Book Review: Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler

Drawing Down The Moon - Margot Adler.

Drawing Down The Moon – Margot Adler.

Since it’s first publication in the late 1970’s, Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon has been viewed as one of the most comprehensive and honest books on the revival of Neo-Paganism. With painstakingly detailed research and practical experience, Adler pieces together a surprisingly unbiased look at not only the revival, but also the conception and (in some cases) the invention of reconstructionist religions and traditions.

Drawing Down The Moon opens with a preface discussion on it’s own evolution. I found this essential to my mindset, as, in a lot of cases, the conflicts being covered in the following pages were issues belonging to the generation before mine. There were annotations and addendums to the original text which were very helpful with making Drawing Down The Moon useful as both a historical account as well as an updated resource. Following the preface, Adler went with an overview of Paganism and a discussion on how an ancient, earth-based religion fits into a modern world. I found her approach to this admirable; her information compiled from hundreds of interviews to offer a well-rounded look at Neo-Paganism instead of based solely on her own thoughts.

Following the section entitled Background, Adler delved into the Witchcraft/Wicca revival. Much of this section rang unabashedly true. As a former Wiccan, much of what I was taught in my early 20’s (and have since come to view as a stepping stone and nothing more) was expectantly, albeit bluntly, rebuked. Many in the Wiccan community still view the work of Margaret Murray and Robert Graves to be historically accurate, and Gardner’s tradition be divinely delivered; Adler delved deep into the accuracy of claims of such authors and tried to set the record straight. However, the distinction made between accurate historical records and inspired fantasy writing was greatly appreciated. I’ve often felt that in the search for finding out “what the Druid’s really did” many have overlooked beautiful fiction/invented ritual because it wasn’t used 2,000 years ago. We need to encourage and preserve myth of any age.

Also in this section was a look at Magic and Ritual. I found this section short and inconclusive. While there were some interesting accounts of ritual work for specific groups, I found the conclusions drawn as to the purpose of rituals to be a little narrow. This section was included under the banner of “Witches,” which could account for the inconclusiveness, but a broader look at ritual and magic would have been very welcome.

Adler concluded the section on Witches with a look at feminism in the Craft. It was informative but lacking the juxtaposition of militant feminism with the often-overlooked soft aspect of the Goddess. The women she interviewed for this section were political and at times came across as aggressive or dogmatic in their views, which ended the section on Witchcraft on a negative note; not every feminist is angry, not every Goddess worshiper a lesbian. One can be a strong woman without the exclusion of men.

Other Neo-Pagan religions were covered next. Some were so obscure I hadn’t heard of them, while others, more well known organizations and ideas were barely touched on. I was quite disappointed that for a book claiming Druidry as one of the main topics, it didn’t receive a lot of attention. I found the section on Heathenism especially interesting, as not many Asatru/Norse groups are willing to discuss the perversion of their religion by the Nazi’s, of which Adler did and it filled in quite a few blanks for me.

Following the content of Drawing Down The Moon, Adler included an extensive appendix offering resources and contacts for any looking for groups, covens, camps, etc… within the Pagan community. This was a lovely touch, regardless of the geographical restrictions and the expiration date on such lists.

In conclusion, while I enjoyed aspects of Drawing Down The Moon, I’m not sure how applicable it was to my path or Druidry in general. Beyond the historical information given for the Neo-Paganism revival, this book dealt mostly with Wicca and offshoots of Wicca. While Adler included many quotes from Bonewits, they were mostly pertaining to his pre-ADF/Druidry days, and therefore directed more towards Neo-Paganism and Wicca, and not to his later views and development of ADF. However, I am glad this book was on the reading list, as I would not have read it otherwise.

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Things That Burn – Summer Solstice Ritual

It’s 1:30am, and besides a 2 hour nap this afternoon, I haven’t slept in over 24 hours. The Solstice does this to me; it calls to me on some primal level. From 4am to 10:30pm the sky is light, and for those hours it wants me to dance.

On this day (more than others) I long to be free of civilization; to shed my clothes and surrender my insecurities to Mother Earth; to emerge from the sea and let my hair mat with ocean water and sea weed; to dance a rhythm with my bare feet along hidden forest game trails. I want dirty soles, scraped knees, berry-stained fingers, and sun burnt cheeks. The summer all but turns me feral.

How I Really Celebrated

I stayed up all night to watch the sun rise. It was damp, misty, and so cold that I had to wrap myself in a wool blanket.

4:30am on June 21st/2013. Only 11C. The sun didn't come out until dusk.

4:30am on June 21st/2013. Only 10C. Somewhere over that treeline is where the sun should have been rising, but He stayed hidden all day. In fact, He didn’t come out until an hour before dusk.

Despite the weather, it was lovely. I made a cup of tea and curled up on my meditation mat. I closed my eyes and felt the cool wisps of cloud swirl around me, through me, over me, behind me. The words of a dear friend came to mind: The Sidhe! the Sidhe are rising! I don’t think anything truer could have been said about this morning in the mists. The Sidhe were everywhere.

My plan was to follow the sunrise with a dawn ritual, but the energy wasn’t right. I waited most of the day, for the clouds to part, for the moment to strike… but it didn’t. Finally around dinnertime the sun started to peek His head out far to the west, so I decided to go say hello. We picked up a picnic from Whole Foods and went to the beach, about 20 minutes from our home. Looking back, the clouds were nearly black above our end of the shoreline. But to the west, ahead, I caught a glimpse of summer.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The lone Totem Pole with upturned hands seemed such a fitting focal point; at once both welcoming and waiting to receive a blessing from the sun.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The lone Totem Pole with upturned hands seemed such a fitting focal point; at once both welcoming and waiting to receive a blessing from the sun.

I, too, went to meet the sun.

Goddess Pose. Mountain Pose. Strength, surety, and open. Photo taken by my husband.

Goddess Pose. Mountain Pose. Strength, surety, and openness. Photo taken by my husband.

After dinner, we chased the sunset. We followed the coastline until darkness swallowed us up from behind. Only then did we return home and I prepared my ritual.

The Ritual

I modified the ritual I used for Beltane, which was structured following ADF’s Core Order of Ritual (COoR) and composed of text from the COoR, the Solitary Druid Fellowship, poetry by Percy Shelley, and some of my own writing.

Each ritual I select a song that seems to capture the mood and set it to repeat. My song selection isn’t always an obvious choice, but for today I went with Banquet Hall by Loreena McKennitt.

I then proceeded with the Two Powers meditation.

I purified myself and the Three Hallows using oak leaves dipped in Well water followed by a smudging of white sage and cedar boughs.

Oak Leaves on my Shrine.

Oak Leaves on my Shrine.

I honored the Earth Mother with lines of poetry I’d written for her followed by an offering of corn meal and honey. The honey I used comes from Australia, and more specifically from the valley I will be moving to next spring. I felt it appropriate to honor my new home in such a way.

My statement of purpose:
I have come to honor the Summer Solstice. The Sun has quicken Earth to fullness; her fields abundant and trees laden. I have come to celebrate this bounty and mark the passage from the light half of the year to the dark. I am here to give thanks to the Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors.

When Reciting the Cosmos and Establishing the Sacred Center, I sprinkled lemon balm (as a sun herb) into the Well and offered sage leaves to the Fire. I decorated my Sacred Tree with oak leaves and holly leaves as well as a sunflower to represent the Sun.

I used Cernunnos as my Gate Keeper again, as I feel it is a role he is very comfortable in and I couldn’t imagine a ritual without him. I offered him olive oil and sage leaves, which I placed in the fire. I placed my Triple Moon silver ring into the well.

I Honored the Three Kindreds with white wine, as I was unable to find any mead this time around. The wine was local, golden in hue, and delicious. I think they liked it.

While nontraditional, my Beings of Occasion were the Oak King, the Holly King, and the Sidhe. This is why:

“Might Gods, Kings of Oak and Holly
Guardians of the Seasons and the turning of the Wheel
I honor you this day.
Oak King, I give you thanks for your strength
You’ve shepherded this land and seen it grow strong
Rest now, Old Oak. Your job is done.
Holly King, I welcome your return!
And praise your fortitude and your endurance.
Help us transition into darkness
And give us abundance during the harvest.
Beloved Kings, thank you for your guardianship.”

After speaking, I placed an oak leaf and a holly leave into my cauldron.

I choose to honor the Sidhe at the last minute after my experience that morning in the mist. I felt called by them to really see their levity and their joy. And pissing off the Faeries is something I have no interest in doing 😉 I offered them words of poetry I’d written for them and a sunflower from by garden.

Adorning my Sacred Tree with a sunflower from y garden to represent the sun in the middle of the night.

Adorning my Sacred Tree with a sunflower from y garden to represent the sun in the middle of the night.

I drew one of my Ogham staves from it’s pouch. I drew Tinne, Holly. I was almost floored at this as I really felt that the Holly King was trying to make something known to me. Despite my love and attraction to the plant, I’ve never drawn Tinne in a reading before. I’ve also never had my omen be so clearly connected to my ritual, or to the Beings of Occasion. Tienne tells me that challenges are ahead. It warns me that this challenge may better me, but if I hold true to my wisdom and my strength, I will emerge stronger. It also points to adaptability as a means of dealing with this challenge. I’ll have to meditate on this more when I’m not so tired, as I fear at 2:30am all that I can see is darkness.

I asked for a blessing of abundance, as financially and emotionally I’m beginning to feel very strained. Then I drank some wine. A lot of wine.

Hail Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors! Drink deep and be merry!

Hail Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors! Drink deep and be merry!

I gave my thanks, closed the gates, thanked the Earth Mother, and closed the rite.

Reflections…

I found the midnight nature of this ritual to be incredibly rewarding. There were no external distractions; no traffic noise, no loud neighbours, only a noisy cat looking for a mate. I felt grounded, centered, and easily slid into the mindset needed to preform this ritual. I will admit to feeling thrown by the omen I received. I’ve had a rough few years and was beginning to feel like I was coming to terms with my baggage and beginning to move forward. I’m not sure what’s in store for me, but clearly my battle isn’t finished.

I hope this finds you relaxed and sated after a wonderful Summer Solstice,
Eira Silversage.

Summer Solstice – High Day Essay

The Summer Solstice (also known as Midsummer and Litha) falls around the 21st of June, on the longest day of the year. Summer Solstice resides opposite Yule on the Neopagan calendar, The Wheel of the Year. The earth is well-nourished; spring rains and warm sunshine from April and May have aided fertility, while animals and people alike have enjoyed longer, more productive days. On this day, in the northern hemisphere, the sun is in the sky the longest. This also means that Sun Gods (regardless of the pantheon they belong to) are at their strongest. This is a feast to celebrate the light, the sacred fire, the bounty of summer and the coming harvest.

I’ve read various accounts (both in ADF material as well as elsewhere) claiming the Celts (my hearth culture) may not have honored the Summer Solstice with such religious significance as they did other High Days. While these vague references may hold some merit, lacking an ancient cultural connection hasn’t limited more recent generations from celebrating this High Day. In many locations around the UK, pagans and country folk alike celebrate the Solstice with bonfires, fire wheels, and outdoor festivals. In fact, Stonehenge boasts one of the largest (if not the largest) public Solstice celebrations, which has been marked since time immemorial at the site of these ancient standing stones.

Sunrise on the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Image from: http://www.visit-stonehenge.org/.

Sunrise on the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Image from: http://www.visit-stonehenge.org/.

Both Summer and Winter Solstices mark an in between time, a time where the veil between worlds is thin. Such times and places are sacred to Druids, allowing those to explore the other realms more deeply and feel the presence of the Gods, Kindreds, and Spirits more tangibly. The Welsh pantheon knows this time as Alban Hefin, “spirit night.” On this night, the Goddess crowns the God the King of the Summer, and the Fae dance the hills in celebration. This legend, of masquerading fairies lead by a king and queen at Midsummer, has been retold in many forms, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to references in stories such as The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley, and has become an iconic connection between pop culture and ancient (as well as modern) Paganism.

Fairies on Parade by Emily Balivet.

Fairies on Parade by Emily Balivet.

It is also believed, by some Neopagans, that the God being crowned is the Holly King, who has just defeated the Oak King in battle. The days now getting shorter, the Holly King will reign over the dark days until Yule (Winter Solstice), when the Kings of the forest battle once again, at which time the Oak King prevails. Regardless of the myth or story used to add poetry to the day, the Summer Solstice is a time to mark the end of the light half of the year, and begin to preparation for the dark. Feasts are held to enjoy summer’s bounty. Thanks are given to Spirits and Deities alike, showing appreciation for the growing season and asking for blessings for the upcoming harvest.

May Your Fires Burn Bright – Beltane Ritual

This was my first ADF ritual, and maybe more importantly, my first High Day celebration with a Druidic twist. I didn’t find myself nervous like I did when I was building up to my first Wiccan High Day, which let me relax and focus more on the experience and less on the formalities. Part of the DP training requires the student to write a short essay on their experiences at each of the High Days, and while this post will definitely be that, I also want to include some thoughts on the lead up to Beltane. 

The Triple Hallows

In my Hearth Culture, the Cosmos are thought of as Three Realms: Sky, Land, and Sea. The Sky is where the Shining Ones dwell and is represented by the Fire Hallow. The Land is where we dwell and is represented by the Sacred Tree. The Sea is the Underworld where the dead journey to reach the afterlife, and is represented by the Well. Together the Triple Hallows form the Sacred Center, which is opened during ritual to connect us with those beyond the veil.

So,when preparing for Beltane, I created my Triple Hallows.

On Making Holy Water

The Well is essential to Druidic ritual. During the ritual the Well is filled with Holy Water and is used to anoint those in attendance as well as the shrine, much in the way Holy Water is used in other religions. There are many different methods, thoughts, practices, etc… that people go by to create Holy Water, which really is just water blessed by or sacred to the user.

I gave this process a lot of thought, as I didn’t want to just fill up my Well with tap water. I chose to honor the Three Realms dually by filling my Well with waters collected from three different sources.

For Land, I chose a mountain spring. This water runs from deep within the roots of the Coastal Mountains and is as clean and pure as water can get.

Mountain Spring, Lynn Valley Headwaters. Taken with my iPhone.

Mountain Spring, Lynn Valley Headwaters. Taken with my iPhone.

For the Sea I went up a ways up the inlet to where the water is unpolluted by urban industry. The sun was setting on Beltane Eve and the experience was nothing short of moving. I kicked off my shoes and stood in the cool waters of high tide and felt the glow of dusk settle around the harbor.

Sunset at Cates Park. Photo taken on my iPhone.

Sunset at Cates Park. Photo taken on my iPhone.

For the Sky, I wanted to collect rain water. The irony wasn’t lost on me that the moment I decided to do this, the clouds parted and the sun came out. So, I gathered the next best thing: fresh glacial run-off and snow melt from high in the mountains. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the car and was unable to take a picture.

The Ritual

My shrine. I've been collecting more branches for my Sacred Tree, which now has Rowan, Oak, Apple, Willow, and Maple. While Maple is not one of the sacred Druidic trees, it is sacred to Canada and felt my own homeland spirits should be honored.

My shrine. I’ve been collecting more branches for my Sacred Tree, which now has Rowan, Oak, Apple, Willow, and Maple. While Maple is not one of the sacred Druidic trees, it is sacred to Canada and felt my own homeland spirits should be honored.

I started the ritual with ringing my little brass bell 9 times and working through the Two Powers meditation. Next came Purification and I opted to use my favourite stanza from my favourite poem by Percy Shelley. I have always felt that it has a strong tie to Paganism, despite that not being the author’s intent:

I am the daughter

Of Earth and Water

And nurseling of the Sky

I pass through the pores

Of the Ocean and the Shores

I change, but I cannot die

I honored the Earth Mother with an offering of honey and corn meal.

Offerings to the Earth Mother.

Offerings to the Earth Mother.

During the Earth Mother offering I was overcome by an emotion I don’t fully understand. Tears started running down my cheeks and despite my warm apartment, I started to shiver. It wasn’t a negative feeling in the slightest, but I wouldn’t describe it as overwhelmingly positive either. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand it, but I plan on meditating on the emotion to see if I can learn anything new.

I honored Cernunnos as the Gatekeeper, and offered him sage leaves and olive oil, which I burned in the cast iron firepot which serves as my Fire Hallow. I’ve never honored Him as anyone other than the God of a ceremony, but I think we were both happy with Him in this role. I always felt Cernunnos was introverted and observant, so I think He enjoyed being included but not in the spotlight.

I made sacrifices to the Ancestors, Spirits, and Gods and Goddesses in the form of fresh rosemary from my garden, which I burned in my firepot, and hot tea sweetened with honey. The tea was a blend of hibiscus petals, rose hips, orange peel, blackberry leaves, and ginger root. I think the combination of the vibrant fuchsia colour and intense summer flavours was a perfect offering for Beltane. 

My Beings of Occasion were Blodeuwedd and the Sidhe. I wrote them each a short poem and read them during the ritual. I gave them both some of my Beltane tea as well as lavender flowers for Blodeuwedd and a dogwood flower for the Sidhe.

Quert, or Apple, Ogham Stave. This stave comes from my set that is made from each corresponding wood type by a Coven in England.

Quert, or Apple, Ogham Stave. This stave comes from my set that is made from each corresponding wood type by a Coven in England.

After the offerings and blessing requests, I spread my handmade casting cloth and drew one Ogham stave. I drew Quert – the Apple Tree, which speaks of Choice and Mental Healing. Mentally, I have been healing from past traumas which have had a significant impact on my life. I feel that for the first time since childhood I’ve been free to make decisions that aren’t centered around my mental state. I’m taking this as an omen that the Goddesses and Gods are standing with me, encouraging me, and above all telling me that I’m (finally) on the right path. This Ogham also talks about mental discipline and focusing ones energies. Could this be about my recent move to ADF and Druidry? Could this be them agreeing that this is the right place for me? Finally, Quert can be a sign to make a choice. This may be the first time in my life that I don’t feel I’m at a crossroads, so I’m not entirely sure what choice it’s speaking of. Maybe the choice correspondence isn’t relevant to me, and I drew this stave because of the mental healing and academic discipline meanings. Time will tell, I’d imagine. Regardless, I believe this was an wonderful sign that my offerings were accepted and blessings were bestowed.

After the omen, I gave my thanks and closed the gates.

Reflections…

Throughout the entire ritual, I felt centered and empowered. I opted to move my shrine indoors, which I initially thought would take away from my connection to the Earth, but it wasn’t too much of a hindrance. (I have a nosy neighbour who likes to look around the privacy divider between our balconies whenever she hears me outside.) I loved the flow of the ritual, the pacing, and the atmosphere. The burning herbs mixed with the oak shavings and cedar incense, the sweet herbal tea and the water from my three sources… it was indeed magickal. I will admit that in the past I never really felted moved at rituals, I felt like I was going through the steps, more so focused on fancy words written by others than on the actual spirituality. This was different; I truly felt connected. 

I hope this post finds you spiritually sated and in the after-glow of your own Beltane experiences,
Eira Silversage.

Beltane – High Day Essay

Beltane is the 2nd cross-quarter day of the Neopagan calendar, known as the Wheel of the Year or individually as High Days. While some cultures celebrate Beltane Eve based on the lunar calendar, the vast majority of Pagan’s celebrate Beltane on April 30th-May 1st. At its heart, Beltane is a fire fertility festival which marks the beginning of the summer months, it’s opposite being Samhain (October 31st –November 1st.)

Beltane Grove by Mickie Mueller

Beltane Grove by Mickie Mueller

The lore talks of a thawed earth, fertile and abundant with new life. The Gods and Goddesses mirror this fertility in their own story with the Great Marriage and the impregnation of the Goddess, who carries the new God until his birth at Yule. So when we speak of Beltane being a fertility festival, we speak not only of sex, but of the land which grows our food and the maturing of livestock, and the conception of intellectual ideas and an overall abundance. The time between Beltane and Midsummer is the time to grow, to nurture new ideas and see them carefully cared for and blessed. We ask the Shining Ones to join us in these acts, as their guidance and blessings can help seal our success.

Beltane Reunion by Emily Balivet

Beltane Reunion by Emily Balivet

There are many cultural influences in modern Beltane rituals stemming from different ancient Pagan cultures. The name Beltane comes from the Celts, so named after the God Bel (Belenus). Germanic cultures celebrate May 1st as Walpurgis Night, while the Roman’s honored the Festival of Flora. Despite many different cultures customs, the heart of the High Day remains the same. Today, we celebrate with burning bale fires, which can be jumped over or walked around to bring luck. Maypoles are erected and danced around, baskets and garlands of flowers are given and worn, hand fasting ceremonies are held, and seasonal foods and drink are shared amongst Pagan communities. Some also choose to honor Beltane by mirroring the union between the God and Goddess (but only consenting adults, please!)

The Council of Cernunnos - Beltane Rites by Emily Balivet

The Council of Cernunnos – Beltane Rites by Emily Balivet

Beltane is a celebration of life and the beauty of Mother Earth. We share in Her abundance and give freely of our own. We ask for the protection and inspiration of the Gods and Goddesses to help guide us through the impending months of hard work, and pray that we are rewarded with bountiful crops and the fruition of our ideas.

May Your Fires Burn Bright,
Beltane Blessings!

Book Review: Travels Through Middle Earth by Alaric Albertsson

Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path Of A Saxon Pagan by Alaric Albertsson

Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path Of A Saxon Pagan by Alaric Albertsson

Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path Of A Saxon Pagan by Alaric Albertsson is an introductory look at who the Saxons were as a people, and how their culture has been kept alive through what Albertsson refers to as a “living religion.”

The content of Travels Through Middle Earth provides a brief overview of the many elements of Saxon Paganism necessary for a someone new to its concepts. This book is not designed as an in-depth history lesson, but rather equips the reader with the basics needed to begin their own practices, should they desire, or as a starting off point for further studies. For one such as myself, who is interested in the Saxons from a cultural inheritance standpoint, it provided me with what I found was a sound basis.

Albertsson starts by discussing who exactly the Saxon’s were, with a focus on historical fact contrasted with his own opinions and experiences. He then takes the reader through an overview of the Gods worshiped by Saxons, along with their relationships to the different worlds and how sovereignty is assigned and awarded through action. We are introduced to the Elves and Dwarves, as well as the Ettins and Wans. Albertsson then gives great attention to the Wéofod, the Saxon shrine, and how piety and daily worship translates to a way of life beyond study and understanding. The most complex aspect of Saxon Paganism is their honor system; how our actions and those connected to us affect our orlay. Through Albertsson’s clear and thoughtful writing, this truly complex notion was easily digestible and sparked a lot of afterthought on my part.

Albertsson rounds the book off by giving examples of rites, rituals, and how the inhíred works. He offers a Saxon take on the High Days (called Holy Tides.) He even includes a chapter on mead making and the relevance of this historic drink.

Albertsson’s conversational style of writing makes the deep, layered history easily digestible and, maybe more importantly, relatable. I went into this book with very little knowledge of who the Saxons were, mainly because my focus has always been on the Celts, and I was surprised at how many misconceptions I had about a culture that is not only important genealogically to myself, but to the entire English-speaking world. (It may also surprise readers how much they do already know about Saxon culture.)

By sharing the etymological roots of ancient Saxon words, Albertsson gives readers a context with which to begin. For one such as myself, who is a student of English literature as well as a life-long lover of Tolkien’s work, the connections Albertsson makes between the two was (I admit) exciting; there were countless moments of titillation as more parallels were drawn. Albertsson also provided careful descriptions and pronunciations that were well placed, leaving the reader feeling informed and not like a complete outsider.

On a personal note

Personal responsibility is a notion consistent through most Neo-Pagan organizations.  While I’ve found that many organizations adhere to this idea with a vague flexibility, Saxon Paganism doesn’t view this concept as negotiable. Albertsson’s discussion on orlay was inspiring. The idea of being personally accountable, not only to those in your immediate surroundings, but to everyone past and present is something we should all spend a little more time reflecting on. The way orlay was introduced, especially in relation to personal wyrd and to the Well of Wyrd, forced me to put the book down and consider my own life. I think, whether you’re an identified Saxon Pagan or just one who has an interest in Saxon culture and history, Eormensyl (the tree connecting the seven worlds) is an important thing to consider. If our own personal deeds and actions contributes to the Well of Wyrd, and thus sustains Eormensyl, then surly this is at least partly responsible for the state of our planet. If I’m interpreting Albertsson’s work correctly, our collective actions and deeds are cosmically connected, and that must make for a very sick Well of Wyrd.

Finally, I was surprised at the kinship I felt with the Gods and Goddesses of Saxon Paganism. In the past, whenever I’ve approached Pagan pantheons not of my own hearth, I’ve always strongly felt that I was reading a book on mythology. Without personal connection, reading about Gods and Goddesses not of your own belief can very easily feel like fiction. I think the Saxon belief that deities are physical beings coupled with Albertsson’s approachable writing made the availability of that connection undeniable; it was such a pleasure to experience this hearth culture through his eyes.

Eira Silversage
April 2013

Altar Of Reflection, Shrine Of Two Worlds

She Who Hides From The World

Today is my birthday, and despite the persistent rumbling of gratitude, I still feel a little uprooted. Maybe it’s my lactose intolerant belly protesting my midnight snack – a pint of disgusting red velvet ice cream. Or maybe it’s unavoidable realization that today I turn 29, which means I only have one year left until it’s no longer charming that I’m so damn self-indulgent. Either way, I skipped work today (easy when you’re your own boss) and have thus far spent the day reflecting on why I am the way I am, and what I need to change to get where I want to go.

What does this have to do with Druidic shrines, you’re wondering? Have patience, I’m getting there…

Every morning I do a little yoga then sit on my deck and meditate, no matter the weather. My deck is my place of work during the summer, an overflowing potted garden of herbs and flowers; during the winter it is a place for reflection. My deck is as close to nature as a 3rd story apartment gets. Also, there’s this spectacular view:

 

My Wild North.

My Wild North.

 

This morning, sitting in the lotus position, with the cool April breeze blowing in of the Pacific Ocean and the call of robins and chickadees drowning out the distant city noises, I decided it was time make my portable outdoor shrine a permanent fixture in my home. So this is what I did today, home alone on my birthday, and figured it was the perfect time to write my first official essay for my ADF Dedicant Program.

 

ADF ESSAY – THE HOME SHRINE

Two Shrines, Two Paths

I’ve been reading a lot about liminality in Druidry, and so the symbolism behind my love of the doorway wasn’t lost on me. It’s just a sliding glass door, but it’s my window to the Wild North – the endless, untouched wilderness that spans all the way to the Arctic. This is my land, the land that called to me and woke me up.

My first shrine (or altar, really) has been built around an antique dresser from 18th century England. It’s made of rosewood and walnut, and the only reason it came into my possession was because the monetary value was lost with some irreparable damage. The damage doesn’t matter to me; dents and scratches only add character.

 

Indoor altar. Forgive the bad quality, taken with my iphone.

Indoor altar. Forgive the bad quality, taken with my iPhone.

 

I don’t often do much work on this alter, it’s mostly a sacred resting spot for my tools and blessed objects. It has two drawers which store candles, incense, cloth, and excess ritual supplies. It sits next to my magickal bookshelf, which has more sacred items and pagan-related books. I do use this altar for prayers and blessings that don’t require a full ritual; lighting a candle for a friend or the daily burning of incense. I don’t have any plans to change how I use this altar, as I feel the flow of energy from it is perfectly in sync with my own; it has an important function in my home and the spirits and energies that surround it seem very content.

My second shrine is outside on my deck, and it’s brand new at the time of writing this essay. It’s undercover and, with the exception of some wind and late-day summer sun, it’s untouched by the elements.

 

My outdoor shrine, facing east, with the mountains to the north. I've surrounded my shrine with plants sacred to me so when meditating/performing a ritual, their energy can intermingle with my own.

My outdoor shrine, facing east, with the mountains to the north. I’ve surrounded my shrine with plants sacred to me so when meditating/performing a ritual their energy can intermingle with my own.

 

Last summer I bought a wood altar from DragonOak, and until today it has been sitting below my indoor altar waiting for the spring. Today I moved it outside. It sits on a handwoven carpet from Tibet, brought to Canada by a friend of my father’s in the 70’s. To the left is my holly tree. I have such a deep love of holly trees, and this little fellow has been living with me since he was a wee sapling. I have a small cast iron cauldron to use for incense and any other burning offerings. I have a green marble mortar and pestle (gifted to me by my husband) for ritual herbal work. I have a bowl of pine cones and chestnuts, given to me by nature spirits. I have a bundle of sage for smudging, candles, and incense. In the center of the shrine is a copper vase which I plan to build my tree in.

 

My outdoor shrine.

My outdoor shrine.

 

Cast iron cauldron - my fire pot. Pictured with smoldering cedar incense.

Cast iron cauldron – my fire pot. Pictured with smoldering cedar incense.

 

Green marble mortar and pestle for ritual herbalism.

Green marble mortar and pestle for ritual herbalism.

 

Pine cones and chestnuts; a collection of gifts from forest spirits.

Pine cones and chestnuts; a collection of gifts from forest spirits.

 

Copper vase. My plan is to collect branches from my favourite trees (with their permission of course) and build my own tree.

Copper vase. My plan is to collect branches from my favourite trees (with their permission of course) and build my own tree.

 

Finally, for my well, I’ve purchased an earthenware cauldron from a pagan artist. It’s glazed in two-tone blues. Once this arrives it will sit over the sign of the triple moon and serve dually as my well and cup. I know the triple moons aren’t often used in Druidry, but as my practices are a culmination of witchcraft and Druidry, it has important meaning to me.

 

When meditating, I often repeat this saying to myself with my breath to enter a trance. It resonates in me like nothing else.

When meditating, I often repeat this saying to myself with my breath to enter a trance. It resonates in me like nothing else.

 

I also have two offering bowls that aren’t pictured, as they were in use when I was taking the photos and otherwise indisposed. One is black, one is white, and they are made of marble.

As far as plans for the future go, I’d like to remove the text on the back of my altar (in theban) as it doesn’t feel right to me; I’d much rather have this saying in Ogham. It means “The creation of a thousand forests lie in a single acorn.” I would, of course, have to meditate on this change before I proceed as I don’t want to anger any spirits that may prefer it in theban.

So there you have it, two altars reflecting two paths. My hope is that over time the symbolism and my practices become less fractured, that I don’t feel like I’m making choices between two different worlds but rather find a way to straddle the middle.