I’m Still Here

I spent the Spring Equinox in my new home, the upside down and slightly backwards land of Australia. Funnily enough, the transition was easier than I expected. I was worried I wouldn’t bond with this strange place; that the spirits and I would speak a different language, that the reversal of seasons would leave me feeling off kilter, that the totemic Cedar and Raven, Pine and Bear, wouldn’t exist in this land, and I would be left drifting in a spiritual purgatory. And for a while I was. And still am. But it’s not a constant, and for that I am so deeply grateful that I often find myself casting toward the sun like a greedy flower, in prayer and appreciation.

I’ve already celebrated Beltane in the northern hemisphere this year. At that time, I re-familiarized myself with the lore and wrote my essay. I preformed the rite, ADF style. I learned a lot. It’s six months later and I feel I should be quieting down in preparation for winter. Samhain just passed, or would have passed, were I physically where I am spiritually lingering. Yet, despite what my soul is saying, it’s clearly spring. And it feels a little strange… the notion of re-celebrating Beltane. Back in September, when the Spring Equinox arrived down under, I sat amongst the plants and ponds in this home’s cottage garden with sticks of lemongrass and sandalwood incense burning (a combination that I alone seem to love), and I welcomed back the sun. The moment was perfect, like I was introducing myself to a new perspective.

And isn’t that really what it’s all about? A new perspective? The earth turns and the seasons change and the Wheel of the Year moves ever on, and all the familiar elements of ones home become incorporated into ones practices and overtime get labelled as tradition. From the first time a family brought in evergreen boughs and called it a Yule tree, or apples were left out on Samhain to feed the travelling souls, these acts gathered speed and eventually were adopted by others. The paganism that I know is of the northern hemisphere. The trees, plants, animals, smells, sounds, stones, clouds, winds, rains, etc… have all become elemental and irreplaceable in terms of worship. Does my soul stir when I gaze at a hill covered in gumtrees and eucapyltus? Yes, a little… but nothing like the snow capped, mist veiled mountains of my home. But my home was my paganism, and not the home of the Celts, who are the authors of my tradition. How much of what I believe is based on genetic memory, personal preference, inability to adapt, or a rose-tinted image in my mind that really has more of a feeling of religion than actual practice?

I don’t think the Celts would have known what to do on the west coast of British Columbia any more than I know what to do in the highlands of Victoria. But they would have learned, and added new traditions, and adapted ones that were no longer applicable.

I am of a nomadic heritage; a people walked to new lands and who brought with them what was sacred. This is what I’m clinging to. I say it to myself as a mantra as I walk the new trails of these alien forests and find myself missing the mist-drenched moss, fern, and cedar. I tell myself I’m forging a new path, one that includes the knowledge of many lands. There is room for gumtree and eucalyptus on my altar as well as oak and willow. This continent is covered in what the Aboriginals call Songlines, and while I don’t pretend to understand their version of paganism, I do understand feeling Spirit and sacred life in every single rock, tree, animal, and blade of grass. I am honoured to be here, walking this new path, in a land so sacred.

So, while I’ve been working through these heavy ideas, I haven’t been performing rituals. I’ve gazed at the full moon and, on a darkmoon night, caught my first glimpse of the Milky Way. I carved pumpkins with my sister-in-law for Hallowe’en, and on the same day, threw a handful of sage leaves and apple blossoms into a fire as a Beltane offering. That was all I did, but it felt like it was enough. Cerridwen and Cernunnos can still hear me, Boudicca tells me to walk tall and strong, and Nehalennia sees me safely on my travels. I am blessed and connected to the Source and feel the Spirits of this land slowly emerging from their secret homes to introduce themselves to me.

I am still here, on this path. Ready for more.

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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.

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!