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!

 

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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