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.

Nature Is My Temple

In which the Witch digests her words

Some weeks I don’t feel much like writing. It’s a cyclic thing, really – going from experience to reflection to introspection. The past two weeks I’ve been feeling fairly non-communicative, being in the introspective arch in my pattern. So I read a few novels and watched some crappy movies. For years I felt like I was wasting time and often chided myself, thinking this time could be spent learning or experiencing or progressing. I know now that that’s total bullshit. Downtime is essential. What does a snake do after eating a large meal? It rests while digesting. During the winter nature looks inward and prepares for the spring. After absorbing a lot of new information and experiences whilst expending a lot of energy, is it so unnatural to shut down a bit while ones mind and body fully digests?

But the wheel always turns…

I emerged from my mid-spring hibernation late last week feeling revived and balanced. I usually spend weeks like this in the woods or by the sea, painting, writing, exploring, etc… Regardless of the activity, I feel an intense craving for natural surroundings during these times, cravings so intense they’ve woken me in the middle of the night, panic-stricken and disoriented. The only cure is to shed my socks and shoes and bury my toes in the soil or sand. I leave my coat or sweater in the car and expose as much skin as legally allowed so I can feel the wind move acrossaroundoverthrough my body and stir within me something deep and primal. I soak up the sun and let the rain mat my hair.

This is my ritual, my prayer, my temple. I leave offerings to the spirits of the land and little presents for the birds and animals. I pick up trash while talking to the trees. I believe the Gods and Goddesses are everywhere, all the time, and so if my workings are done outdoors in nature, so shall they be my ritual.

She who charts the seasons

I also use this time to chart the seasons. Observing which plants are in flower, which flowers are going to seed, and which seeds are being scattered is so deeply meditative. I sketch and paint in my nature journal in an attempt to intimately understand all forms of life. I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite observations of this past weekend…

The salmon berry bushes are ripening, many with a mixture of hard green berries and fully ripe orange and red berries. I picked a few for a snack but left most for the gray squirrels who were collecting them.

The salmon berry bushes are ripening, many with a mixture of hard green berries and fully ripe orange and red berries. I picked a few for a snack but left most for the gray squirrels who were collecting them. (Photo taken with my iPhone with no editing.)

The thimble berry bushes are fully in bloom, their petals resembling the delicate wild rose bushes also in the area. Thimble berries are my absolute favourite of the local berries, but they usually don't ripen until July.

The thimble berry bushes are fully in bloom, their petals resembling the delicate wild rose bushes also in the area. Thimble berries are my absolute favourite of the local berries, but they usually don’t ripen until July. (Taken with my iPhone.)

The Laburnum, or yellow chain tree, are in full bloom. You can hear the drone of the bees 10 feet away. (Taken with my iPhone.)

The Laburnum, or yellow chain tree, are in full bloom. You can hear the drone of the bees 10 feet away. (Taken with my iPhone…too windy for a very clear shot.)

My favourite log on one of my favourite local beaches. The shore is lines with rowan trees, beech trees, and maple, which make for a truly unique atmosphere. There were Canadian geese with their goslings swimming out in the bay, but I didn't have my good camera with me to get a photo.

My favourite log on one of my favourite local beaches. The shore is lined with rowan trees, beech trees, and maple, which makes for a truly unique atmosphere. There were Canadian geese with their goslings swimming out in the bay, but I didn’t have my good camera with me to get a photo. (Taken with my iPhone.)

Saturday had the most brilliant rain storm, with wind and a bit of thunder. I happened to find myself at my favourite duckpond next to the beach, where two Swans were taking their cygnets out for a swim.

Saturday had the most brilliant rain storm, with wind and a bit of thunder. I happened to find myself at my favourite duckpond next to the beach, where two Swans were taking their cygnets out for a swim.

The Parks Board had roped off a section of the beach to protect this molting elephant seal. She looked absolutely miserable in the rain and wind, but I was so pleased at how respectful people with dogs were being of her condition.

The Parks Board had roped off a section of the beach to protect this molting elephant seal. She looked absolutely miserable in the rain and wind, but I was so pleased at how respectful people with dogs were being of her condition.

There were also eagles, a great blue heron, red winged black birds, crows, a raven, gulls, pigeons, and all sorts of small birds hanging around the duckpond. The island in the middle where the ducks nest is obscured by bushes, but I think I heard the faint peeps of baby mallards and mergansers coming from the brush. Next week I will definitely return to see how they fare.

Sometimes, all one needs is a weekend in nature.

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.

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.

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