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.

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.

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!