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 (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.

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.

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!

 

Further Down The Path (Week 2)

For the week of April 15th – 21st

You will have to forgive me for the delay; I know this post is late. You see, the spring has me tangled her her roots and vines, and the harder I fight the stronger her pull. The sun has been out and everything is green, yet here has been a couple storms reminding us that the Cailleach of the North is still near by. My hands are stained with soil and moss, and my feet are chaffed from sand in my shoes from blustery walks on the beach. It’s very hard to sit indoors and study when the world is overflowing with original material. So, there I am, and it’s not without a pang of resentment that I am indoors writing, and not lying beneath a tree being dusted with dandelion pollen and sharing a late lunch with a family of squirrels.

Meditation and Trance Work

With the return of the spring comes the unwelcome return of electric lawn mowers. It seems that every time I’ve ventured onto my deck to sit at my little altar and let my mind wander the cosmos, someone shatters my silence with modern convenience. Oh, how I loathe the electric lawn mower! Sending fumes into the earth and air, polluting the yards, and indiscriminately destroying the microcosmic ecosystems. I watched, with horror (yes, horror) as this monster of a machine tore up patches of dandelions, daisy, and these lovely little blue flowers with no reason at all but an apparent desire for lawn uniformity. Alas, this as made meditation a little more difficult during the morning hours. I have, a few times, been a psychic rebel, and in the dark hours after twilight sat with this lawn in view and sent my energy to will the flower to return. I imagine their roots and stems growing strong, nourished by the spring showers that frequent our mountainside. I’ve tried projecting my thoughts towards them, encouraging them, sending them light and fortitude. Only time will tell if it’s helped.

I also tried my first standing meditation this past weekend. I was on the beach, and despite the hail and rain, I stood in ankle deep water on a rocky shore and felt the cold Pacific water wash over me and break against my shins. The storm had brought up tiny kelp bulbs, crabs, muscles, clams, and sea lettuce, which were swaying in the tide like dancers. I stood, mountain pose, facing the sea and felt the wind and rain beat against my face and arms. I gave not two shits for the dreary dog walkers and inquisitive Chinese family who, I knew, were watching me with suspicion. I just stood there, feeling the energy and the power of the sea and the storm. I do not know how long I stood there; 10 minutes, maybe 20… but my fingers turned red and numb, my hair a matted, damp mess, and my clothes soaked through. It was nothing short of amazing.

The Wild West Coast, April 2013.

The Wild West Coast, April 2013. Taken with my iPhone.

ADF Studies

As mentioned above, I haven’t been doing much of the book-type studying this week. After finishing Travels Through Middle Earth on the 18th of April, I haven’t so much as cracked the cover of another book. I have been working on a nature journal which, for someone like me who is an artist and a writer, it’s been very meditative. I haven’t attempted to draw anything life-like for years, so actually coming out of my mind to draw from life is more challenging than expected. I fully intend to keep this practice up.

My books have arrived, with the exception of one that is coming from a second hand store somewhere deep in the USA. I think the next book I’ll read is Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler. I have always intended to read this book, but years ago when I was actively studying Wicca, I never got around to it. I feel almost embarrassed to admit this and look forward to correcting this oversight.

Finally, I’ve been preparing for Beltane, which is fast approaching. I’m planning on using a structure which is a blend of ADF COoR (Core Order of Ritual) with inspiration from Teo Bishop over at Solitary Druid Fellowship, and with a bit of lyrical prose written by myself. For those uncomfortable or unfamiliar with writing their own thoughts I can understand the desire to use the words written by others. Personally, I’ve cultivated my writing skills for over 20 years and feel that as a wannabe-Bard (especially), I should take ever opportunity presented to craft my own rituals. We shall see h0w successful I am.

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