowsill away from my altar.  Well…  I seem to have forgotten about it following my most recent rite.  The Outsiders, in this case ants, took advantage of my long-standing hospitality and started to use my sacred space as a watering hole.  I discovered this last night while cleaning.

The moral of the story?  Given that I want the Outsiders outside of my house, I should really take the initiative to place the offering outside.  As it can be disruptive of my mental state to exit my ritual area during a rite, I think it will be most conducive to open the window by the offering as a symbolic gesture. “You – yes you.  Take this outside and let me be.  Here’s the exit.”  Having to shut the window will remind me of the offering which I will promptly move outside.

*My latest experience is another good example of how the dividing line between the Kindreds and other cosmic forces can often be fuzzy.

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

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I found out that the CUUPs group in Watertown was having a meeting last night. At first I really wanted to try and make it but then I realized how last-minute it was and decided to stay home and relax with my husband. I ended up getting on the ADF chat towards the end of the night which was a lot of fun and helped to remind me that I’m not alone, even if I’m the only ADFer in Northern NY (which it sometimes seems is the case…) We talked about the nature of deity, specifically whether or not Zeus was the same as Jupiter and Tyr, etc. It was a fun intellectual exercise but one we all agreed wouldn’t lead to any true conclusions. All the same, I believe that such discussions are important. They force us to contemplate our faith and even question it. This, I believe, helps to ward off stagnation and unflinching dogma.

Somehow, we ended up talking about the Fomoire, I admitted that I had an interest in them, in particular Bres. In much of the lore I’ve read, he is Brighid’s husband. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a horrible king. Bres is part Fomoire and part Tuatha de Dannan. He decides to enslave the de Dannans and favor the Fomoire. He was also not very hospitable which, to the ancient Irish, was a big no-no. After a war, The Fomoire are defeated and Lugh gets the secrets of agriculture from former king Bres. It’s a trade – Bres’ life for, basically, the secrets of taming nature.

I explained to my fellow ADFers that, while I’ve not made tribute to him and do not worship him, I have an interest. Perhaps I can compare it to the interest people have in someone like Iago from Othello. He’s the antagonist and I can’t help but wonder at his motives. More importantly, I wonder at Brighid’s relationship with him. Yes, in the myths, it was most probably symbolic of a political marriage and, perhaps, sovereignty. But, if the Gods have feelings like us, how did she feel? If it’s all just a metaphor, what does it mean to people devoted to Brighid? What does it mean to a feminist to worship a Goddess who married an asshat? Was he always like that? We know she invented keening when their son was killed. But that’s it. Brighid is such an important Goddess to me that I can’t help but wonder at it all.

Anyway, shortly after the chat I went to bed and I had a horrible dream. In the dream, I became aware of a shadowy figure watching me through the windows at night. No matter where I went he (because I somehow knew it was male) knew and fallowed. At some points he was just a silhouette behind a blind. Other times I felt his presence. Then there were times when he seemed to be reaching through the windows from the darkness. It was very frightening. Finally, in an attempt to flee I got into a car with someone else (I can’t remember who – my sister, maybe) and the person/thing chased after me. The car was going and I couldn’t get the door closed. The thing was at the door, a shadow, reaching through the spaces. I woke up shortly after that.

At work I ended up daydreaming for a bit. I was thinking about the dream. I hardly ever seem to remember my dreams and I suddenly remembered the discussion on the Fomoire. Was it Bres? Or was my mind still thinking of the “Outsiders” ( the term we often use in ADF to describe the “powers of chaos” like the Fomoire or the Titans)? Did I get their attention? If so, and if I had a dream like that as a result, I don’t think I’ll ever want to think about making offerings to Bres.

Tonight, as it gets darker, I think of Brighid, my patroness, and I ask her, as I always ask her, to protect my home and me in it. I can’t help but wonder what it means to ask the wife to keep the husband out?

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