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Midsummer happened this week, and though I haven’t celebrated with the grove yet, I did a small private celebration on my own.

Tropical Storm Cindy prevented anyone in my general vicinity from watching the sunset or sunrise on the solstice, but I marked both this year, as well as lighting candles and enjoying a tasty beverage on my porch (a mojito, made with fresh mint that I grew myself). It was very windy, and very rainy, but I at least got to breathe the midsummer air.

I also harvested basil and made fresh pesto, which I ate over pasta with a bit of cooked chicken and every fresh vegetable I could get my hands on. It was delicious, and absolutely tasted of summer. I made a batch of lemon scones too, which while not truly a summer food, tasted fresh and delightful.

I did a short, improvised Core Order ritual on the solstice itself, thanking the Sun for her light and protection (the wards on my apartment are tied to the Sun and to my hearth fire), and making offerings for her on the rest of her journey. I also asked for extra blessings on my harvest – my vegetable container garden – and poured the blessing water over my plants.

Practicing druidry in a 3rd floor apartment is still a bit of a change sometimes – it would have been nice to have people over and grill a bunch of shrimp and veggies and maybe even some fruit for dessert, but with the weather this year that couldn’t have happened anyway. If, like me, you celebrated informally, here are a few other tips that you might use to plan your celebration.

Nothing new on the report this week, just continuing to try to slow down and practice. I’m seriously considering adding a full core order into my weekly practice, having enjoyed the one I did last week so much.

Right now I feel like the world is pulling me deeply into my divination practice – I’ve been doing readings of all kinds (tarot, playing cards, runes) for all kinds of people. Several a week at this point. Which is good, I always enjoy the practice, and it’s good for me to stay in regular work with all the various systems I use, but it takes up a lot of time and can be a big drain on my already strained energy levels.

I have started tracking my omens that I draw anytime I do a personal ritual that includes a rune draw. I think it will be interesting to see what runes “inspired” my clergy training when I’m done. I talk a lot about Gear, Feoh, and Eolh inspiring my dedicant work, but those were drawn in a ritual at the very end. This, I’m hoping, will give me the ability to see what the distribution of runes is over the entirety of my CTP1 work.

Also, this week saw me adding a massive new pile of responsibilities at work, so it’s been harder than usual to slow down and find time to sit and practice and breathe. I know that’s part of the discipline, but I’m very glad I have such a simple ritual right now, or there’s no way it would be getting done.

Next week is Midsummer, which I will be celebrating with my grove. The requirements for this course include the celebration of a high day privately, according to your hearth culture. The Anglo-Saxons likely celebrated Midsummer, calling it Litha, but there is much more known about the high day that will show up at the end of my journaling for this course (Lammas). I think I will be writing about both, since one will be more of a mundanely/modern inspired practice, and the other will include at least Anglo-Saxon and English folklore. We don’t actually know a whole lot about how the heathen Anglo-Saxons did much of anything, because what little DID get written down was only done after conversion, and much of that was destroyed in the intervening centuries. That said, the English folk traditions for these high day festivals are wonderful, and I am totally not above co-opting them. I think it might be very interesting to look at how the (Christian) English celebrated Midsummer, and then maybe pull a few practices into my own celebration next week.

The solstice this year falls on the 20th astronomically, but the celebration is typically held on the 21st.

This week I have decided to add a little to my daily practice, and then I may stick with it for awhile.

My (almost) daily routine is as follows:

Light lamp
Light incense

Cosmos Prayer:

The waters support and surround me
The land extends about me
The sky stretches out above me
At the center burns a living flame
May all the kindreds bless me
May my worship be true
May my actions be just
May my love be pure
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the holy ones

Prayers to Earth Mother and Gatekeeper, the two beings that I am tasked with developing relationships with as part of this journey through Clergy 1:

Eorthan Modor, I am your child. Uphold me today and always, as I honor you and walk the elder ways.

Eostre, She who walks the paths of Dawn. Guide me today and always, and may your light shine upon my path as I walk the elder ways.

This week in the grove meeting we are doing a full moon ritual, which should be fun and also good practice. Everyone who wants a speaking part will be drawing randomly from a hat, and we’re going to try to get everyone used to improvising our ritual pieces.

Last weekend, I got to practice my clergy discipline routine of having a monthly “retreat day”. It was spread out over two days, because it’s hard for me to take 24 hours entirely out of my (admittedly probably overscheduled) life, at least every single month.

This is the basic text of the monthly retreat ritual that I am working on. As I change and update it, I will update here. I’m actually pretty happy with this ritual though – it’s a full core order, takes about 20 minutes to do. I typically go for more explicitly poetic ritual pieces, but for some reason this one is what I came up with. It’s a variation on another ritual that I used to use, and I’m really happy with how it turned out for solo practice.

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Does it count as ritual research when you fall down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos made by other ADF groves and priests?

Asking for a friend.

Added the cosmos prayer to my daily moments of calm – not quite a true daily practice, but most days I’m getting to my altar, lighting the lamp and some incense, and speaking at least this little prayer. Planning my monthly retreat for this coming weekend as well, so I’ll hopefully have a ritual script to share next week.

The waters support and surround me,
The land extends about me,
The sky stretches out above me,
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the kindreds bless me.
May my worship be true,
May my actions be just,
May my love be pure.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the holy ones.

My apartment got struck by lightning on Tuesday night.

Not in some metaphorical, I had a flash of inspiration, great grand things are happening sense. In the literal, bolt of lightning blew a hole in the roof and blasted through my ceiling, exploded a phone jack, and fried all my electronics sense. This was followed by a massive water leak in my kitchen (see: giant hole blown in roof during thunderstorm).

My apartment is, yet again, covered in drywall and insulation debris as a result. But far fewer things are truly broken or dead than you’d expect from a direct lightning strike, and tomorrow they’re coming to try to get the internet working again. Until then, I’m on my phone.

This journal is supposed to be one of recording my steps toward a domestic cult practice, and I promise I’ll get around to that part, but before I get there, I want to talk a little bit about intuition.

Tuesday night at around 7:45pm I got a warning that a tornado had been spotted in an oncoming storm, and to seek shelter. Normally, tornado warnings aren’t something I take too seriously – Houston rarely gets tornadoes. My town doesn’t even have tornado sirens. But I pulled up the radar, saw the storm (which had three little hook-like shapes extending out from the front of the storm) and thought… NOPE.

I don’t know why I thought nope, but I noped right out of there. I grabbed the cats, my phone, and a portable charger, and the three of us went to go sit in the closet with the door closed and the lights off. I was texting with a friend, and she was updating me on the storm, and at about 8:15, the warning expired. And still I thought… NOPE.

So I stayed in the closet, and at 8:20, lightning struck my kitchen. There was a blinding flash and a simultaneous massive explosion, followed by the fire alarms all going nuts and my apartment filling with the smell of electrical smoke.

I fled, calling 911.

(The electrical smoke was most likely from the phone jack that took the brunt of the strike. The cover is melted.)

I can’t tell you why I had the ooky feelings about that storm on the radar. I work through thunderstorms all the time. Hell, I’ve been through hurricanes. Storms don’t bother me. But this one? It did. And I don’t know what little part of my brain got the signal that my rational brain did not, but I’m glad for it. If I’d been standing in my kitchen making dinner, I could be hospitalized or dead instead of dealing with a construction mess.

All that, however, leads me to the second bit. The actual practice bit.

I have rarely, in my entire life, felt less like I wanted to do anything related to prayer or ritual practice than I have this week. I am exhausted. Exhausted on that deep, mental level that you really only get after months and months of burning the candle at both ends. I have nothing to give my grove. Nothing to give my practice. I am depressed – and not because of my mental illness (which I’m happy to talk about) but simply because some things are just utterly overwhelming and stressful, and dealing with that is hard.

I will journal this though. At least four months. No less than weekly.

Rev. Michael J Dangler is known to say “when you least feel like praying is when you need it the most,” and maybe that’s true. But this week, I have no words to give, and so for week 2, I am lighting the lamp, taking a breath, and trying (mostly unsuccessfully) not to cry.

Let that be my prayer for this week. I’ll try again next week with words.

So I have completely dropped the ball on my ADF study work since getting accepted into CTP-1. (Other than getting Div 1 approved, which I’d already completed). It’s been almost a year, and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things after my life completely upended and started over. I have a new job in a new field/career, have packed up everything I owned and moved, am finalizing a divorce after the end of a 10 year marriage, and have, in that time, also shepherded Nine Waves through the final steps of our Grove Charter. We had 22 people at our May Day ritual.

It’s been… a lot.

My routines adapted at first, and then fell by the wayside as I managed in crisis mode for so long, only to have my life finally starting to settle into place now, in mid-May, and my not really have any idea what I’m doing. Other than “too much” and “not enough” simultaneously.

I’ve talked to a couple of ADF’s priests about it, and that’s been very helpful. I’m holding too tightly to some things, and need to rediscover others. So, if you’ll permit me the diversion to not be perhaps the world’s most motivated clergy student, I’m going to start that process – and this blog – up again with something simple.

One of the courses in CTP-1 is called Liturgy Practicum 1: Domestic Cult Practice.

Students will develop new (or document existing) personal and/or family worship customs, such as morning devotions, meal offerings, or seasonal observances. Students will research worship customs of ADF and/or from a chosen Indo-European culture-whether historical or reconstructed and begin to implement these customs within the home setting (or other personal, rather than large group, context). These personal and/or household rituals or other observances may be either reconstructions of culturally specific practices, or based more upon modern ADF liturgical format, or a combination of the two. Household practices and rituals should include all interested members of the household, with options for the inclusion of children encouraged when applicable. Worship should be practiced weekly at a minimum, although daily practice is encouraged.

A specific aim of this course is to experiment and expand practice where possible: to that end, new practices and prayers should be a large part of the journal turned in for the final question.

NOTE: This course assumes the student is working with at least one hearth culture. In completing the Dedicant Path documentation, the student will have begun to explore this culture, including the reading of at least one book as the subject for a review. For students who may wish for further study—or who may wish to explore another cultural focus—the following books are possible resources to consult as needed.

The primary goal of this course is for students to develop and implement regular personal and/or family worship customs in the home setting.

Requirement #1: Key concepts from required reading:

  1. What three factors (“subcategories”) does Bonewits identify as determining the impact of “familiarity” on the success of a ritual? Briefly discuss the ways in which personal or family-only ritual is aided or hindered by these factors when compared to public group ritual. (Minimum 100 words)
  2. What six methods of prayer does Ceisiwr Serith describe? Briefly suggest an example of how you might employ each in your personal worship practices. You may include worship with a group if applicable. (Minimum 200 words)
  3. What arguments does Ceisiwr Serith make in support of set prayers (as opposed to spontaneous prayers)? Discuss how these arguments apply (or do not apply) to solitary Pagan prayer. (Minimum 200 words)

Requirement #2: Documenting personal ritual practice:

  1. Keep and submit for review a journal documenting the development and observance of the personal/household worship customs described above covering a period of not less than four months, including one observance of a seasonal festival, such as one of the eight ADF High Days. Entries are to be not less than weekly. The text of individual prayers and longer devotional rituals should be provided as frequently as possible. Regular practices occurring less than weekly will be considered if they are documented as revivals or reconstructions of historically-attested observances occurring less than weekly.

***

There are a few courses in the Clergy Training Program that require weekly work, and I have, in the past, attempted to combine them all into one big mega journaling experiment, with multiple entries for the various courses each week. I can not sustain that level of effort right now. I am literally rebuilding from ground zero. My practice is nonexistent. Week 1’s entry is literally “setting up and getting started”. But for the next four months, I will focus on this. I will focus on MY practice – what is it that I do, as an ADF dedicant, as a clergy student, as a senior druid of a grove. What does my domestic practice look like?

The freedom to rebuild that from the ground up is a little staggering, but in a good way I think. I can’t do this “wrong” – I have experience from over a decade of pagan practice to guide me as I rebuild. And at the end of four months, I will have a documented journal to turn in to my reviewer, and one that I hopefully will be able to turn in proudly, as evidence that even after literally everything has changed, the work still needs to be done, and I am still capable of doing it.

  • Gear – the harvest, reward for hard work
  • Feoh – wealth that must be shared and is movable
  • Eolh – good boundaries and strong protections

Those were the omens I drew when I made my oath as a dedicant. May they guide me here now, as I work the next step of my training.

Liturgy Practicum 1: Week 1 (May 15, 2017)

We begin… at the beginning. (I’m told it’s a very good place to start.) My altar is set up, and in my new living space – a one bedroom apartment – there is no ignoring it unless I’m being obtuse. I have to walk past it to get to the bathroom from my desk! My task, this week, has been simply to pause and breathe there a few times a day. No prayers required. Incense optional. Rebuild the habit of pausing there to ground and center. It will take a little while for this to truly be ingrained, but as a hearth practice goes, it’s at least getting me to pay attention.

My altar space is pretty much exactly what it was in the old house, just in a new location. I also have a new oil lamp for my fire that I picked up at the TX Imbolc Retreat in February. Otherwise, it is simply the space that I have, on top of a bookshelf, to pray, to make offerings, and to find my center.

It feels really really good.

I’m fighting the urge to throw myself into things – to do too much too fast. But a thing worth doing is worth doing well, and trying to do too much is only going to result in me flaming out in three weeks. Next week, I will re-examine prayers. This week, just light the flame and breathe.

I can tell already I’m going to need another jar of lamp oil.

1.   Why do you want to be a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?

I have had a calling to priesthood since I was in elementary school, but in each phase of my religious journey, I have hesitated to seek (or been denied) access to the priesthood. This was no different when I found ADF. I devoured my dedicant year, completing the DP in just 11 months, but I fully intended to proceed immediately into the Initiate’s path. I knew I had a calling to clergy, but I also was a solitary druid and had no idea the changes that would come about in my life and my practice over the next year.

Shortly after beginning my work on the Initiate’s Path, I started a study group. I have led that group for three years, and now they are Nine Waves Protogrove and are in the process of preparing to apply for a grove charter. In that time, it has become crystal clear to me that the work that I have spent my life preparing for is this work – the work of building a church, of leading this little group, of being a resource for them and teaching them what I know. I’ve gone from a solitary, introspective pagan to trying to be a public presence in my community (or as close to that as I can get, it’s a work in progress). My calling to serve these people is stronger than ever, and it expresses itself in the oddest of ways. Since I began the preliminary courses, I have become a spiritual resource not only for my in-person community, but for my online community as well. I regularly provide spiritual guidance and counseling to people online (both in and out of ADF), and mentoring those folks is as important to me as the mentoring work I do in my Protogrove.

From my Baptist minister grandfather, I learned how to care for people, how to talk to them, and how to lead them; I learned how to be a minister. From the Methodist church, I learned how to step away from the inevitable drama while still taking care of the people who needed help. From the Catholic Church I learned personal devotion, private prayer, and the effect that private practice has on public service (and a minor addiction to prayer beads). As a solitary pagan, I learned how to create my own, meaningful spirituality. From my Wiccan coven, I learned the power of a devoted small group of individuals, I learned how to serve the gods, and I learned how to learn a new tradition from scratch. From my Protogrove, I’m learning patience, humility, perseverance, and the virtue of building something from the ground up. I’m learning to live the virtues in public and in private.

From all of these paths, I have learned different aspects of what is needed in a priest. It is now up to me to fulfill that calling, and to do the work necessary to become the priest I’ve spent pretty much my whole life preparing to be. From a purely practical standpoint, I intend to complete approximately one course a month until I have finished the First Circle of training.

2. Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but it wasn’t until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – that I truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to call home for good. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place.

3. What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?

Sadly, the concept for an Anglo-Saxon heathen priesthood is troublesome and really exists only through secondary accounts. Pollington believes that it is evident that “certain people had to perform specific ritual functions at public ceremonies, but who these people were and how they were chosen is nowhere made clear” (Pollington 116). Perhaps the term “ritual specialist” is more applicable, as presumably people had duties for opening and closing public ceremonies, guarding holy symbols, and caring for sacred groves. Pollington offers the following description of what an Anglo-Saxon priesthood probably looked like:

The notion of a priest as an ‘officiant’ is probably closest to the heathen idea: the leader of the community held sway in religious, legal, and secular matters. He presided at feasts, in acts of worship, at court and in war. He was able to mediate with the gods on behalf of his community. He kept safe the holy objects used in ceremonies. (117)

I should mention as well that all of these “priests” were male. While there is evidence of sacred roles for women in Anglo-Saxon England, they were not typically chieftains and priests, though it is possible that the existence of such women would have been suppressed by the Christian monks writing about them (Pollington 120).

This is not at all the model of priesthood that I intend to follow, merely being a keeper of religious objects and a person who knows how to make sacrifices. I think there is a need for real spiritual leadership in our communities, and that leadership extends beyond simply knowing when and how to have a ritual. Mentorship, spiritual counseling, teaching and sharing wisdom are as important to my definition of priesthood as are things like being able to host a ritual or perform a wedding. A priest also should not (in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group, though leading feasts sounds at least like it might be fun and less like it would be a huge conflict of interest.

Pollington, Stephen. The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011. Print.

4. How long have you worked the ADF Dedicant Discipline, what has been your experience of the Work, and what do you expect when you begin the Clergy Student Discipline?

I have been an ADF Dedicant since October 3, 2013. As part of my dedicant oath, I drew the following omen:

  • Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work
  • Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity
  • Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance

Though I no longer read with the Elder Futhark, I have always taken these runes as both a blessing on my dedicant year and as a prediction for the work I will do as an ADF Dedicant. It has been a path of hard work and also great reward– I have started a Protogrove, and am actively leading them toward Grove status. That work has involved a great deal of my time, money, and energy – time, money, and energy that I give generously, because that is part of my calling. But it has also been a work of determining boundaries – like the elk-sedge determines the boundaries between dry land and marshes, and protects both. I cannot give everything – I must refill my own cup before I tend to filling the cups of others.

I have kept to regular daily and monthly practices for the last two years, as well as recently adding a weekly devotional. I fully intend this work to continue as I set forth to do the Clergy Student Discipline. I expect that the demands on my time and energy will continue to grow as I grow toward my ordination, and I hope that these runes that have defined my dedicant work– rewards for hard work, reciprocity and generosity, and setting appropriate boundaries – will continue to bless me as I move along this path.

*****

Hello, Lauren,

Several questions have arisen concerning your application to enroll in the Clergy Training Program. Please respond back to me and I will pass the answers back to all the Clergy Council Officers.

You stated: “A priest also should not(in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group…”

  • Comment #1: I would like to see her clarify what the conflict of interest is to her with a priest assisting to “make legal decisions”.
  • Comment #2: I would like to know what “war” means to her in a modern context as well as how she interprets “making legal decisions”.

We look forward to your clarifications.

Blessings,
Drum

*****

Hi Drum –

I’m happy to clarify, though I think I can answer both questions at once.
My main point with this sentence had to do with the way that priests functioned in the Anglo Saxon society – where they were not just religious leaders, but also political, legal, and war leaders. In an ancient tribe, that breakdown certainly works – the tribe is small and culturally homogeneous (for the most part). But I think in a modern context, the separation of church and state is a good thing, and we should encourage that. I would not want my position as a priest to be anything other than a spiritual leadership role – leading a spiritual group.
As an extremely hypothetical example, should I somehow become Governor of Texas, I would not want my position as an ADF priest to be in any way related to that role. Certainly my values would be influenced by being part of ADF, but as a political leader, I expect that leader to make decisions for all Texans, not just the ones s/he agrees with spiritually, because political leadership in the United States is over a large group of ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse people. This is where I think the conflict of interest is a problem in the ancient model if we apply it to today – the religious leader of group of people also being the political leader leads to a lot of opportunities to abuse power, and I think that’s a bad thing (and, in fact, that sort of situation is exactly what brought many people to the United States in the first place).
As a leader in ADF, I fully understand that there are administrative roles that priests fill. And, in fact, I am a grove organizer, and expect that I will begin to serve as Senior Druid sometime in the next six months or so (as Nine Waves finishes up our bylaws and applies for our grove charter). But that leadership will remain in a spiritual organization to which it is related, and Nine Waves is also structuring our group so that if I become an ordained Priest, I will be able to step into a separate leadership role (which is yet unnamed), and allow someone else to take on the administrative duties of a Senior Druid.
As far as war leadership goes, I think that again is a different skill than priesthood. Certainly chaplaincy is related – but a chaplain doesn’t lead troops on the battlefield. That job is left to battlefield leaders. (And, in fact, the Geneva Conventions specify that chaplains be non-combatants, and in the United States military, chaplains are unarmed.) I expect that, should I be asked to do chaplaincy work, that I would do my best to counsel in that situation, but I don’t feel like that is a war leadership position, at least not in the sense that the Anglo Saxons were talking about it. I also don’t feel like “leading the charge” in things like social justice work is comparable to the type of war leadership that the Anglo-Saxons were talking about. Certainly it’s powerful, important, strategic work, and you could argue that it is definitely “fighting a battle”, but I think we’d be talking about two different kinds of leadership and two completely different skill sets (only one of which involves killing people).
Hopefully that makes my answers a little more clear. Perhaps I was too literal with my reading of this question, taking much more from the Anglo Saxon model and not expanding it into what is realistic for a modern-day priest?
Let me know if you need me to clarify anything else.
Blessings,
Lauren