Further Down The Path (Weeks 11 – 14)

For the weeks of June 17th to July 15th

Nature Awareness

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

Dead leaves and cobwebs cause the forest to vibe with Samhain and not Lughnasadh.

Dead leaves and cobwebs cause the forest to vibe with Samhain and not Lughnasadh. (Photo taken with my iPhone).

The green of spring is fading to golden yellow, and all too soon, everything will be brown. The leaves are still vibrant in the trees but the Earth is cracking like baked clay. These familiar paths where grass once grew are now barren, the stalks turned to hay now disintegrating underfoot. I still walk these paths, noting the changes, photographing the same trees as the Wheel of the Year turns. I try not to miss too many days between visits; one blink and everything has changed.

The salmon berries are done and now the forest is dotted with the deep red of thimble berries and inky dark blackberries. As I walk the trails I gorge myself on these forest gifts. But, remembering the birds and beasts of the land (as well as the plant’s need to spread it’s seeds), I leave some behind, both on the bushes as well as in easy-to-reach places for the squirrels and mice. Forest treats are best when shared, after all.

I’ve also found some naturalized St. John’s Wort bushes and a gully filled with broad leaf plantain which I plan to harvest this upcoming weekend. I will infuse the St. John’s Wort in oil to make a salve and use the plantain leaves for Lughnasadh talismans.

We haven’t had rain in weeks. This may not be a tragedy for many corners of this beautiful planet, but living in a temperate rainforest, no rain has an effect very quickly. But Mother Earth smells amazing these days, warm and comforting, like summer smelled as a child. And even as I write this, the wind has picked up carrying a summer storm. The air is electric and my skin is tingling with anticipation. Maybe Taranis has heard my call.

Dandelion gone to seed, another reminder that summer brings death.

Dandelion gone to seed, another reminder that summer brings death. (Photo taken with my iPhone).

High Day Preparation

August 1st is fast approaching, and with it the High Day of Lughnasadh, the first of the three Harvest Festivals. Many Pagan’s have a favourite holiday, but I often find that being so attuned with the seasons leaves me favouring the one I’m currently preparing for, and ultimately celebrating. The world is perfectly attuning for this High Day, with ripe fruit, bright flowers, golden grass, and warm summer evenings. I am also attuning for Lughnasadh, my skin turning darker from hours beneath the sun and freckles emerging across my nose and shoulders. I have always marked this day with a feast of summer produce, but I am looking into the traditions of my Hearth Culture to see if there other ways to honor the harvest.

Trance Work & Meditation

I haven’t been keeping a regular routine, but find that I am meditating most days and am drawing strength and insight from it. I’ve found that with the fleeting nature of my ability to concentrate, letting the mood strike me works better than forcing myself to sit quietly and still the mind when I’m captivated by some artistic whim. I’m having a lot of success with using a background mediation track and being outside. In fact, unless I use meditation to purposefully ease myself into a deep sleep, I always go outside to meditate. Beneath a tree is always preferable, but mostly I sit on my balcony, on my special meditation mat, with the gentle summer breezes swirling around me and the smell of my garden, which never fails to help transport me to wherever I wish to go.

ADF Studies

This is not the right time of year for me to be indoors writing of virtues and reading of the seasons. I keep a notebook with me at all times and write reflections down as I have them, but will not commit any of my insights to ADF essay form until the fall. Like nature, the summer is for experiencing and growing, and winter is for reflecting. I’m sure I’ve said that before, and I know I will say that again. It’s a point, that for me, is worth repeating. I used to feel guilty at how unreliable I am in the summer, and embarrassed at how predictable I am in the winter, but c’est la vie. This is why I bought a cell phone, after all.

Sunset through the trees. (Photo taken with my iPhone).

Sunset through the trees. (Photo taken with my iPhone).

 

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.

Further Down The Path (Weeks 8-10)

For the weeks of May 27th to June 16th.

Why haven’t I been writing, you wonder? Well, it’s June. The weather is warm, my garden is growing, the woods are filled with berries and beautiful green things. The days are long and the nights are mild. Even rainy days aren’t discouraging; the cool droplets falling freely onto warm, sticky skin is refreshing (nothing makes me feel more alive than standing in summer rain.) So, I haven’t felt much like writing.

Trance Work & Meditation

I’ve been meditating outside, when able; beneath a tree or upon a sand dune, with the sky above and the the earth below. The Two Powers comes so easily when there is nothing between me and the source. I haven’t experienced any more seriously freakin’ prolific trances like in May, but I’m not really trying to recreate such a thing. I think that day was a gift, given to me by my star as a means of introduction. I know She’s there, and I look for her often. When there is more to say I’m sure she’ll call on me again. For now, I’m continuing to work on stilling my mind and opening my spirit to the powers and to the universe. It’s been very rewarding. Additionally, I find that it’s helping me manage my anxiety issues in an unexpected way. When I enter a meditative state with a calm mind, I’m able to retain that clarity and stillness for an extended period of time once I’ve exited the meditation. This is an excellent skill that I’m hoping to expand on, as my brain chemistry is a little screwed, and I tend to get overwhelmed or anxious if life gets too chaotic around me.

ADF Studies

I’m still working through Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler. It’s been a painfully slow experience for me, as I tend to gobble up books like a hungry little bear. Maybe I should stop reading other books at the same time so my attention isn’t split, eh? As I’ve said before, I find her writing a little dry and technical, while I few Paganism with a fluid beauty – it’s something to feel with and inspire the mind, not something to technically dismantle with overly-complicated writing and pretentious quotations. I know that is beyond hypocritical of me, as what draws me to Druidry is a scholarly love of tradition and lore, but I am a firm believer that you can have beauty and inspiration in history; eloquent prose can deliver just as much information as stereo instructions.

Nature Awareness

The rest of this update will be done in pictures.

The wild roses were out at the end of May/beginning of June. Their intoxicating smell heralds the onset of summer like nothing else for me.

The wild roses were out at the end of May/beginning of June. Their intoxicating smell heralds the onset of summer like nothing else for me. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

Remember the family of swans I wrote about earlier? Well the cygnets are 3 down from 7. It's believed that a raccoon is responsible, so at least they were lost to natural causes and not human stupidity.

Remember the family of swans I wrote about earlier? Well the cygnets are 3 down from 7. It’s believed that a raccoon is responsible, so at least they were lost to natural causes and not human stupidity. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

The salmon berries are coming to an end, but the thimble berries are well on their way. By mid-July the first should be ready for munching.

The salmon berries are coming to an end, but the thimble berries are well on their way. By mid-July the first should be ready for munching. Also shown, cottonwood trees are dusting the forest with their seeds, leaving a fine gossamer-like web over everything. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

Deer can be found throughout wooded areas in my neighbourhood. I sat and watched this doe for well on half an hour, but didn't get much closer - I didn't want to disturb her.

Deer can be found throughout wooded areas in my neighbourhood. I sat and watched this doe for well on half an hour, but didn’t get much closer – I didn’t want to disturb her. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

Foxglove lined the pathways on the cedar trail, making for beautiful late-evening photography. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

Foxglove lined the pathways on the cedar trail, making for beautiful late-evening photography. (Photo taken with my iPhone.)

And there you have it. Wishing you all a blessed Summer Solstice!

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.

Further Down The Path (Week 7)

For the week of May 20th to 26th

I read a lot this week, wrote a lot, painted a lot; I spent time in nature and reflected on the seasons. I worked and I gardened. It was all very lovely, but it didn’t go beyond the regular scope of daily life. So, instead of a topical recap, I’m going right for the finale; for what I really want to talk about is spiritual growth.

 

Meditation & Trance Work

I feel as though I’ve broken through a barrier with my meditation. I am able to hold focus with little effort and for longer periods of time. I am beginning to really feel a shift in my consciousness.

 

Camille Flammarion.  An illustration depicting the known universe and the shared human desire to see further; to get closer to (the) God(s)/Goddess(es.)

Camille Flammarion.
An illustration depicting the known universe and the shared human desire to see further; to get closer to (the) God(s)/Goddess(es.)

 

It happens almost suddenly, much in the way lucid dreaming has been unintentionally triggered for me before. Despite having my eyes closed, I feel like my vision loses focus allowing me to see deeper into the darkness in front of me. There is movement there, a slow turning that I can manipulate until it becomes a window into the cosmos. The inky blackness moves and I, in turn, rush in, while still being totally aware of my body and my breathing. I summon roots, directing them to break through my thighs and sprout from my tail bone, reaching downward toward the soil. These roots are strong, chewing through man-made construction and the bedrock below. I can feel the sudden coolness resonating from the earthly waters, which appear to me as a deep, dark lake amid a giant underground cavern. Yet there is light, glowing faintly from some unknown source (maybe bioluminescence?) There is also sound in this cavern; a muffled rushing as countless underground streams and rivers empty into the lake.

I send down my roots, which descend through the empty space between the rock and the water. The moment of impact is almost tangible; the water is ice cold, like early spring glacial runoff that hasn’t yet been warmed by the sun. The water feels intelligent and old, very old. The tips of my roots are raw and beaten from eating through so much debris, yet the moment they enter the water they are instantly soothed.

As I rest my roots in the Well of the Earth, I straighten my spin and gently flex my neck so my face turns towards the daylight. I feel the celestial light wash over, swirl around me in the wind, or through me if the sun or moon meets my countenance. I rest a moment, present in body and open to the experience, as I reconnect with my roots and focus on my breath. Then I search for my star.

Despite the narration of The Two Powers meditation, I never feel or see my star directly above my head. I find her (for some reason she feels innately feminine) in a direct line from my third eye chakra, deep within the galaxy. She is deceptively small, as the distance makes her but a speck in the sky; easily overlooked as the brighter astral bodies swirl around her. But we see each other and for a moment that connection is stark, like finding a familiar face on the other side of a crowded room. I approach her with respect and admiration, letting her swell towards me in response to my call. Her light begins to grow, steady and warm, until a slightly unfocused golden beam falls from the sky. As the beam hits me, I shiver. My feet and thighs are cold from the contact with the earthly waters as my face and shoulders start to flush in the warm beam. I hold both sensations, both powers, tethered to me.

This is when I call the waters. I imagine my roots become permeable and instead of the waters moving around them, healing the surface, they now take the waters in. Up the water travels, back through the bedrock until it winds around the sewers, pipes, and foundations of the city. I let some of the water trickle out from tiny offshoots, sharing this power with the sleeping seeds and life, both plant and animal, that may need it. Finally, the water reaches my base, but instead of pooling it starts running through my veins, mixing and diluting my blood. The tips of my fingers tingle and my skin reacts to the sudden coolness and, despite the warmth from my star, I shiver.

I feel the water most in my heart, as it pumps effortlessly, moving the water through my body, healing and strengthening. I open my mouth slightly and let the light pour in, illuminating my lips and my chest, until it reaches my heart. I see it, this reaction, like champagne bubbles or a sprinkling of salt in vinegar – it effervesces in me and quickens. And greedily, I hold onto this feeling as long as I possibly can.

But slowly it fades. My roots are the first to retract, withdrawing from the primal source of water, like retractable talons they stiffly recoil back within. I flex my toes and my lower back. Next I breathe deep once more before letting my breath return to normal and I begin to release the light of my star. Each time I feel it’s vital that I learn her name, her purpose, her representation – like she is the astral body of a Goddess or an Ancestor, yet nothing so far has been made clear to me. I offer her my gratitude and feel her final light as blessing as she turns away. Yet, on some level, I need to know her name.

Sometimes I just sit and let myself slowly return, like waking up from a deep sleep. Other times my eyes open immediately, like I’ve been kicked in the stomach and instinctively gasp for breath.

Seven weeks to make progress, but like all new things, there is that moment of understanding. I feel that I’ve had that moment, where I’m no longer uncomfortably fidgeting and fighting the impulse to check the time or tuck a lose strand of hair behind my ear. I feel calm, settled, like I’m on my way to understanding the trail of crumbs leading me to wisdom.

This week has been extraordinary.

 

Further Down The Path (Weeks 5 & 6)

For the weeks of May 6th – 12th & May 13th – 19th.

A Time of Reflection

As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been in an introspective sort of state. This doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my studies – quite the opposite, really. I’ve been digesting what I’ve learned and putting it into practice. I’ve been considering the lessons I’ve learned while mentally organizing and cataloging all the new information I’ve absorbed. I’ve been meditating, contemplating, walking through the woods, and painting. But now that I feel I’ve finished assimilating, it’s time to articulate these experiences before moving on to the next.

Meditation and Trance Work

I like to meditate in the mornings. After yoga, a shower, and some breakfast, it’s the perfect way to ease into the day. I don’t work on any specific meditative practice during this time, I simply sit on my deck, surrounded by my plants and the morning light, and breathe. Sometimes, if I’m really tired, I try to build some energy through opening my chakras. But I’ll be honest, it doesn’t usually work. A car drives by or one of my crows stops in to see if there’s any breakfast, and my concentration is shattered. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all. Divinity is found in the simple ritual of sitting quietly; muscles warm and relaxed after yoga and a hot shower; my belly full with a green smoothie or, if I’ve been bad, some whole grain pancakes or porridge; my hair still wet and sticking to my shoulders and back; the cool morning air circulating around me making the hairs on my arms react; the smells – of the bakeries down the street and the earthy living scent of my garden. I don’t need to open my chakras to feel rejuvenated and wholly present; just being there, aware and filled with gratitude, does it for me.

While this practice is spiritually necessary, one of the goals of meditation (in my own clumsy words) is to gain wisdom, to try and understand the cosmos, and my morning routine doesn’t exactly do that. That’s not to say there isn’t wisdom in the quiet reflection of my sleepy little garden. But there needs to be more direction, more focus, so I’ve been working on The Two Powers meditation. I was having a little trouble because, although I have been attempting to memorize the script, trying to recite it to myself was very un-meditative. I was considering recording as an mp3 when a friend and fellow DP student pointed out that Ian Corrigan had already done this. Well, problem solved. I’ve been working with his recording and it’s helped me exponentially. Thanks, Gentlemen – you both rock.

ADF Studies

I took a weekish off from studying for ADF so I could fully reflect on my Beltane experiences as well as read a couple non-ADF books. Last week I started reading Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler for one of my Modern Paganism titles. I read this book 8 or so years ago when I first started studying Paganism, and for someone brand new to the path I remember it being a little overwhelming but very informative. Despite having read it already, I wanted to give it another look, especially an analytical look. I’m most interested in seeing if her views are still relevant, some 30 years since the original publication, as well as when viewed by someone who has been reading and practicing Neo-Paganism for some time. I’ve heard a lot of negative things about Ms. Adler’s writing, but I haven’t let them influence my perception going in. It’s often true that the more widely published a Pagan author is, the more flack they get from the community. Some of it is warranted – Silver Ravenwolf is unreadable, for instance. But Scott Cunningham was a lovely man and an eloquent writer, despite his popularity. I’m giving Adler the same benefit of the doubt.

Aside from reading, I’ve begun looking toward the Summer Solstice, which is a month away. I am hoping to borrow a tent form a friend and spend the night beneath the stars, but I’m not entirely sure that will be possible. Either way, I feel that this High Day needs to be spent out of doors. For Beltane, I modified two rituals and added my own words to make it a little more personal. I am hoping to take it a step further and write the entire ritual for the Summer Solstice. I’d like to join the Bards Guild at some point, so working on my spiritual writing in preparation is something I need to do.

I’ve also been been considering starting my Virtue Essays. I want to wait until later in my DP year to write many of the essays required, as I want my experiences practicing ADF Druidry to be reflected in my writing. While there is no doubt that my perception of the virtues will change, I think it’s time that I start (at least preliminarily) to put my thoughts down.

Nature Awareness

Part of the DP is to focus on Nature Awareness. I find this instruction rather redundant, as it was my awareness of nature that lead me to Paganism in the first place. Every day I’m aware. I observe, I listen, I write, I paint, I interact, and I give thanks to nature. But the past two weeks have been especially lovely. Check out yesterday’s post for some photos and reflections on May in Beautiful British Columbia.

On Saturday, I found a molting female elephant seal on the beach not too far from my home. While the Parks Board has roped off a large area for her, my mind has continually gone back to her welfare. Today is a public holiday in British Columbia and the day is sunny and warm. I think the beach will be crowded with families enjoying one of the first beach days of the season, and I feel the seal’s comfort and safety may be at risk. I think I’ll head down to the beach to check on her and make sure the children and dogs are giving her enough space. While I’m always aware and (overly?) sensitive to human involvement/infringement with and on wildlife and nature in general, I feel especially concerned for this seal. She really picked the wrong beach to rest on.

Molting female elephant seal. The Parks Board roped off a quarter acre for her so she could have some space, but I feel her presence on a heavily-trafficked public beach puts her at risk.

Molting female elephant seal. The Parks Board roped off a quarter acre for her so she could have some space, but I feel her presence on a heavily-trafficked public beach puts her at risk.

I hope this finds you enjoying the beauty of spring,
Eira.

 

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.

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!