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Posts Tagged ‘Druidism’

It’s been quite a week, but I’ve been meaning to write a more substantial update here for some time.  I figure I should finish and publish this as I move into another week and a new lunar cycle.  Much of this entry has been hanging out in my draft folder for several days.  Why the delay?  My Grove has been saddened by the loss of a grovemate and friend, so we’ve been coming to terms with that. I will write more on our friend and the transition another day. Northern Rivers Grove will honor him during our Spring Equinox celebration. It’s bound to be one of the hardest rituals I’ve ever lead, but it’s important to mark this passage.  My thoughts have been dwelling on death, rebirth, and how to best support my grovemates.

Today I want to share some of the other work I’ve been doing to deepen my Druidry. I’ve continued my slow progress through Trance-Portation by Paxson.  I’ve forced myself to take time on the initial exercises.  I think it’s important to revisit the basics once in awhile, and I know there’s much I could improve.  Shielding, grounding, centering, and visualizing are foundational, and I think I’ve really strengthened these areas since January.  Sometimes I falter, and emotional upsets crack the shell I wrap myself in each morning, but on a whole, it always makes me feel confident and strong.

My new oak leaf and Herkimer diamond pendant from Stellar Creations.

For the last few weeks, my work within Trance 1 and Magic 2 of ADF’s study programs has heavily revolved around creating talismans. It just happened that way, and it’s helped me jump back into the practice after stumbling in my routines around December. One talisman was for a friend.   The other, a custom-made oak leaf pendant with Herkimer diamond, is for myself. It was lovingly crafted by the local artist of Stellar Creations.  I highly recommend her work, and she put a lot of love and meditation into it.  I could definitely feel the energy upon receiving the pendant.

I had been meaning to consecrate a creativity talisman for some time – ever since I started Trance 1 and Magic 2, actually.  It seemed like the perfect working given my many talents and hobbies.  In addition to sewing and crochet, I recently delved back into creative writing.  Since November, I’ve been working on a novel, something I haven’t done since I was in high school.  It’s still a work in progress, but I’m having so much fun.*  And no, I’m not ready to discuss the plot!

I’m a big believer in mental keys.  The smell of incense relaxes my nerves and tells me that it’s time to meditate or ritualize.  Yoga poses signal my body to relax and heal.  Certain pieces of clothing and jewelry can also help us to access parts of our brain, inner realms, or spirit allies.  Ideally, we can grow beyond the need of such talismans, but they are extremely useful to me as a harried mother who works full-time outside of the home…  Sometimes I feel too mired in the demands of this realm, so these tools help me relax, let go, and, in the case of my oak leaf charm, focus on my creativity.

 

*Someday, I will write about how writing has become a form of trance for me…

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2016 has been a strange one for many of us.  It feels disingenuous to type that, though, when I’ve lead a very comfortable life all year.  Considering the atrocities faced by people in Syria, for example…  Yet 2017, as most years, will also throw some difficulties at us, challenges that can feel insurmountable.  Sometimes they will be, and they will crush us mentally, physically, and spiritually.  More often, though, I think we can take the challenges and ride them with grace, learning the required lessons and, perhaps, teaching others along the way.  2016 saw us lose many heroes and inspirations.  Some of us lost family members or friends to various circumstances.  Many of us saw 2016 as a battering ram of defeat, and the tumult reached me on a personal level right at the very end.

I have not done my annual saining and divinatory reading for the New Year.  I have not yet looked for insight into what is coming, but I am optimistic.  Typical to my Sagittarius sign, I always look on the bright side, even after a painful situation.  To me, every hurt is a lesson.  I realize I’m showing a lot of privilege in saying that given that I’m not in a war zone or scared to use the bathroom at night…  I have gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given and I want to do more to help those in need.  It’s a theme that’s continued to show up in my magical work.  I’m looking forward to growing as a person in 2017.  I’m looking forward to growing in my spirituality and strengthening my grove.  My grove!  We became a grove in 2016.  I must focus on the successes and learn from the failures.  I will continue to work through the Nine Virtues to be the best I can be!

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – performed by the Byrds and written by Pete Seeger – came to mind today.  Despite its biblical origins, I’ve always felt the song is very Pagan.  Life is full of comings and goings, beginnings and endings, as painful as that can be.  Perhaps our paths will cross again one day, but for now, all I can think of is the wheel turning… and the work that I must continue.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
Wherever you are, whoever you are, I wish you a very blessed 2017.  May we all grow and improve in our paths and in kindness to each other.

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We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

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The following is an account of my continued work with trance as part of ADF’s Trance 1 course, advanced studies towards Initiate status.  I’ve decided to share my personal experiences on my blog as a way of personal accountability.  If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

Last week, I posted about my work following The Way of the Shaman by Harner.  My first Underworld exercise was successful.  Listening to a basic, recorded drum beat really helped.  It was interesting to read that most shamans have an assistant drum for them.  This made me feel better about my previous failures drumming to trance.  I’ve had mild success in the past, but it’s hard work and very rare.  Working up the stamina to drum, keeping the same beat, and allowing myself to journey…  it didn’t work well most of the time.  In fact, my biggest success was at a group drumming session.  My second attempt at trance last week did not go so well, and I suspected part of the reason was that I did it outside of a ritual setting.  It lacked the lead up, the offerings made to helpful deities and spirit allies, and the necessary mental keys (aside from the drumming).

I’ve done two more trance exercises since.  The first followed the same theme of journey to the Underworld via an entrance from my inner grove.  I once more rode my spirit guide.  Prior to this journey, I made offerings to Brighid and did my nightly devotional to her.  I remembered seeing a being during my absolute first attempt who I instinctively felt might be her.  We went through the illuminated passage and found our way to her.

The being revealed herself to be Brighid and said she heard me calling. I talked to the Goddess about my focus and where I should head.  She emphasized service to others and truly embracing hospitality and generosity; she stated that those are very important to her.  She specifically mentioned helping the less fortunate.  This is something I will have to think more on as there are many ways to go about this, and I need to figure out what I can do that doesn’t require a lot of money and works with my schedule.  Maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen a bit over the summer?  It would be a good start and is certainly something I can do.

For my second trance journey, I focused on my inner grove and my spirit guide for a magical working.  He gave me a special sign to inscribe on objects to promote increase or growth, and taught me a sort of dance to do.  I utilized the symbol and dance to inscribe and charge some water that I then left out to soak up the new moon energy.  I plan to utilize it in creating some incense.

So there you have it – I’ve kept up the Trance 1 momentum!  I even worked in some magical working, which I can use towards Magic 2!  I wonder what this week will bring?

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I posted a few weeks ago that I planned to get back into my trance studies, but I had to wait until my vacation started and I could get into a routine.  I did, however, begin my reading: The Way of the Shaman by Harner and The Trance Workbook:Understanding and Using the Power of Altered States by Hoffman.  I have only read the introduction of the later, but I really like the former so far.  It’s written by an anthropologist and includes narratives about his own exploration via teachings from practitioners around the world.  I’m always a bit cautious of anything Western that includes the word “Shaman” or “Shamanism” out of a concern for cultural appropriation, but, so far, his work seems respectful and insightful.  His work bridges a myriad of different traditions, translating them for modern Americans. Rather than attempting to explain away with cold science, he explains how very meaningful they are.  The science is important, I think, but we mustn’t overlook the very real cultural implications of such practices in the process.  Rather than insisting the reader utilize words, visuals, or gestures from any specific culture, he looks at the commonalities and allows the audience to go from there.

During my weekly ritual on Saturday evening, I announced my purpose to the Kindreds – to once more begin my trance studies and explore the entrance to the Underworld.  This exercise was based on the first Harner describes.  It’s rather open-ended: think about an opening to the Underworld (he gave some examples), listen to drumming for ten minutes, and allow yourself to visualize.  Ok, there was more detail than that, but he did not give a script to follow, which I appreciated it.  It allowed me to take what I already know about Underworld mythology from my hearth culture and apply it.

I found a Youtube video that featured basic drumming meant for trance.  It lasts just slightly over ten minutes and includes a brief moment of silence to signal that the end is coming.  The drumming is not jarring in the slightest.  I was able to play this without headphones, at a low but audible volume, while my daughter slept.  I decided to visualize the oak tree and the holy well at its roots.  This is imagery I’m very used to as it’s how I see my “inner grove” – relics from previous attempts at trance 1 that I still interact with.  I called to my spirit guide and I rode him through the waters, swimming downward, arching back up and through the surface of a pool within an underground cavern.

At this point, I realized that I was able to get into this state rather easily.  The drumming was just what I needed.  All distractions, aside from this single thought, had not come to bother me.  I put this thought aside and moved forward, riding my spirit guide through an increasingly visceral, rocky tunnel.  Spirals and triskelions covered the walls, and torches lit the way every few feet.  There was a greenish, bluish tint to everything. At times I saw golden faces, but I never felt afraid.  I was very immersed at this point. 

The tunnel widened and there was a massive, underground lake with a large treasure chest in the middle.  I left that alone – that wasn’t my purpose today.  I decided to explore a little and found a chamber with a long table.  Various golden-faced beings were feasting.  I saw a kindly, feminine face and thought she could be Brighid – in part because she acknowledged my presence with a quick look after I had asked her to guide and protect me in my workings.  She went back to the feast.  I didn’t interact with any of the beings, and I had a sense that I was like a fly on a wall to them; here I was, a small, mortal being not worth bothering over unless I troubled them.

I started to think about time around then.  Don’t eat the food.  Don’t linger, my mind urged.  Or was it my spirit guide?  Both?  A long time seemed to pass, the drumming in the background… I wondered if it really was a ten minute video… was it longer?  Would I hear the signal?

Thinking about time and the drumming video started to bring me out of the experience.  It was time to turn back.  I felt like my spirit guide really picked up speed – we practically flew over the lake and up through the tunnel.  Back through the well and up the rabbit hole…  I thanked my guide and the Kindreds, promising to continue my work to improve my skills in order to grow as a priestess and better serve my family and community.

It was a really good, visceral first experience after a hiatus.  I tried again last night to continue exploring, but it didn’t go as well.  Unlike the first night, I did not do it in the context of a formal rite.  It was also very humid, and the space between my bed and altar felt too tight.  I was too focused on my physical discomfort…  I started down the tunnel but had to turn around.

I intend to keep at it.  I like the drumming.  Perhaps I need to always trance as part of a ritual, with offerings and all the mental keys.  Or, perhaps it was merely that I could not get over my own physical discomforts?

 

 

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First, I want to thank @swampdruid for bringing the latest Wild Hunt post to my attention.  Sometimes, life gets busy and I miss some of their fantastic content.  With a busy toddler, work, and managing a protogrove, I rely on my connections to filter the good stuff my way.  More on that in a bit.

The Pagan community is incredibly diverse, and that’s a beautiful thing in many ways – the sign of a healthy ecosystem, some would say.  There are many who argue that Pagan clergy is antithetical to who we are, or that we are each our own priests and priestesses. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but I feel that such strongly held beliefs, often passed down from authors who were just reviving Paganism in a very conservative West, can act as blinders to what history shows us, how the times have changed, and to our community’s needs.  In the end, to such individuals, all I can really say is “to each his or her own.”

For myself, I embrace a tradition rooted in community.  The Druids were the erudite spiritual leaders of their tribes.  They were the advisors, the judges, and the teachers in addition to the priestly class.  The lone “hedgedruids” came later as the times changed…  The pendulum started to swing the other way, and indeed we’re still in that slow motion back to a time when we actually have educated, trained spiritual leaders in our Pagan communities again.  Less of us are in hiding these days, so the very practical and inevitable past belief that we all had to be our own priests is not as necessary these days. Indeed, we should all strive to have our own personal relationships with the spirits we work with, lead our own household rites, and study for our own benefit – but we should embrace that we no longer have to work in isolation out of fear (although that fear certainly persists in some corners – we must not forget that).

Yes, part of why I joined ADF is because I loved the emphasis on studying the lore and improving our knowledge and practice with history.  The other big reason is the community.  In the US, at least, ADF is one of the biggest, most active Druid organizations.  We are connected to each other, and our clergy training program, in my opinion, is one of the best out there.  There’s certainly room for improvement, but places like Cherry Hill Seminary are out there to help fill in some blanks in the meantime!

If I believe that I am perfectly capable of communing with the spirits, why do I still need clergy? Why do I feel compelled to seek training to take on that title?  My first teacher in the Druidic path, Rev. Skip Ellison, taught me more than he probably realizes.  I watched him and the other Senior Druids of Muin Mound Grove; I watched and learned how to lead Druid rituals.  He gave me pointers and encouragement.  Liturgists for public ritual have different experiences and insights; they require related but diverse skills.  In my opinion, someone used to solitary ritual needs to see good public ritual in order to learn how to facilitate such events for others.  Just like good school teachers need mentors, so do ritual leaders. To continue the analogy with school teachers, anyone can learn themselves, but we turn to others for guidance.  Good teachers guide their students to be better learners independently.  I feel that modern clergy play a similar role.

Serving the community, teaching others, and helping others on their spiritual path as I improve myself, even without the official designation of clergy, has been an exhausting but fulfilling calling.  I’ve brought people together and created something.  The gratitude others show me for that is incredibly humbling.  I’m constantly reminding the group that we are creating it together, that I simply cannot do this alone.  I am striving to become clergy in ADF, to improve my own skills and knowledge, in order to benefit my community.  Someone has to do it.  Somehow has to step up and organize.  There weren’t any open, active polytheist Druid groups in my new home until I decided to do something about it.  People called to the roll of clergy give their time, energy, and money to bring people together so that others don’t have to feel so alone and isolated.

This latest column from the Wild Hunt, “Where is Community When Illness Strikes,” by Cara Schultz, struck close to home.  It’s a moving account of the author’s struggle with colon cancer and what the experience is like as someone in a minority Pagan faith.  One of my grovemates has been struggling with serious health issues for awhile, and as the group leader, I often find myself mulling over what I can do about that.  What can I do about that?  I continue to pray to Brighid, light candles, and reach out to my friend as often as possible.  I sent her a card after her surgery, maintained contact with her husband, trying to encourage him.  All this across an international border, too!  That border… how easy it would be to bring a casserole to a grovie on this side of the river…  Meanwhile, my job and family keep me very busy.  My education in pedagogy has helped me lead, organize, and teach.  My experience talking and working with others to create engaging experiences has strengthened my ritual skills.  My talents at sewing have helped me make ritual tools to enhance and brighten our celebrations.  I’ve had no training for helping others through difficult times.

Schultz reminds readers why clergy are truly important. It’s not simply that they teach us and help us improve our own skills.  It’s not just that they are good at organizing events and public rituals.  It’s that we need trained people who know how to deal with difficult situations, know how to help people navigate the spiritual implications of divorce, disease, war, death, and environmental destruction.  We need people to schedule rituals for joy, but also to raise the alarm and bring in the best of the best for the most intense rituals of healing, mourning, and transformation.  Official clergy status or not, we need people to delegate to others, figuring out who will make meals and provide childcare for those struggling in our community.  We need people with official clergy status to navigate hoops and red tape to assist our brothers and sisters in the army, in prisons, in hospitals…

The modern Pagan community is maturing, and we need trained clergy.  I’m proud to be a part of an organization working to make that happen.

I feel called to serve my people, and my lack of training in these difficult areas scares the heck out of me, yet I move forward, heeding the call. I can’t specialize in everything, of course, but I’m ready to learn and try to help people like me when they feel like they can’t help themselves. I often feel that I can’t do enough because of work or family obligations, but small steps in the right direction are better than hoping someone else will do it. I hope someone will be there for me in times of spiritual distress.

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Elderberry syrup in progress. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I write this, the year’s first real snowfall is blanketing the land. It’s a time of rest and introspection. Spiritually, it’s a new year. As with our secular New Year, it’s custom to reflect on various aspects of our lives, how we’ve changed, and where we’re going. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my path and why I blog about it. Some of this came about through discussions with Lady Althea via Twitter, specifically about how motherhood has changed our paths, and how our spirituality should be more about doing than keeping up with appearances. Some of my thoughts came through an interview I did with my friend Corinne for her upcoming podcast – Who’s Your Mama? The focus of the podcast is on mothers and how they find a balance between their mamahood and various life passions. Corinne is interviewing friends from around the country first to get into the groove, as it were, and thought my story about finding time to further my Druidic pursuits and found a protogrove, all while raising a little one, was inspiring. I felt that I rambled a bit, but she said it was great! I’ll be sure that share that when it comes out in January.

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My little one joins me at my altar for a daily devotional. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

My religious practices haven’t changed much in the last year, but the way I engage with them has.  The same time restricting forces that limit my blogging also limit the amount of time I have for involved ritual, magic, meditation, and trance. I’ve had to get creative in how I engage with my spirituality, and that’s only deepened my understanding of something I already knew to be true – magic and ritual is in everything. When we approach our daily tasks mindfully, aware of the interconnections, we are engaged with our spirit allies.  I’ve also worked on my self-discipline.  While accepting my limitations in time and energy at this point in time, I’ve managed to strike a balance.  My trance studies are on hold for the time being, but I’ve worked hard to maintain the devotional practices I revitalized through ADF’s liturgical study program.  I’m also working on my divination journal, focusing more on the practical work until I have a little extra time for the academic side of my Druidism.  As a result, my understanding of the Druid Animal Oracle and ogham is improving.

One area that I’ve improved on in the past year is my hearth or kitchen magic.  I’m working on incorporating more holistic approaches to cleaning and health; and I’ve continued to make mostly home-cooked meals, often utilizing local ingredients.  This has helped me grow in my herbal knowledge and connection to the land.  Sharing these processes with my youngster, and showing her how to put love and intention into all we do, only strengthens my own focus.

Including a toddler in seasonal and daily religious observances can be tricky, especially when they involve fire, but, in retrospect, I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to share with her. Bee is learning how to calm and focus her breathing.  With my assistance, she uses a candle snuffer to assist in our symbolic smooring rite each evening.  I explain to her what is a good task for her, and what is definitely a grownup job. She can snuff, but she cannot light the candle.  These realities may be upsetting to her at first, but with repetition, she accepts them. This is teaching her respect for fire, that she has skills to grow into, and that there are times for quiet and action in ritual.  Best of all, she’s learned to say “thank you” for abundance, inspiration, and beauty.  It warms my heart when she reminds me that it’s time to do our “Brighid prayer” or when she randomly thanks the Earth Mother on our short walks outside.

So while I sometimes feel that I’m not doing enough, or sharing enough – in reality, I have a lot to celebrate about the last year!  I hope you take some time to reflect on your own practice and growth over the year.

 

 

 

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