Further Down The Path (Week 34)

For the week of November 24th to November 30th

I think this is week 34. I tried to go back and count the weeks since I started working on my Dedicant’s Path, but math of any kind confuses me. …I think it’s been 34 weeks. And if not, it’s as good a number as any.

Nature Awareness

I have always been aware of nature. I can spot a caterpillar on a leaf in the top canopy and quickly find the hidden acorn beneath the dead oak leaves… I know my trees, my plants, my fungi. Or did. That knowledge was amassed over 29 forest-filled years, where I lazily absorbed facts and bits of lore as I strolled through the woods with friends and family. The age of technology made it easy whip out my smartphone and Google for an ID when my memory failed me.

But this was in Canada. And now I’m in Australia.

I’ve gone back into student mode. I no longer go on trail walks, teaching and talking of the plants. I no longer know the native mythology or have anecdotes about a particularly wonderful spot for collecting low bush blackberries. I walk this land as a stranger. The talismans of Australia, the gumtrees and eucalyptus, the kangaroo and the koala, the blinding sunlight that comes from the north and the cool winds that come from the south.. this is all I know. They are the first to greet you when you arrive, and like any patriotic talisman, stay with you always. But everything else is shy, scared even, of new arrivals. You see, history has taught the flora and fauna of this isolated island continent to be afraid. Ignorant and single-minded colonists brought plants and animals alike that were (and still are) harmful to this land, causing the death of irreplaceable indigenous life. Me? I did no such thing, but still wild Australia hides from me.

I spend time every day sitting quietly, as open as I can, just letting everything flow in, around, and through. I touch the earth gently and let the woods smell my skin. I present myself demurely so not to offend, much like one would approach an unfamiliar animal. In return for this respect, I have been blessed and even visited. A giant red kangaroo stood not 10 feet from me and held his pose so I could study him, his musculature and impressive stature. A wild fox ran before me, the first I’ve ever seen, and the exhilaration left me tingling for hours after the encounter. And on a clear, cold night, with a light frost settling over these Highland hills, I saw the cosmic cloud that is the Milky Way.

Red Kangaroo - November 2013, Eira Silversage.

Red Kangaroo – November 2013, Eira Silversage.

Introducing myself to Australia is taking time. I feel the Sidhe are keeping their distance, where as in Canada they were always so close. There are even times that I even feel sinister energies, like in a sudden, strong gust of wind or in the tension before a storm, their messages painfully clear: you are not of this land. And although I am physically here, maybe it’s the lingering spiritual pain that I’m feeling that’s keeping me from connecting. Maybe this land knows it’s not my first choice and is resentful.

And it was this thought I was pondering around the time I met the fox. The fox, who I have always loved but never met, despite living in the land from which I come. It reminded me of why I first fell in love with foxes, back when I was 3 of 4, when my father read me The Little Prince. And like so many other times in my life, the wisdom of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put my problems into perspective.

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

Summer Solstice Preparation

The Summer Solstice is in 21 days, just in time for my in-law’s to be celebrating Christmas. This is such a strange concept to me that for the first time in recent years I don’t feel like I will be sacrificing any of my celebrations. The Summer Solstice has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, and unlike Yule and Christmas which can often get muddled, I can attend familial celebrations without feeling conflicted. But how to celebrate the Summer Solstice in this new land?

Trance Work & Meditation

Since being here I haven’t been able to reach a truly deep meditative state. I’m able to work with the Two Powers meditation, but it doesn’t progress beyond a guided energy building exercise. I think this has a lot to do with the environment I’m in. I’m staying with my in-laws, and despite the beautiful country surroundings, I’m never fully alone outside, and therefore I can never fully relax. Inside, I’ve become so accustomed to certain ritual elements to facilitate a trance state (incense, silence, certain temperature) which I cannot currently replicate. Because of this, I’ve been using the meditative skills I’ve developed along with certain breathing to help control my stress levels. When we’re in our own home, I will resume trance work.

ADF Studies 

I finished reading Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon as part of my DP coursework and wrote the review. Go here to read the review. Next book on my list is The Mabinogi. I am very familiar with these stories and legends, but have always listened to Bardic tellings and read poetic interpretations for pure enjoyment; I’ve never read this compilation cover to cover with the aim of academic interpretation. I’m very much looking forward to this. Honestly, I was saving it for after Drawing Down The Moon, as a sort of incentive 😉

I’m also working on my virtues, especially Hospitality. I’ve been thinking on this quite a lot lately, as it’s been a virtue I’ve been lacking in some areas. Reflection is definitely needed.

Finally, in my spare time, I’ve taken up knitting. I’m practicing the techniques I’ve learned (mostly self-taught) and am making a series of prayer shawls for ritual use. I’m finding that having a hobby that uses my hands and not my mind a lot more beneficial than I originally thought. I sit quietly, in almost a meditative state, and just channel my energy into ritual items. Sometimes I listen to DruidCast (the OBOD podcast) and sometimes I sit with music on gently. The work allows my mind to wander, and I’m finding myself inspired and creatively charged by the activity. I was surprised that this turned into a Druidic-centric activity, when really I started out just wanting something to do to unwind. But even as I wrote that last sentence I knew it to be untrue; I’m sure the majority of Pagan’s will agree that it’s a lifestyle and not just a religion. There’s magic in everything, even in a lonely girl’s scarf knitting on a cold spring evening.

Advertisements

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.