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Archive for the ‘Cat Vacuuming’ Category

I am not, very often, a dreamer. I’ve tried all the usual things – notebooks by the bedside, intentions before sleep, mugwort tea, valerian capsules, etc. I’d blame it on the medicine I take for neuropathic pain that keeps me in deep stage sleep longer, but I wasn’t a dreamer growing up either, so it’s not like much has changed. (I had night terrors as a child/teen, but I only very rarely remembered what they were about, only that I woke up terrified.)

But then, every once in a great while, I have a DREAM. In this case, an exceptionally vivid one that – three hours later – is only just now starting to fade.

In this dream, I was working with an artisan to create a rosary to Cerridwen (I think) and Herne.

This is interesting for a few reasons, beyond just the fact that I remembered a dream very vividly.

I haven’t worked with Cerridwen and Herne for several years. They have a space on my altar still, of course, as a tiny cauldron and a wooden acorn, but they aren’t Gods I typically associate with my current practice. Herne is not far off my current Anglo-Saxon practice, being an English God, and being that it is Wild Hunt Season, but it was curious to hear from Cerridwen. (On a night just after the full moon, on the eve of Samhain, so maybe not so curious.)

Their names are the names that I used for the God and Goddess in my days as a Wiccan. (I am not an initiated Witch, and I am Quite Sure these names are not the oathbound names that witches are affiliated with.)

Now. I’m not exactly much of a Wiccan anymore. I occasionally do Witchy magic, but my following the wheel of the year has a distinctly Druid flavor, and I’m pretty entrenched in ADF and the Anglo-Saxon hearth culture.

But my practice has been pretty stagnant recently, and when I consulted people who are skilled at divination, the common answer was “you’re doing too much, you need to take care of your own practice, find your big Why, and turn inward for awhile.” They also said not to be tempted by “spiritual squirrel syndrome” – where anything shiny and new seemed exciting and worth pursuing. (I asked three diviners, and got three VERY similar answers, from three completely different systems of divination. I’m inclined to trust that answer.)

So why, suddenly, are these Gods from my past knocking at my door again?

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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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Last year I wrote this piece on what it’s like being a Pagan with mental illness.

Just ran across this vlog from Thorn where she tackles it in video form, and I thought it was good, especially the pseudo-victim-blamey “Oh if only you were closer to nature/drank this tea/balanced your chakras you wouldn’t be depressed” bullshit that seems to get tossed around a lot.

Though old, this piece on WitchVox pretty neatly writes out exactly what the stigma is against mental illness in the pagan community – especially among covens and BTW groups. (Specifically this line, quoting from a coven’s guidelines for seekers: “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem” which was pretty much exactly what I was told in the phone call where I split off from the group I was in outer court with.)

Rant pants on: I dunno what qualifies as “fully responsible adult individual”. Would it be better if I went off the medications and stopped doing the therapy that has kept me from having a major mood episode in almost a year? Do I need to show you my credit rating and my pay stubs to prove that I have a good job and pay my bills on time? What exactly is a “fully responsible adult individual” if it’s not someone who takes care of their shit (mental, physical, or otherwise) to the best of their abilities?

Full honesty here – I miss my witchy people. I love ADF, and I love the study I’m doing and the group I lead, but it’s tiring being in charge when I’ve only been doing this 4 years this month. Sure that’s nothing to sneeze at, but I’m only getting the training I do myself, and there’s not a whole lot of mentorship that goes on, especially on the spiritual side. And I know I’m building a good group, and we’re working on having more spiritual and less scholarly experiences, but I’ve still yet to experience anything that quite matches a group of skilled Witches in a circle. Druids rarely seem to be “up to something” quite the same way that Witches tend to get “up to something”.

For some reason, it’s just hard to move on from that. I’ve gone through a period of intense change in the last few months (up to and including getting a new job), which has put my ADF studies on hold, and still I go back to the 18 or so months that I spent in Outer Court and wonder what life would be like without the bipolar label.

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I’m a regular reader of John Michael Greer’s blog The Archdruid Report. I’m also a regular reader of John Beckett’s Under the Ancient Oaks. I’m going to refer to them as JMG and JB because they are both named John. (If your name is John and I should be reading your blog too, leave a comment.)

JMG’s is the Archdruid of AODA, and his blog is about peak oil, sustainability, and the decline and fall of “Western Civilization” (Depending on how you define that) especially what we see of it here in the United States.  It comes as no surprise that when I read his posts on Thursday mornings (or Fridays, depending), there will be discussions about civilization in decline, what you can do about it (hint: not much other than try to be prepared), and the wry amusement one can derive from other such topics.

JB is an OBOD Druid, and his posts usually have a more spiritual tack. But recently, he’s been talking about decline, sustainability, and what we as pagans can do for the future as well.

It’s got me thinking. I work in the Oil and Gas industry, and there’s a whole lot of head-in-the-sand thinking that goes on around here. The industry is contracting, even as more oil floods the market, and the side of the business I work in (consulting) is getting squeezed on price and scope pretty hard. (My husband works in Aerospace – a similarly challenging industry in the face of peak oil.)

I also drive 35 miles each way, in traffic, to get to the office. I drive a small, efficient car that I keep in good repair, but it’s still about 10-12 gallons of gas a week. I try to telecommute when I can, but that’s hard in an office where they expect you to show up for all the meetings.

I also live in a house that’s got a lot of windows, no longer has shade trees over the roof, and is fairly poorly insulated (though I’m trying to convince my husband to re-do the insulation and help me line the blinds to help with the windows).

On the other hand, I grow some of my own food, preserve my own vegetables and jams and pickles, and own both a sewing machine and a spinning wheel. There are good solid survival skills there.

I just can’t help but wonder what this is all going to look like in 5, 15, 25 years. I’m 31 years old – if I’m lucky, I have at least another 40 years on this earth. What is that earth going to look like as I age? (I don’t have kids, and don’t intend to, but I am an auntie, and I do care a lot about what kinds of things I’m handing down to the next generation.)

The system that eventually replaces [the current one] will not be designed through a consensus process, nor will it be debated and adopted through a democratic vote.  It will evolve over many years through billions of decisions made by millions of people.  Those decisions will reflect their hopes, fears, dreams, and especially their values.

This is where we can make a difference for our descendants:  by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come – and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made.  – JB

So how does My Druidry, and Our Druidry – if I’m talking about our protogrove and study group – handle the big questions like this. Surely we can go on having high day rituals and doing park clean-up days and not really tackle any of these big questions. ADF certainly doesn’t force us to. But I WANT to tackle these questions.

What will our community look like as the world changes? What choices will people make about coming to ritual when it means driving an hour or more to get there (Houston is a REALLY FUCKING BIG city)? What choices will people make when it comes to educating their children, to participating in a wider community?

What is the role of a priest in all this?

Obviously the role of a priest is not to quit my job and live under a bridge, or try to turn my (poorly drained) back yard into a farm, or get kicked out of my house for owning chickens (which is against the community association). As much as I’d like to go “off the grid” that comes with its own risks and serious consequences.

I need to explore more on the side of things I can actually do, rather than deciding it’s all too big a change and abandoning the idea. The world is going to change whether I’m in on it or not, and choosing to opt out of preparing for it just means the crash will come all the harder.

A living example.  People will figure out how to live without oil in a hostile climate – necessity is the mother of invention.  But figuring out how to live well in an era where the material standard of living is in constant decline?  That’s a much harder task.  As people are looking around for ideas and suggestions, what can we show them?  Not what we can tell them, but what we can show them by our living examples.

Let’s demonstrate reverence for Nature now.  Let’s build strong, vibrant communities now – and let’s support them even when it’s not cheap and easy.  Let’s honor our ancestors now.

Living a life that requires less stuff won’t preserve Western culture – nothing we can do will accomplish that.  Consumer culture is inherently unsustainable and it is going to collapse.  But if we’re that dissatisfied with mainstream culture – and I certainly am – let’s start building a better culture that is sustainable right here right now.  -JB

*For those curious about Cat Vacuuming, a good definition is here. You could probably make a case that this post is the exact opposite of Cat Vacuuming, but it’s become a good mental shorthand for “mental meanderings” and it makes me laugh.

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