Further Down The Path (Week 4)

For the week of April 29th to May 5th.

Spiritual Hangover

I believe I’m suffering from a spiritual hangover. Let me explain.

The lead up to Beltane was indescribably satisfying. I traveled the city and surrounding natural nooks to find branches from specific trees, to gather water from specific locations, to observe and record the changing season. I stood on the beach and watched the sun set. I stood in the rain beneath the pines and breathed deep the cool mountain air.

Beltane was remarkable; sunny and warm with a cool breeze off the ocean. If you want to read about my ritual, follow this link; there is too much to say to sum it up here.

But this was all early in the week, and the days following Beltane were challenging. I felt like I was in ritual withdrawal. My energy was drained and my mind kept returning to the experiences of Beltane. I spent a lot of time outdoors painting and no time reading or meditating. Maybe this is what it will be life for me. Maybe I’ll need this comedown time after a ritual to assimilate the experience into my life before I can continue in my practices. There is something rather beautiful about that. I like this feeling of being charged and changed by ritual.

Beyond Beltane

I’ve decided the next book I’m going to read for my DP is Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler. I started reading this book when I was a teenager, but it was a little too in depth for my undeveloped mind and I put it aside. I was planning on working on my first Virtue essay, but I’ve decided to wait until later in my DP year for those as I want to spend more practical time working with the Virtues so I can write from personal experience.

Advertisements

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!

Further Down The Path (Week 3)

For the week of April 22nd to 28th.

April is coming to a close and Beltane is less than two days away. I’ve spent most of my spare time preparing for this High Day, which also happens to be my first ADF ritual. I always feel a touch of sadness around the High Days as a solitary; I’d love to dance around a maypole with ribbons in my hair and feast on Spring delicacies as part of a Grove. It’s hard to walk the Wheel of the Year alone, this year more than most it seems.

Meditation and Trance Work

I’ve been working with the Two Powers meditation in preparation for the Beltane ritual. I’m getting much more fluid with it, finding it easier to hold the imagery and ignore distractions. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to focus on the experience when I have music playing, not only because it blocks out auditory distractions but because it can really help set the mood. I pick a track that fits with the meditation I’m working with or the goal I want to achieve and just let my mind go. It’s such a simple addition, but it’s increased my meditative focus and stamina like you wouldn’t believe.

Musings on Hearth Cultures

I’ve always viewed the Pagan Gods and Goddesses as representations of the whole, not in the Wiccan duotheistic sense, but more so in a general all-encompassing sense. I believe that everything is connected by and through Spirit, and Gods and Goddesses exist as figureheads, archetypes, and even physical manifestations of the divine; that when you pray to one Goddess, you are praying to them all.

Enter Ár nDraíocht Féin. ADF views things a little differently, mostly because those who design ADF rituals are “hard polytheists” and see each deity as a completely separate entity. I don’t see this as clashing with my take on polytheism necessarily, if anything it just feels more evolved and defined. The Core Order of Ritual exists to give form and function, as well as the specific ADF flavour, to rituals, both publicly and privately. Beyond that there is zero doctrine that states what you can and cannot believe as an individual. If I personally see Don and Danu as the same Goddess, who is to say I am wrong? All ADF is asking is that I pick one to work with during a ritual if I want to call it an ADF ritual. If anything, I think this will help me focus my understanding and relationships with the Gods and Goddesses I already know, and will encourage me to work with one I don’t.

However, my relationships with the Celtic deities doesn’t fit well with the ADF COoR. So I’ve spent the better part of the last two days trying to work with what I practice at my hearth into something malleable enough to suit an ADF Beltane ritual. It’s been tough. I have no Celtic version of the Earth Mother; Ceridwen has always been my go-to Goddess Mama. The only God I really have a relationship with is Cernunnos. They are from different Celtic pantheons. So how do I work an ADF ritual without deviating too far from my own practices? It feel like a spiritual Jenga puzzle; everything teetering and wobbling and ultimately requiring the utmost care and forethought. Eventually, sometime late this evening, I surrendered to the conflict and decided to just go with it.

Ian Corrigan recently said “I tend to see belief trailing ritual. One does the rituals, gets results, then builds opinion on that.” So, with that in mind, I am going to go forth as open as I can be to new experiences and let the work shape my Hearth Culture. It’s a little scary, as it feels like I’m spiritually free-falling. I’m not sure the Celtic pantheon will still be my Hearth Culture by the end of my DP, but it’s such an important evolution that needs to happen organically and with as little conscious influence as possible.

Beltane Preparations

Keeping in mind my spiritual dilemmas discussed above, I’ve made my selection of deities that I will be working with for Beltane. For now, I will continue calling the Earth Mother by her generic, all-encompassing name, which I feel is perfectly acceptable. I have always seen the Earth Mother as a primal element; something older than the Goddesses created by humanity, something not to be fucked with. Cernunnos will be my Gatekeeper. I’ve decided that the Beings of Occasion will be Blodeuwedd, with a little love sent to the Sidhe. I went with Blodeuwedd because of her sexuality and her passion; she-of-the-flowers with her eternal message of self-rebirth and independence screams of the wild and unrestrained celebration of Beltane. The Sidhe are being recognized because this is their time of year. As I child I was told that every blossom was tended by a Fae, that they were the shepherds of Spring.

I have also been in the process of creating Holy Water, which I will write about at length soon, as well as collecting the various items needed for the ritual. Oak, Rowan, Willow, and Hazel boughs, daffodil petals, fiddlehead ferns, etc… are all coming together, carefully selected and carried home in my lovely little white wicker basket; a proverbial flower girl indeed. Tomorrow, I just need to finish my ritual writing (which I will probably share on Wednesday) and prepare for a May 1st dawn Beltane ritual. I’m beyond twitterpated!

 

Further Down The Path (Week 2)

For the week of April 15th – 21st

You will have to forgive me for the delay; I know this post is late. You see, the spring has me tangled her her roots and vines, and the harder I fight the stronger her pull. The sun has been out and everything is green, yet here has been a couple storms reminding us that the Cailleach of the North is still near by. My hands are stained with soil and moss, and my feet are chaffed from sand in my shoes from blustery walks on the beach. It’s very hard to sit indoors and study when the world is overflowing with original material. So, there I am, and it’s not without a pang of resentment that I am indoors writing, and not lying beneath a tree being dusted with dandelion pollen and sharing a late lunch with a family of squirrels.

Meditation and Trance Work

With the return of the spring comes the unwelcome return of electric lawn mowers. It seems that every time I’ve ventured onto my deck to sit at my little altar and let my mind wander the cosmos, someone shatters my silence with modern convenience. Oh, how I loathe the electric lawn mower! Sending fumes into the earth and air, polluting the yards, and indiscriminately destroying the microcosmic ecosystems. I watched, with horror (yes, horror) as this monster of a machine tore up patches of dandelions, daisy, and these lovely little blue flowers with no reason at all but an apparent desire for lawn uniformity. Alas, this as made meditation a little more difficult during the morning hours. I have, a few times, been a psychic rebel, and in the dark hours after twilight sat with this lawn in view and sent my energy to will the flower to return. I imagine their roots and stems growing strong, nourished by the spring showers that frequent our mountainside. I’ve tried projecting my thoughts towards them, encouraging them, sending them light and fortitude. Only time will tell if it’s helped.

I also tried my first standing meditation this past weekend. I was on the beach, and despite the hail and rain, I stood in ankle deep water on a rocky shore and felt the cold Pacific water wash over me and break against my shins. The storm had brought up tiny kelp bulbs, crabs, muscles, clams, and sea lettuce, which were swaying in the tide like dancers. I stood, mountain pose, facing the sea and felt the wind and rain beat against my face and arms. I gave not two shits for the dreary dog walkers and inquisitive Chinese family who, I knew, were watching me with suspicion. I just stood there, feeling the energy and the power of the sea and the storm. I do not know how long I stood there; 10 minutes, maybe 20… but my fingers turned red and numb, my hair a matted, damp mess, and my clothes soaked through. It was nothing short of amazing.

The Wild West Coast, April 2013.

The Wild West Coast, April 2013. Taken with my iPhone.

ADF Studies

As mentioned above, I haven’t been doing much of the book-type studying this week. After finishing Travels Through Middle Earth on the 18th of April, I haven’t so much as cracked the cover of another book. I have been working on a nature journal which, for someone like me who is an artist and a writer, it’s been very meditative. I haven’t attempted to draw anything life-like for years, so actually coming out of my mind to draw from life is more challenging than expected. I fully intend to keep this practice up.

My books have arrived, with the exception of one that is coming from a second hand store somewhere deep in the USA. I think the next book I’ll read is Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler. I have always intended to read this book, but years ago when I was actively studying Wicca, I never got around to it. I feel almost embarrassed to admit this and look forward to correcting this oversight.

Finally, I’ve been preparing for Beltane, which is fast approaching. I’m planning on using a structure which is a blend of ADF COoR (Core Order of Ritual) with inspiration from Teo Bishop over at Solitary Druid Fellowship, and with a bit of lyrical prose written by myself. For those uncomfortable or unfamiliar with writing their own thoughts I can understand the desire to use the words written by others. Personally, I’ve cultivated my writing skills for over 20 years and feel that as a wannabe-Bard (especially), I should take ever opportunity presented to craft my own rituals. We shall see h0w successful I am.

Filling The Well

The three hallows is a new concept to me, but one that I have fully embraced. As a pseudo-Hedgewitch and a self-described kitchen alchemist, the cauldron has always been sacred to me. So naturally, when choosing a well, I went with what symbolically made sense for my hearth.

Today my well arrived. And the moment I saw it, held it in my hands, I knew this item was meant to be mine. Have you ever experienced that? It’s humbling and reassuring.

The bottom of my well.

The bottom of my well.

Filled with water and a few rosemary flowers.

Filled with water and a few rosemary flowers.

So after some heated discussion amongst my kin at ADF, I went outside and lit candles and incense. I poured water into my well and sprinkled it with flowers from my Lockwood de Forest rosemary. And I just sat there; feeling the breeze, listening to the birds, smelling the rain on fresh cut grass and mossy flower beds. When I slipped into a trance it wasn’t by intention.

My more-complete altar; still a work in progress.

My more-complete altar; still a work in progress.

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

Further Down The Path (Week 1)

It’s no secret that the older you get, the faster time seems to move. I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember the details of what I did last Friday, let alone last Monday. Weeks blur together and leave me with a feeling; good, bad, mediocre, painful, joyous, anxious, etc. Or, if any of you are as empathetic and emotional as I am, you may also feel all those emotions on a daily basis. This is why I journal, so my life doesn’t pass me by without being able to take pause and really remember how much beauty was in a certain sunset, or why I felt so rotten/happy/angry on a particular day.

I realized shortly after joining ADF that I’d need to reevaluate how I organize my life. Not to say that I was previously “wrong” in how I was living, but more so because my priorities shifted, and religious practices and pursuits are now at the forefront. Essentially, I was no longer meditating to only gain a little mental stillness; I was meditating to meet my deities. I was no longer wandering the forest trails and having moments of undeniable connection with the hidden groves and sacred trees of my land, I was communing with nature and interacting with the Spirits. Perhaps I was doing the latter all along, and only now have the knowledge to give such moments a name.

For the week of April 7th – 14th.

Meditation and Trance Work

I have this routine; I wake up, do 20 minutes of sun salutation-style yoga, then sit down on my deck and meditate to welcome the new day. It’s a grounded and thoughtful way to start the day; when I’m forced to skip it, I get cranky. While I do understand and appreciate the religious qualities and intentions of yoga, this is not an area I’m focusing on currently (there is only so much I can fit in my brain at once.) But meditation, now that is skill I seriously need to cultivate.

I have a love/hate relationship with meditation. No, not hate; it’s frustration, pure and simple. I have this idea in my head that, for me, meditation is achieving serenity. So I settle myself in the lotus position, surrounded by the chirping songbirds and the smell of cool, dewy evergreens. It’s shortly after dawn, and even with eyes closed, my vision is flooded with warm sunlight. I still my mind and just breathe; in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4. I sometimes chant “as above, so below” in my mind as I breathe, as I feel it lulls any lingering outer-world distractions.

But this state lasts for about 5 minutes before a car door slams, my tummy rumbles, or my mind starts in on the day’s to-do list. After that initial state is broken, I can never seem to regain it. Once my brain shifts from a quiet state, I have to think too much to still it and all is lost. Our Own Druidry talks about practicing achieving the meditative state; that, like any skill, it needs to be nurtured in order to be improved upon. So while Passing the Mist is something I am deeply looking forward to, I know I am not ready yet. Any attempts I make right now to enter the other realms, to leave my earthly body, to go just a little bit deeper would only be the fantasies of a wannabe. So, for now, every morning and every evening, I will continue practicing. Even if I find myself sitting in front of my shrine going over my recipe for blueberry muffins.

Our Own Druidry

When I first joined ADF in late February, I read through Our Own Druidry – Dedicant Manual. This first pass was intended to familiarize myself with the lore and ritual of ADF; sort of like trying something on before buying it. Clearly, I bought it. And this past week I reread the manual, highlighter and page markers in hand, to really absorb the foundation of ADF. Spirituality aside, what really struck me was the frank honesty of the authors. Until now, so much of what I’ve read by Neo-Pagan organizations feels like a sort of posturing. People want their path to be the path, and in doing so seem to replace authenticity with either vanity or ego. So little attention is actually given to the heritage of Neo-Pagan beliefs, that it allows for people to ad lib an entire religion around themselves  (essentially forming a cult) or exist in the shallow waters of “OMGs I LOVED Practical Magic. Blessed Be, Dear Sister.”

Neither have any appeal to me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I am embarrassed and offended when lumped together with such individuals. Which is essentially why Wicca ceased to appeal to me.

I’ve been searching for real Neo-Paganism; the kind that is rooted in history and lore, that focuses on a way of life and not an image or an after-thought. I want to create life-long bonds with the spirits of this land and with my Gods and Goddesses. I want to honor my ancestors. I want to develop friendships with those who walk this path, ones built on respect and kinship. I want to help build a community. Reading the Dedicant Manual for a second time made me flush with inspiration and, what I can only recognize as, commitment.

ADF Studies

This week I went through the Dedicant’s reading list and selected the books I want to read this year. My ever-supportive husband gave me the green light, and I bought all of them. Every last carefully selected one (8 in total.) They are now hurdling towards me in an Amazon.ca package, right into my outstretch grabby hands.

I admit, Hearth Cultures really had me stumped. I’ve always had a bit of trouble distinguishing between intellectual/scholarly interest and spiritual connection. I’ve studied Paganism long enough to know that what you necessarily like doesn’t equate with attunement and connection. I have been a worshiper of the Celtic pantheon since before I started official Pagan studies, and haven’t really ever considered other alternatives. I do, however, have a really strong interest in the Norse pantheon and have always wanted to know more about the Saxons. I figured this was an excellent time to invest in all three.

While I have no doubt the Celt’s are my Hearth Culture, I am incredibly interested in the practice some Grove’s have adopted which honor specific pantheons for specific High Days. One day, when I’m part of a Grove, I think I’d be open to this.

Well before I joined ADF I bought “Travels Through Middle Earth” by Alaric Albertsson, which happens to be on the reading list for Saxon Hearth Culture. I bought this book mainly because I’m a glutton for anything relating to the stories and lore of Middle Earth (both Tolkien’s Middle Earth and our own.) I started reading it last night, and so far it’s been incredibly enjoyable and informative. I love Albertsson’s sense of humor and his very approachable way of delivering the information. I won’t say much more for now, as it will all be in my eventual book report.

Nature Observations

Where I live, it’s hard not to observe the seasons. I’m lucky enough to be facing away from the city towards the mountains, so I see trees. Oh, so many trees! The new growth on the tips of the evergreens are bright and supple this week. The cherry trees are in full bloom, their soft-pink petals falling like snow when the wind stirs. In fact, it’s been hard to stay indoors these days, as the sunshine and the new growth are filling the landscape with energies that I seem to crave on some carnal level.

As For Next Week…

Next week I’m planning on making herbal incense, following the guide in Our Own Druidry with a few substitutions. I’m also going to begin planning for Beltainne, as I’d like it to be my first ADF High Day Ritual and there is lots to learn. I may also have to ditch work tomorrow, as it’s supposed to be sunny, and go read in the park beneath my favourite Rowan tree.

 

Young rowan, vibrant with new growth.

Young rowan, vibrant with new growth.

Offerings In The Park

There’s a park a couple blocks from my apartment. It’s a pretty standard park, as far as city parks go. It’s got a track for running, some picnic tables, and a small water park which only gets used in August. The park as a few trees around the boarder, some Japanese plum trees and a small grove of cedar, which only really seems to get used as a bathroom stop by young children who’s parents are too lazy to take them to the restrooms. Yet despite the suburbanites overhaul of this once wild and free corner of the neighbourhood, there is still something magickal about the park: it backs onto a forest.

The gateway to the Wild North on the eve of my offering.

The gateway to the Wild North on the eve of my offering.

And not just a forest, the forest, for the trees that trickle down the north side of the park, protecting a small gully with a creek running through it, is one of the southern-most appendages of the Wild North. You can follow this creek (aptly named Mosquito Creek) and it’s tree guardians all the way up into the mountains. So while it’s not a private grove where I can meditate in solitude, it’s still connected to the land that I love. And on a cool, sunny evening in the throws of the new growth of spring, I felt it was a good time to give thanks to the land that sustains me.

I wasn't sure what species this plant was, but the mauve and light green caught my eye and I had to stop and appreciate it.

I wasn’t sure what this plant was, but the mauve and light green caught my eye and I had to stop and appreciate it.

Behind the fence in the “no go” area, I found a young rowan tree growing alongside an ancient pine. The ground was covered in a layer of dead oak leaves (although I couldn’t find any nearby oak trees) of which the dandelions were breaking through and glowing in the setting sun. There was a young huckleberry bush, fiddlehead ferns, and a wild rose bush. It was beautiful.

Young rowan, vibrant with new growth.

Young rowan, vibrant with new growth.

I knelt by the base of the rowan and pine and placed my hands on their trunks. The smooth skin of the rowan contrasted so starkly with the rough, knotted pine bark, which was sticky with rising sap. I was losing light and the early spring coolness of evening was setting in, so I quietly thanked the spirits of the forest and the guardians of my Wild North. I left behind a stalk of wheat from my own garden and a tiger’s eye gem.

A Tiger's Eye gemstone and a stalk of wheat from my own garden; an offering to the spirits of the forest threshold.

A Tiger’s Eye gemstone and a stalk of wheat from my own garden; an offering to the spirits of the forest threshold.

I grow ceremonial wheat in my herb garden. Every year, I plant a small handful of seeds saved for the previous years crop. This way I always have an abundance of offerings for the spirits that are infused with my energy, love, and commitment.

I grow ceremonial wheat in my herb garden. Every year, I plant a small handful of seeds saved from the previous years crop. This way I always have an abundance of offerings for the spirits that are infused with my energy, love, and commitment.

As I was walking back towards the car, the sun broke through the low branches of the pine ridge, illuminating a cherry tree which was just starting to bloom. It was nothing short of breathtaking; a sign, I hope, that my offering was accepted and a blessing bestowed.

The Pine Guardians, protectors of the Wild North.

The Pine Guardians, protectors of the Wild North.

Cherry blossoms in evening sunlight - the perfect blessing.

Cherry blossoms in evening sunlight – the perfect blessing.

May you, dear reader, find a moment of equal spiritual nourishment in the near future.
~Eira

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.