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Posts Tagged ‘Kindreds’

I just want to take a moment and share how proud I am of my protogrove, Northern Rivers, of ADF. We are small, but we have grown into a strong group giving service to the Kindreds, each other, and our community. We’ve offered public rituals, welcoming many people in the wider community to join in our seasonal celebrations. Our rituals continue to improve in that we are growing in our skills, making them more family-friendly, and most people leave feeling satisfied and at peace. We’ve helped with the local Pagan Pride event – the FAE Fest. At our last Winter Solstice gathering, we raised money for a local wildlife rehab center. Most recently, we raised over $200 American for one of our Canadian members who has fallen on some difficult times. I am so proud of Northern Rivers, and I’m proud to be part of ADF.
 
There’s always room for improvement, both for Northern Rivers and ADF the org, but I hope that other ADFers will join me in sharing their pride. The positives will keep us working together to grow and improve in service to the Kindred and each other.
 
So be it!
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I am very nearly finished with one of the advanced ADF study programs – Liturgy Practicum 1.  I lost track of time, and when I saw that I had journaled for over the required four months, I was surprised to see that it’s time to submit!  What once seemed daunting is now nearly over!

Liturgy practicum 1 has been incredibly useful to me in my Druidic studies.  It helped me rediscover my spiritual discipline after a long lapse due to grad school stress, pregnancy, and then getting used to being a mother.  Tackling the work forced me to evaluate my routines and priorities, and to make changes so that I could be more attentive to my spiritual needs.  At first, finding or making time for the work was a challenge, but then it became second nature.  Just as combing my hair makes me feel better before I leave my home, saying prayers of gratitude before my altar each morning helped me mentally prepare for the day.  It has became such a positive part of my life, and it really helped to strengthen me during some difficult times.

Supportive family helped with my success.  My husband understands that I want to do my smooring rite each night, for example, and he never complains when I linger downstairs to tidy the stove and say my prayers to Brighid while he gets our daughter changed and ready for bed.  It is the same on weekends.  When I tell him that I would like quiet time before my altar or out in the forest, he takes charge of holding or entertaining our tot while I recharge and do my thing.  Of course, there were many times when I saved my weekly full ritual for Saturday nights after my daughter fell asleep.

I intend to continue my work, not only because it will help carry me through other practical courses in the ISP, GSP and, eventually, clergy training, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger ritual leader, and it has deepend my connection to the Kindreds.  There is definitely room for improvement, though.  I’m constantly reflecting on and revising the prayers I write, for example.  I would love to continue my studies of Irish folk magic and include more traditional prayers – perhaps even learn them in Gaelic! Speaking of Irish, I’ve at least learned an English translation of a smooring prayer, and I’ve committed a couple short, useful Irish phrases to heart to utilize in my rites.  They are small steps but help me feel connected to my hearth culture and Ancestors.

I would also like to strengthen my bonds with specific spirit allies.  Although I say prayers of gratitute to all Kindreds in the morning, other prayers and routines throughout the day are focused on my relationship to Brighid specifically, the Earth Mother, or the Nature Spirits.  I recently noticed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the Ancestors.  I started to include them in my prayers for safe travels and to protect the home, but I would like to develope a weekly ritual, perhaps, in which I stand before their shrine and make special offerings to them.  I have done that during the course of Liturgy Practicum 1, but not with any regularity.  That needs to change.  Some ADFers have described a daily or weekly ritual in which they drink tea or coffee at or near their ancestral shrine.  That really inspires me and appeals to my love of tea!

This course has given me the confidence to know that I still have the capacity to maintain a religious routine as a mother.  What’s more – it’s taught me that I can include my daughter in my practices!  Some of my favorite prayers or spiritual routines involve my daughter.  My child-friendly nighttime prayer was written with her in mind.  We say it every night.  While she doesn’t know all the words yet, she often initiates it by pointing to my altar or saying “tree.”  We always blow a kiss to the Kindreds when we finish, and it really makes me feel all fuzzy inside when she does it with enthusiasm.  It’s part of my spiritual routine, but it’s also part of her bedtime ritual.  It helps her feel safe and know that it’s time to rest.

If you’re considering the advanced study programs in ADF but aren’t sure if you can tackle this time commitment, I challenge you to try.  It may be hard at first, and it may force you to change your routines – maybe even wake up earlier in the morning- but I promise it is worth it.  Your connection to your spirituality will be deepened in a profound way, and you’ll truly feel that you are living your Druidism each and every day.

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My friend and fellow ADFer, Victoria, had an excellent question for one of the ADF e-lists today.  Feeling secure in ADF’s scholarly approach, she was looking for a way to add enchantment and whimsy to her personal practice.  Somehow, the “magic” had fallen to the wayside through her reading and community building within ADF itself.

Druidism can be quite intellectual.  You spend a lot of time reading history, mythology, anthropology, maybe some philosophy, and science.  If you join a Druidic organization, you’ll probably find yourself writing to complete one of various study programs or to contribute to a publication.  If you’re lucky enough to attend a festival or grove gathering, you might find yourself sitting around a fire with other Druids, debating the nature of the cosmos.

Just don’t get too caught up in that!  Yes, the scholarly approach of Druidism is a huge draw to me.  Yes, it’s important as it provides us with a real grounding in our hearth cultures and the lessons of the past.   However, if you don’t balance it with some inspiration and some hands on experience, you’re likely to experience a sense of let-down, a disconnect from the spiritual, or, worse, the reputation as someone who is all talk and no walk!

For me, Druidism came alive when I started to experiment with Ian Corrigan’s Nine Moons system.  Although I have yet to finish it and plan to start again when life isn’t as crazy, it’s an approach that had me working with the spirits each day.  I didn’t feel so connected until I started to do that…  It demanded that I nurture my novice meditation and trance skills through practical experience and practice.  It got me making frequent, if not daily, offerings.  It had me spending hours in the forest…

And truly, you don’t need the Nine Moons system to do any of that!  You just need the self discipline to sit down, to quiet your mind, to make offerings, to express gratitude, and to go outside and just be…  listen…

Taking the time to sit outdoors truly opened up my senses.  The Nature Spirits, as they are, started to reveal themselves to me.  There are the flesh, blood, and bark beings we are used to.  We know they are there, but we can take them for granted.  I started to notice more, to experience more.  Bones began to appear; fungi I hadn’t ever noticed before revealed itself to me; I saw wild animals in person I had never encountered outside of a zoo.  It’s been a humbling, deeply gratifying experience to feel that I am forming a relationship with the land – especially after moving here and feeling like a bit of a stranger. And the unseen nature spirits…  they too make themselves known, but in subtle ways.  Sometimes terrifying ways as they are often mischievous.  You have to be ready for that, especially in the more wild places.  You have to work to maintain a level head – perhaps even listen and do when you are told to GO.  Perhaps make an offering to show kindness, or learn about the old protective charms and amulets…   And for goodness’ sake – take care of the Earth!  Pick up trash, join/support conservationist organizations (don’t overlook the local orgs that exist in your region!), plant trees, and advocate for the land you love.  It goes a long way towards empowering you, the land spirits, and your relationship with them.   Perhaps that doesn’t sound terribly spiritual, but such experiences can be transformative for Earth-centered Pagans – just ask Starhawk!  The journey is never done and I will always be learning – but I had to take the first steps!
Which brings me to a recent revelation.  ADF is my spiritual community.  I’ve found it difficult to relate well to most other Pagan groups because their approach isn’t as harmonious in scholarship and inspiration.  ADF groves are places I can go to comfortably worship the Old Gods in the way that feels most natural to me with others.  I love the chance to celebrate, grow, and socialize with ADFers.  And yet…  the greatest chunk of my spirituality, the greatest growth, has always been what I’ve experienced on my own at my altar or in the forest.  Whether or not you’re in a grove or even a bigger Druidic organization, you are always a solitary in some way.  And you must be! Only you can commune with the spirit realm on behalf of yourself. Are there others out there with more experience than you?  Yes, there always will be – it’s just a fact of life.  Perhaps they are better skilled to help you in some ways (a lot of spirit work appears to take years of experience), but if you want to grow in your own Druidism, you at least have to try and take the baby steps on your own.  Learn from others, heed the advice of those more experienced (provided they demonstrate integrity) – but don’t ever give up on your own.  If you have to take a step back for awhile, it’s never too late to come forward and pick it back up, review, and resume.

If you are like my friend, and are looking for the whimsy in Druidism, then I encourage you to go out and find it – or make it!  Embracing the magic of your hobbies is an excellent way to start.  Approach making meals as kitchen magic.  See sewing, crochet, spinning, painting, weaving, sculpting, leatherwork, smithcraft, dance, song writing, poetry, etc as the magical practices they already are!  Pray to an appropriate deity or spirit before beginning a hobby and always thank him/her/it for the help and inspiration!  Talk to your houseplants, view their care as part of a magical relationship, and thank them when you harvest.  Pray before eating, traveling, sleeping…  Yes!  Pray!  It’s not just for monotheists!

Finally, stop worrying so much.  Enchantment exists everywhere but you have to stop and see it – experience it!  Sometimes, as in forming bonds with the land, it takes time.  Others it’s right there to be had!  It’s as simple as brewing a cup of tea and whispering your words…  It’s as easy as pouring an offering in the light of the moon… It’s as electrifying as stepping beyond the hedge after sunset…  It’s as satisfying as dancing around a fire, even if that fire is only a little candle in your bedroom.  Put your anxiety aside, dress yourself with a smile, and dance like the wild child you always wanted to be!

Allow yourself to be enchanted!  The growth will come in time.

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I cannot recommend this video enough.  Sure, it’s arguably idealistic – but it speaks to me.  Many Druids value reciprocity – “A gift calls for a gift.”  We observe it in our relationship with the Kindreds but also each other.  We share our talents to create ritual, to promote art, to entertain, to feed each other and our communities.  By emphasizing reciprocity, we create community.

What Is The Gift Economy & Why Do We Need It So Badly? Charles Eisenstein Explains (Video) : TreeHugger.

How can we take that to the next level and make reciprocity extend beyond our religious experiences with the grove?  What do you make of Charles Eisenstein’s message?

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A “woodhenge” near Beardslee Castle, the location of my wedding.

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our second anniversary.  We knew each other for a few years before our wedding, so it actually feels like we’ve been married for a lot longer – and I mean that in the most positive way. We’re each other’s best friend and get along so well!  Our relationship has only strengthened with time and I feel so lucky to have found a wonderful mate.

One of his many good qualities is his acceptance and support of my religion.  Weretoad is agnostic but doesn’t find fault with my beliefs.  Because Druidism is so important to me, he consented to having a Druidic marriage ceremony.  We had it at the atmospheric and beautiful Beardslee Castle in Little Falls, NY.

Our bound hands at the ceremony.

As you may imagine, a Druidic, Pagan marriage ritual has many differences from a Christian one.  One could argue that the values celebrated are the same, but that really depends on the couple and their desires.  For example, when binding the hands (a tradition called handfasting in many Neo-Pagan weddings for the curious non-Pagans reading this), my Druidic Priest, Skip, gave the option of tying the knot tightly or loosely.  My husband and I are monogamous so we went with the tight option, but a polyamorous or more open couple may wish for a loose handfasting.  A majority of Druids embrace a diverse range of marriage options.  We chose the colors of the cords based on what they magically correspond to in our minds and path. We also included the Neo-Pagan tradition of jumping the broom.  It is symbolic for fertility, which probably went over most guests’ heads.  Thus, you can fit a few smaller magical workings into a larger rite!
Another difference was the inclusion of the Three Kindreds.  Skip worked closely with us to determine how overtly Pagan we wanted our ceremony.  Because of the diversity of our friends and family, and my husband’s desire for a short ceremony, we decided to keep it on the mild side.  We honored the Kindreds individually with offerings but kept it short and sweet.

One aspect of our ceremony that may have stood out to our guests was the use of divination.  Skip had us draw oghams to indicate what we were bringing into the marriage.  Weretoad drew White Poplar which he interpreted as buoyancy above difficulties.  Quite honestly, he’s always been better able to stay calm than myself.  I can be a little too passionate at times!  I drew witch-hazel for magic.  Skip drew the final ogham – muin – which was significant because of the grove we attend and the fact that it can represent intoxication and binding together.  They were very good omens!

Our wedding altar which included an altar cloth I made, a broom, a ceramic drinking horn, a unity candle, representations of the three hallows, and offering bowls.

Despite these differences, there were some similarities to Christian rites which were recognizable to many family and friends.  We decided to use a unity candle, for example.  While not tied to any one religious tradition, they are often incorporated into Catholic ceremonies.  My sister gave us a beautiful green candle for the trick.  To further symbolize our joining together, we drank from a ceramic drinking horn.  Many Catholics do something similar with wine and the host.  We also utilized vows – again, something not specific to any one tradition.  This, along with our handfasting, was a central part of our rite.  As many know, Druids value oaths and take them seriously.  It was a very moving experience to recite these.  My husband actually cried.

One of the decorated tables.

Other details of our wedding included a loose Medieval/Renaissance theme, Irish music, video game references (like our Final Fantasy 7 cake toppers), costumes, and an ancestral altar.  Everything we chose for our ceremony was selected with care because we wanted it to reflect ourselves, our heritage, and our values.  I didn’t let myself get too caught up with Celtic Reconstructionism when considering my ritual – I wanted it to honor the Kindreds and be important to us.  I think we were very successful.  Our wedding was wonderful and will remain one of the happiest nights of my life.

A special thanks to Joe Pietruch and Cathy Razim  – our very talented friends and photographers!

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Newgrange Entrance Stone

The entrance stone at Newgrange. Photo by me - 2011.

What is my place in this world?  Where does my tribe belong?

The answer?  Not hard.

We were born of the ancestors, the wise ones of blood, heart, and place.  The ancestors share their wisdom and lore.  The ancestors inspire us.  The ancestors teach us what is and isn’t worthy.

The ancestors were born of the Gods. The Gods, beyond human death, flow with ever-growing wisdom.  They are the keepers of secret knowledge. They share their blessings with the honorable.  They smile upon the hospitable, generous, pious, moderate, and loyal.  They love the courageous, curious, and talented.  They teach us like a master smith shapes metal.

The Nature Spirits were born of the Gods.  We are the brothers and sisters of the Nature Kin and must give them their due respect.  We walk, run, dig, swim, fly, hop, crawl, slither, and grow upon the Earth Mother,together, united in the sacred dance of life and death.  We are the hunters and hunted alike.

We grow under the sky…

We grow surrounded by sea…

Above us the Upperworld…

Below us the Underworld…

We are of the middle world with our brothers and sisters.

When I go to the grove – when I go to my altar – I remember the order of things.  I light the sacred fire to remember all sacred fires.  I silver the well to remember all sacred wells.

They are the sources of life, community, civilization, art, healing, inspiration, magic, passion, cleansing, and transformation.  They belong to my lady, Brighid.  They are to be honored and respected.  Though a source of our humanity, they are full of the chaotic potential for destruction. They may rain upon us, drown us, swallow us…

Life…death…life…death…  That is the way of things.

When I go to the grove – when I go to my altar – I remember the order of things.  I make offerings to the tree, the bíle, an ancient fellow in the middle realm who reaches to the Upper and Lower Worlds.  The tree connects us to the realms.  It shares with us food, shelter, and, if you listen, wisdom.  Honor the trees and tread lightly in their realms!

Look to the tree and know your place in the world.  Sky above, Earth below, Sea around.

I am a Druid, a child of fire, water, and tree.  I am a Druid, a lover of the Nature, Ancestors, and Gods.

I know this is late…  This will probably turn out to be the “Dispersed, Random 30 Days of Druidism.”  I also toyed with the idea of writing more of a theoretical explanation for why I do what I do – something based on lore, historical records, and archaeology…  But that is done so much. Furthermore, there is little known on the origins of Celtic myth.  We do not have a Theogony or a Genesis.  Much of our cosmology is UPG or based on bits and pieces of lore, archaeology, history…  I decided to write a narrative of sorts… If you want to know more about the whys, I encourage you to look through the articles of Ár nDraíocht Féin, the CR FAQ, IMBAS, as well as such texts as Cath Maige Tuired Táin Bó Cúalnge, etc…

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My husband made an interesting observation a few days ago.  He realized that we live our lives divided between three cities – Watertown, Utica, and Syracuse.  If you locate them on a map of NY state, you’ll notice they make a triangle of sorts.  I had never thought of this before and exclaimed that it was fitting for my Druidic life.  So I started to think more about it…

Utica, NY is the heart.  It is where my family lives.  Most of my friends still live in that area.  I grew up in the Mohawk Valley. Some of my earliest and dearest memories happened there.  It cannot be denied that I am who I am because of my time in the Utica area.  If Utica were a Kindred, it would be the Ancestors.  It also makes me think of the land because it is my foundation.

Syracuse, NY is where my grove is.  It is my spiritual home in many ways.  It is also a great artistic center with numerous theaters, a museum, and liberal art colleges.  When I was younger, it was the place to go for culture (without leaving upstate NY, that is).  It is also the home of an airport – a means of escape to bigger and better things – like Europe!  It is a portal city.  I would probably say Syracuse is the tree connecting the worlds because of that.  It’s in central NY, after all!  I have to drive there to go just about anywhere else.  I would equate Syracuse with the Gods because of how grandiose it is compared to Utica and Watertown.  And, of course, because my nemeton is there and my means of access to Ireland – their physical home.  To reach the Gods, you need to go through Syracuse – the sky!

Now on to my new home – Northern NY.  Our city center is Watertown but I am just as far from the St. Lawrence River – aka the Thousand Islands; thus the photo.  This area has become the body – the physical realm of my life, for the most part.  I work here.  I attend school here.  My home is here.  I am becoming part of this community.  With easy access to various rivers and lakes, Northern NY is easily equated to water.  Since moving here, I have felt closer to the nature spirits so, in my mind, they are easy to correspond to Northern NY.  I’ve never seen so much wildlife before!

Sometimes we get annoyed and frustrated traveling so much, but then we realize how blessed we are to have so many homes.

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