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.

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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!

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.