Posts Tagged ‘liturgy’

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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When life gets busy, I tend to feel that my spirituality comes out of focus. Socializing, driving from place to place, and my day job all distract me from my studies. Being a mother and keeping my home is exhausting. So often, I find myself snuggled in a bathrobe, on the couch, watching something on Netflix.  When I log on to the internet, I see others in my tradition discussing the various ADF study programs that they’re working through, and I think of how long it’s taking me…  I’m about ready to give up on trance and magic for now.  I just can’t seem to adhere to a routine with my fussy toddler teething so frequently.  It can be really discouraging…

When I went into the forest to do my devotional on Sunday, I found myself dwelling on everything I wasn’t doing enough of: practicing meditation or trance, magical work, studying Irish, studying herbalism…  My ritual itself felt a little melancholy.  It was such a chilly, overcast day. All the lovely autumn colors from the last couple weeks had blown away. Ravens chuckled in the distance, reminding me at once of An Morrigan and her connection to death.  The veil is thin, Samhain is coming, and the natural world both dies and prepares for slumber.

Once inside, I gradually began to realize all the ways that I am living and growing spiritually.  I am doing my best to maintain a positive relationship with the Kindreds by giving offerings and saying prayers of gratitude.  I practice simple, practical forms of magic – folk magic, kitchen magic, basic shielding and grounding.  I may not be actively studying Irish each day, but I’m learning when I can.  I may not be reading as much as I used to, but I’m fitting that in when I can as well.  I’ve started to journal each Sunday afternoon, and my liturgy journal shows growth and reflection.  Most importantly, I’m sharing the joy of life’s most basic magic with my daughter.  We sing and dance to music, delight in simple stories, and enjoy expressing our creativity with art.  We explore nature together, and her complete awe in everything has awakened something deep inside me.  Lately, a majority of the books I read are my child’s.  We read them together – fiction and non-fiction, verse and prose.   She hears my prayers and sees me make offerings.

My Druidism is growing as fast as an oak, which is okay.  The experience of tending to my little acorn is just part of my journey.  It is teaching me to be patient and nurturing, and to reconnect to the world’s most primal and joyful magic.

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“Chillin'” probably isn’t the right word since the North Country, only just recently recovering from a huge snow storm, is experiencing a bit of a heatwave.  It was a rainy day, but several people from Northern Rivers took advantage of the break in winter weather and met up at a coffee house in Clayton, NY.  We had a fabulous time chatting about ADF liturgy and planning our Imbolc rite.  We even had a new person show up which was delightful!

After that, Weretoad, Bee, and I took a short walk along the St. Lawrence River.  Higher temperatures aside, the river is still pretty frozen in places.  We saw a remarkable crack running along a huge chunk of it.  It would have made a fantastic photo had we brought our cameras.  Oh well!  Some things are better experienced than photographed, I guess.  It felt wonderful to see the river again.  It’s always like a homecoming.  The air feels so clear…

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A plaque I purchased from an artisan at the last CNY Pagan Pride Day. Although normally seen as a Greenman motif, this plaque was done in blue which automatically made me think of Manannán mac Lir. This plaque now hangs above my altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

The ADF discussion group on FB was recentlly abuzz with a discussion on the gatekeeper concept within our liturgy.  It’s a hot topic for some – whether it should be required in ADF liturgy, whether or not it’s an Indo-European concept, etc, etc, etc…  I’ve been working on Liturgy 1, part of my Initiate training in ADF, so between that and the FB discussion, I couldn’t help but reflect on the gatekeeper and what it means to me and my rituals.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, Isaac Bonewits briefly describes gatekeepers in his book Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work:

The creation of a ritual center is often symbolized in Paleo-, Meso-, and Neopagan ceremonies as opening the Gates Between the Worlds.  This is usually accomplished by calling upon a particular spirit who is a gatekeeper, and who is easy to contact, since he/she is usually halfway into this world already.  The gatekeeper is then asked to open the gates, which she/he usually does with little fuss (32).

Pagans may envision this gatekeeper differently depending on the purpose/desires for the ritual, one’s personal or grove hearth culture, and one’s tradition.  Wiccans, for example, often call spirits in the four directions, be they elementals, guardians of watchtowers, or even angels.  Though I’ve never heard them referred to as such in Wiccan circles, these spirits are gatekeepers (32).  In ADF Druidic rites, many will call on messenger spirits or even psychopomps.  The wonderful thing coming out of the online discussions seems to be that the gatekeeper concept does not have to be set in stone.  Some suggest thinking of the gatekeeper is a guardian during our rites.  Others see him or her as a facilitator – a spirit who can help you access the Otherworlds, but does not automatically assume that we can’t do it on our own.

Personally, I work with Manannán mac Lir, Irish God of the sea, lord of magic, and arguably an excellent gatekeeper!  Muin Mound Grove often calls to Manannán as well, and that’s where I first started to make my acquaintance with him.  Personal study and experience has lead me to develop a relationship with him as a gatekeeper deity and, now, a patron to my Druidic studies.  His association with water connects him with the Otherworld, and yet many stories show him interacting with humans such as Cuchulainn and Bran.  One of my favorite stories features Cormac Mac Airt whom Manannán actually transports to the Otherworld, usually with the aid of a silver wand that tinkles like bells.

In my personal rites, I usually don’t call to Manannán as a gatekeeper unless I am doing some serious magical workings.  I was intrigued and yet not surprised to learn that others in ADF view the gatekeeper as a guardian – and indeed that’s how I consider him.  My usual devotionals are very basic; they involve grounding and centering, prayers of thanks, and offerings.  As they are done at my altar, a place I’ve been working at for years now, I feel that it’s sufficiently warded from most negativity.  When I need to do something other than basic devotionals or prayers, I then acknowledge the Outsiders, the powers of chaos, and ask them to leave me in peace.  In case asking nicely isn’t enough, I call the gatekeeper, Manannán, and ask that he aid me in my rite – no only in the magic I’m working, but in warding it from any chaos and negativity.  I occasionally use a bell wand I made through inspiration of the Cormac story.  I will ring it and walk a circle while chanting “Let the gates be open!”

I’ve taken my ideas about Manannán as a guardian to my protogrove.  I had been leading rituals in the same way I was taught – using physical gestures and asking Manannán to help me open the gates.  I began to sense a bit of a disconnect between the actions and the ritual participants.  Many are new to Druidism, so that has been part of it, and I was struggling with how to help everyone better experience the gates.  I wanted it to be understood and meaningful – else why bother? For our Spring Equinox ritual, I decided to approach the opening and closing of the gates as part of the Two Powers meditation.  I lead everyone through the usual meditation and then, inspired by Ian Corrigan’s work in the Nine Moons material, I asked that everyone view the water and fire combine into mist that enveloped us.  Out of the mist came a wizened, wizard of a man – Manannán mac Lir!  He stood as guardian of the Otherworld but also was there to facilitate the magic of envisioning the fire and well as gates opening and closing.

Everyone reported that this was very successful and they definitely felt an inner transition.  I’m very excited by this development and intend to experiment with it further as our concept of the gatekeeper evolves.  Some other ADFers are suggesting that Brighid would make a very appropriate gatekeeper given her association with fire and water and I find myself agreeing!  I feel pulled to join in this experimentation as well since Brighid is my patroness, but I do not want to end my growing relationship with Manannán either.  Perhaps I will approach Brighid that way during my flame keeping rites and see what happens.  Those times, I usually do not call to a gatekeeper.  They are very informal and hearth-centered – but we shall see!  Perhaps in looking to Brighid as not only guardian of my home, but as a facilitator to greater spiritual awareness, I will grow.

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If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year, you know I’ve been working towards building an ADF Druidic community here in the North Country.  It started in June with a “coffee hour,” and progressed into a few study group meetings – the first in Watertown and the second in Carthage.  Our Facebook group has grown and, while discussion comes and goes, the interest remains.  We’ve even attracted someone right across the border in Canada!

Our next gathering is coming up this weekend and it is going to be a bit more than a study group meeting – I’m actually planning a ritual to frame the opening and closing of our time together.  The purpose is to celebrate the new season and honor the Nature Spirits for their bounty.  Since the group has been discussing Nature Spirits, it seemed right to make them the focus of this ritual.  We’ll also discuss our next planned ritual, Samhain.

Last weekend, I met with two of the study group members.  They have both been very involved since the very first meeting – I felt they were ready to help me organize something bigger.  The Autumn Equinox rite coming up is going to be very casual so as to “blend in” at the public park we’re meeting in.  Since it’s our first ritual, I don’t want it to be too involved.  Everyone is still learning and the less they have to keep track of, the better it will be.  All the same, I will be sure everyone is involved in some way so they experience a sense of ownership and I don’t feel alone on stage.  I’m hoping this only grows at Samhain.  We’re still working on finding a more private yet accessible location for that rite… and we have a possibility in the works.

When Weretoad and I left Muin Mound’s Autumn Equinox rite, he lamented the possibility of growing apart from them through forming a new group.  I worried the same thing.  We discussed it some as we took the long drive home.  I asked him if he would be happier if I abandoned the possibility of starting a protogrove, but he insisted that I shouldn’t because he knows it’s important to me.  I found myself asking why is it important.  Am I just looking to play leader?

Reflecting on my life, I always end up in such positions.  I dare say it’s natural for me.  I started clubs as a child, was elected president of a literature club in college, and was elected scribe in two Pagan groups.  I naturally like to facilitate and organize, especially when I see a desire in the community.  Someone has to step up and help make things happen.  I like to make things happen, even when it stresses me out.  (Don’t even get me started on organizing parties – I love doing that too…)

But it isn’t just my desire to make things happen.  There really is a desire in the North Country for something other than Wicca.  Not only that, but there’s a desire for open community.  Covens are hard to find, but ADF Druidism is all about opening its doors. This doesn’t come without some complications, but it’s necessary for such a group to be out there.  I think most Pagans are into security and safety, but not everyone is into extreme secrecy.  Some of us just want to come together, form friendships, educate/learn, work magic, and worship the Kindreds.  I read about other groves who meet every month – sometimes twice a month! – to share discussion, healing, and fellowship.  I used to be part of such a group in the Utica area and I loved it.  I still get excited to see the people I met through that group.  It’s not that I don’t get excited to see my grovemates in Syracuse – but I can’t see them as often because of proximity.  I miss being able to meet without it being a big day trip.  I miss being able to say, “Hey, who wants to meet for tea and casual Pagan discussion tonight?” without worrying about gas prices and getting home at a decent time for bed.

I truly hope this study group turns into something more.  Like my husband, I will miss seeing Muin Mound as often when the study group matures… but I know we won’t lose touch.  Hell, I’m already plotting ways for the North Country group and Muin Mound to get together!

At the same time, I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.  The study group still has a lot of work to do to become something more.  I don’t want to embark on the protogrove boat alone – I need to know everyone has my back and that we’re in it together.  Perhaps by next June, we’ll be ready.

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