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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

2016WS_Altar.JPG

Our Winter Solstice altar – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I’m finally enjoying a somewhat lazy day today.  I slept in and have very little to do besides clean and work on some personal projects.  I did take advantage of my freedom and caught up on some grove business.  It gave me some time to reflect on what Northern Rivers Grove accomplished by offering our Winter Solstice ritual online rather than cancel due to threat of poor weather.    I would have preferred to enjoy a more physical gathering complete with our annual gift exchange and usual, delicious potluck, but doing this enabled us to keep with Isaac Bonewits’ vision of offering public rituals, even broadcasting them.  You can read more about the experience in the link above.  It was amazing to connect with a couple people, including a distance member, from other states.  We’re discussing the possibility of streaming more of our rituals.  Considering that older, more experienced groves (like Three Cranes) are doing it, it makes me really proud of what we are able to accomplish.

As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development.  I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced.  My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year.  I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing.  I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental.  It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination.  Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.

My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip.  I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part.  I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part.  I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills.  I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less.  Why?  Some of it has been laziness.  Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook?  Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently.  I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years.  Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.

I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice.  Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order?  I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with.  I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more.  All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.

Be it so!

 

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Trance 1: A Lull

We experienced a very beautiful full moon recently.  Several people commented that they felt an intense amount of energy related to it.  Normally I feel very energetic around full moons, but this month found me exhausted, drained, and even a little ill feeling.  To be sure, November has been a stressful month for many of us.

My trance practice has been very minimal the last few weeks.  I’m not proud of that, but I’ve been feeling out of it.  Work has me exhausted.  The news has me exhausted.  My daughter has been ill which has me exhausted.  Today, at a grove business meeting, I opened by pouring a few random objects out for people to view.  I asked everyone to choose an object that represents where they are in their study programs, Druidism, or even just their involvement with the group.  I chose the wine cork because I felt like I was just staying buoyant.  I wasn’t really progressing anywhere, but I was maintaining my spiritual practice to the best of my ability.

I suppose I should look on the bright side and celebrate that I haven’t just completely stopped maintaining my relationships with spirit allies, but I am disgruntled that I haven’t done more to finish the study programs I’m working on.  I’m annoyed with myself for not doing more towards my trance studies in particular.

I’ve continued to visualize my Druid egg around me in the mornings as a way to shield.  Some days I can see and feel it really clearly; others I’m barely awake and feel like I’m going through the motions.  I’ve continued to try and do my yoga on the weekends.  Last week I had a much-needed massage.  I feel like that cleared away some of the cobwebs.  Today felt particularly good as I mindfully went into my yoga, focusing on each of the Three Realms as I moved from the ground, through tree, and reached to the sky.  Perhaps, as the moon wanes, the ennui will decrease and I can meditate on what intentions to set for the new moon.

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I’ve been very busy since I last shared an update.  Some of what has occupied me deserves its own post.  For example, my protogrove is now officially Northern Rivers Grove!  Also, we once more participated in the Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown.  All very good things, but also very exhausting.  I’ve made sure to keep up my hearth practice as best as I can, though.  I’m finding that it’s important to stay grounded in my personal spirituality and numinous relationships while also reaching out to support my Grove and local Pagan community.

Sometimes, simply breathing and grounding before going to work or running errands is exactly what I need.  A difficult situation in the first week of October found me retreating to the bathroom at work to shield myself.  In the quiet of the restroom, I called upon the powers of the three realms, pooled them within myself, and built my “Druid Egg” in my usual fashion, strongly visualizing black to banish negativity.  I saw my egg glossed with reflective silver, and sent all the daggers back to their origin.  I then let the powers flow back to the land, sea, and sky.  I left feeling so empowered and energized; I felt and envisioned the proud weight of antlers upon my head, something I find myself doing when I feel strong like one of my spirit allies.

Later, at home, at the quiet of my altar, I turned to my inner grove to speak with my spirit allies.  Simply going inward can be very healing after dealing with difficult, yet ultimately minor, altercations.

Today I came downstairs before anyone else was up, before all the extra electronics were on.  To the sound of rain, facing the forest,  I once more engaged in my Three Realms yoga practice.  It refreshed me.  I’ve found that doing it twice satisfies my need for corporeal symmetry and thus a sense of balance.  Child’s pose connects me to the Earth and the Underworld.  I focus on what that means to me at that time.  I moved through serpent, into cow, into dog – feeling the Nature Spirits as I move upwards into a tree pose.  I stare ahead to the birch trees.  Then, arms upward, I salute the sun and feel the sky energy, today flowing with life-giving water.  This is still a work in progress, and I wish I could do it every morning, but I think making it part of my weekend practice will suffice, though!

Whatever you are working through, whether it’s the Dedicant Path, the Initiate Path, the Clergy Path, or other studies related to your Druidism – persevere and find a way!

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A few posts ago, I talked about my hesitance to work with a rattle during a trance exercise suggested in a book.  Something about the context didn’t feel right to me.  It just wasn’t for me. Well, I attended the Central New York Pagan Pride Day on September 17th and had an opportunity to try a rattle as I danced in a drum circle.  It happened by chance – I was merely trying to encourage my daughter to try something and join me in the dance.

After the fact, I researched the instrument and found that it’s called an ekpiri rattle.  It was comprised of a wooden handle and various hard shells strung around it.  It made a satisfying woody rattle.  It’s apparently a common instrument in Ghana.

As the drummers worked their magic, I danced with my daughter and some old friends in the circle.  I won’t say that I went into any sort of deep trance – certainly not the kind I experienced at a Wellspring drum circle a few years ago – but I did find it remarkably easy to release worries and feel connected with the moment.  I have a vivid memory of looking up at the tall oak tree above the circle.  I admired it as I spiraled below, playing that beautiful African instrument.

As I rattled and focused on the oak here and there, inspiration struck – why not make a rattle in a more Druidic context?  I imagine utilizing wood found in Celtic lore- perhaps apple to represent sweetness and the Otherworld, or rowan for protection?  I imagine the percussive sound coming from acorn caps strung about the wood.  And this is leading me to research rattles and their ritual uses in European cultures.  Perhaps I should revisit my bell wand?

This could be the start of something personally transformative…  My trance studies are once more meeting with my casual love of dance while also appealing to my creative side.

 

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The last couple weeks (since I last updated on my work through basic trance exercises and techniques) have felt like a backwards slide.  You see, I went back to work after a long vacation.  In many ways, this was a good thing, especially because it thrust me back into my ten-month routine of waking up with the sun, doing a devotional first thing in the morning, and then going to bed at a decent time.  Unfortunately, getting back into that schedule, on top of all the mental, physical, and, yes, spiritual demands of work – in addition to taking care of my family – has been exhausting.  Trance has been difficult to achieve, let alone attempt.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried.  I continue to breathe, ground, and shield via visualizations each morning. When I have been stressed, I’ve closed my eyes to visualize all the irritations floating away or burning up in the candle fire…  I engage in the Two Powers often, especially when I do my weekly ADF-style ritual.  Last week I journeyed to my inner grove just to be.  I only moved through my Three Realms yoga practice once since I last wrote about it, which bums me out.

As I move forward and readjust to the usual schedule, I am striving to continue my studies.  I am reading when I can, and I intend to work on some new exercises.  I know that periods of stagnation are normal, but I can’t let it come to that when I’m actively working on my Initiate Path.

Onward, my friends!  Onward and upward!

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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 accountability. If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

Since I last posted, I’ve been doing a few different things here and there.  I continue to maintain my daily devotionals, and often try to work in short visualizations into it, specifically when I do the Two Powers meditation and shield.  The practice has evolved since I started working through Trance 1.  I see the waters below me and the sun above me.  I let those energies flow into me, feeling the coolness and warmth.  Often, I see myself somewhere that I’ve actually experienced the Two Powers at once, such as while swimming in the St. Lawrence River or Star Lake.  I then let those energies combine and turn into mist.  Sometimes the mist is colored, and I just take note of what color(s) it becomes.  Sometimes I choose a specific color to help me with the day.  I then move into my Druid Egg shielding exercise, visualizing the colored mist flowing out in the directions specified, and solidifying into a protective egg shell that lets positivity in, but refracts negativity. This is one of those practices that I need to remember when writing my essay about using trance in magical workings.

Peace before me.
Peace behind me.

Peace to my right.
Peace to my left.
Peace above me.
Peace below me.
Peace around me.
Peace within me.

From there, I then visualize the mist swirling wider and wider as I inhale and exhale.  It envelopes my whole home and everyone within it.  I pray for protection in my home, then move into making offerings and prayers of gratitude for the Kindreds.  Although this has evolved, I actually started to shield a couple years ago after a negative experience with a co-worker.  Ever since I started beginning my days in this way, I find that I am more positive and happier in all my interactions. I sometimes “renew” the shielding if I have a stressful day.

Something new for me this summer, sometimes I do a moving meditation in the backyard using yoga techniques.  It’s based on the work I did at Star Lake a few weeks ago.  While I don’t have a body of water to commune with at home, I instead focus on the moisture in the grass and soil around me when I do child’s pose.  Then, I work my way into a sun salutation and focus on the warmth and light of the sun shining down upon me.  From there, I do a tree pose, fixing my gaze on a tree ahead – usually a birch tree.  This always seems significant when I do it at the beginning of the day since birch represents new beginnings. It’s still a work in progress, but I really love the way in wakes up my body and engages my mind.  I become really focused on the Three Realms and my access to them when I do this moving meditation.  It does become trancelike in some ways.  I would like to do it more often, and I wonder how it will evolve as the colder season moves in. Like my shielding, it puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day.

I’ve also been working through The Trance Workbook: Understanding and Using the Power of Altered States  by Kay Hoffman.  It’s a bit different from The Way of the Shaman by Harner in that it’s meant to be accessible to people regardless of religious or cultural affiliation.  I know the Harner book is technically meant that way as well, but it is obviously heavily influenced by his experiences with South American tribes and their worldviews.  As discussed elsewhere, I had to put it down for a bit because the exercises started to feel like appropriation, and I really needed to reassess my approach.  I do intend to finish reading it, but if something makes me feel uncomfortable, it’s important that I stop and evaluate the reasons and whether or not I should engage.

Anyway, the beginning of The Trance Workbook contained some thought and word association exercises that I really did not like, but I pushed forward.  I did the “Conscious Confusion as a Healing Trance Technique” as found on page 28.  It involves viewing one hand as negative and the other as positive, then bringing them together to feel a sense of completeness.  Going into it, I thought it would be really silly, but it was actually interesting.  As I slowly brought my hands together, I focused on cultural associations with the right and left hands, then my own.  I did this both physically, but also in my inner grove with my spirit guides around me.  I did not use any drumming this time around, but it was part of a ritual, so the mental cues and incense stimulation was enough.  It was easy for me to get into this trance and then work with my hands.  As I brought my hands together, I thought of how my left hand was not negative, but it was very supportive of my right hand, the leader hand.  The right hand, while dominant, cannot easily do many things without the left, supportive hand.  I felt a sense of completeness in that, realizing that I’m constantly shifting back and forth between leadership and supportive roles, and that’s just who I am.  The omen I drew for that particular ritual was the ogham alder.  Interestingly, according to Ian Corrigan, that symbol means both leadership and support!  It was very affirming, and I reflected on that experience for the rest of the day.

 

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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 accountability. If some of my reflections happen to help others on similar journeys, I hope they share!

This weekend, I decided to work on my inner grove.  I began with my weekly devotional, but I did not utilize any drumming in this trance session. It worked surprisingly well.  After I made my offerings, I focused on my breathing, closed my eyes, and visualized a door open above my altar.  I allowed my spirit form to climb through this and enter a path.  Trees of all sorts grew on either side: ash, apple, birch, pine, etc.  I noticed holly and ferns growing closer to the ground.

One of my spirit guides, a deer, appeared through the trees.  He came from the right.  Suddenly, an otter appeared at my left.  Otter, again.  I stopped to chat and learn the otter’s name.  She’s appeared before and I figured it was time to ask.  Then a bee showed up!  I realized that I now had companions representing all three realms!  I gave offerings that I had on me, and promised more in the physical realm.

We all rode the deer to my inner grove.  There, I took stock and tidied some things.  I noticed the changes since my last visit.  The animals with me went about their business.  Deer ate some plants in the hedge, bee visited the red clovers, and otter jumped in my well, swimming out to the river connected to it.  She is very playful.

At one point, my spirit form laid down, and I actually leaned back in the physical realm too.  I looked up at the canopy circling above.  It was relaxing…  Shortly after that, I decided to return to the physical realm.  I left my spirit guides there until next time.

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