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Archive for the ‘Pagan Blog Project 2014’ Category

((Here it is Thursday of the first E week and I’m just now getting around to posting last week’s posts. Here’s a second D entry, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow!))

I’ve been doing some form of divination longer than I’ve been doing paganism – tarot was, in a way, a sort of gateway drug. I got really into tarot reading at the end of my time in college, when I got involved with the Aeclectic Tarot forums and started swapping for decks and doing readings. I’ve done readings on and off since then, never for money, but often for barter. My favorite deck, by far, is the DruidCraft tarot, which I’ve loved since the day it came in the mail. I got it used as part of a swap, and though I’ve gotten many other decks since then, it’s my go-to reading staple. It reads very straightforward. (I also like the Shadowscapes and Revelations decks, as well as the good old standard RWS deck.)

Now I’m trying to learn runes, since that’s a very Anglo Saxon type of divination, especially given that there’s a full rune poem. I’m not very good with them yet, and still prefer to read tarot when I’m pressed for a quick answer.  Since I’m working primarily with Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian Gods, though, I’d really prefer to develop fluency with a divination system that they’ll be easily familiar with.

I use divination in two different ways, and right now that lines up with the two different systems that I use.

On one hand, I use it as an introspective way to examine the complexities of a situation – for this, I almost always use tarot. I don’t really use spreads, I just draw cards until I feel like I’ve got enough information. I don’t see this as “looking into the future” at all, more like looking into the present (and sometimes past) to see what influences I might be missing or not aware of.

The other way I use divination is as a way to communicate directly with the Kindreds, in ritual and in meditation. As part of ADF ritual, we make offerings in return for blessings from our Kindreds (the Gods, Dead, and Nature Spirits). These blessings are divined by a seer as part of the ritual itself, and can take several forms. I typically draw three runes, one for each Kindred, asking specifically what blessings are offered in return for our sacrifices.

I know it’s possible for a skilled seer to get the kind of nuanced rune readings I get from tarot, but I’ll just have to work toward that.

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(Missed Friday’s post for the Pagan Blog Project due to life getting in the way. I’ll publish two “D” posts this week to make up!)

So, I’m a member of ADF. Therefore I am a Druid, right?

Except I’m not always so comfortable with the term. It’s got different baggage than “Witch” (Which Ci Cyfarth neatly talks about here, so I’ll let you go read over at Land Sea and Sky), but there’s definitely still some confusion around the term.

An excerpt:

So here in the early 21st century, when we use the word “Druid,” we might mean one or more of the following:

– A historical person from antiquity, who may or may not be well-documented by Classical neighbors, but definitely didn’t leave any useful notebooks laying around, but would have been very well educated and would have had a reasonably well-defined role in their community. (Hint: these don’t exist anymore, and if someone claims to be one, look for a TARDIS.)
– A person who’s part of the Eisteddfod movement, which is non-religious and focused on the arts.
– A person who’s a part of the fraternal Druidry movement, which is non-religious and philanthropic/social.
– A person practicing Revival Druidry, which is the non-sectarian spiritual/philosophical movement that came out of the fusion of lodges, nationalism, culture revival, Unitarian Christianity, enthusiasm about henges, and the poetic stylings of that guy I mentioned earlier with the laudanum. Revival-style orders include OBOD, AODA, BDO, etc.
– A person practicing a religious form of Pagan Druidry, which emerged from the larger Pagan community. Pagan Druid groups include ADF, Henge of Keltria, Order of WhiteOak, etc.
– A person who uses the term “druid” for other reasons, which may range from quite complex to “I just like it better than ‘witch.’”

So anyway, there’s lots of things that a Druid can mean. It can mean something as free-form as New Reformed Druids of North America (Nature is Good), or something as structured as formal high ritual in ADF, or something completely different.

Of course, the term “Witch” is just as fraught with baggage in our language. I came to a sort-of peace with the term when I was actively seeking a Wiccan initiation, and still consider myself a witch (lowercase “w”) when I do certain types of magic.

But since I am still in the treehouse (HA! I’m not in the Broom Closet, I’m in the Treehouse! Get it? Druid? Tree? Har har? I think I finally found a solution to my terminology problem), I don’t talk openly about my druidry to most people. And there’s the added layer of confusion that I work with (primarily) Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian Gods, yet call myself a Druid. There is a word for Druid in Anglo-Saxon, but it wasn’t necessarily a term for someone who practiced the AS religion. More like they knew that Druids existed (at least to my knowledge).

But I am a practicing member of ADF, and leading a decidedly druidic study group, so I guess the word fits me pretty well. As a descriptor for my practice, Druidry fits about as well as anything else, and fits nicely into the Neopagan umbrella as well. So I guess I’ll stick with it.

After all, I do like to hug trees.

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This week Yngvi and I finally got to meet up with three members of the local protogrove. They were all very friendly, and I think we’ll get on just fine. They are okay with us continuing our study group as is, and at least one of them would like to join up with us, since she wants to work on her DP.

Also the local Grove Organizer and I have the same birthday (March 2) and two other people (Yngvi and another lady) also have March birthdays, so we’re thinking of doing a Druid Birthday Bash of some sort, to celebrate.

My “radar” is still in good working order – I walked into the coffee shop and immediately picked out the people I was going to be chatting with (as did Yngvi, who I made do the first introductions, because I am kinda shy). Dunno what led me to go “those ladies. Those are the ladies from the PG”, but I did – and apparently they picked me out as soon as I walked in as well. Hooray for good intuition and “radar”.

I don’t know yet if we’ll be joining them for rituals regularly or not. They do rituals on the official “day” of the high day (so Beltane is always on May 1), which means weeknight rituals, and that’s tough for me. They aren’t far away, so it may work, but I’ll have to rearrange my whole weekly schedule to make it fit, and depending on the week, it may just not be possible. Plus, the study group will still be having high day rituals as we work our way through the different hearth cultures, and that may conflict with the PG rituals. My primary loyalty right now is to the study group, and since I’m leading that, I can have the rituals at our regular meeting time, so the high day is on the closest Friday to the actual official “day”. (We did Imbolc on Jan 31, for example.)

The PG is primarily Irish Celtic (they call themselves the Houston Celtic Druids in some online forums), but they weren’t phased by Yngvi and my Germanic/Scandinavian/Anglo-Saxon hearths. In fact, they seemed interested and curious, which I took to be a good sign. As well, my dreams about herons and cranes have continued – and I found out yesterday that one of the locals is a member of the Order of the Crane in ADF. I am not sure I’ll bring it up with her until I know her a little bit better, but it was interesting to hear that she’s involved there.

All in all it was a good first meeting. Yngvi and I will continue to lead the study group, now possibly with some new members from the PG, and we’ll see where things go as that progresses. Now that I have some faces and personalities to put with names, I’m more comfortable going to a ritual at someone’s private home, so that hurdle is out of the way as well.

ADF serves both communities and solitary pagans. I’ve spent most of my ADF time as a solitary, but that seems to be rapidly changing. It brings up a lot of my fears about being “out” as a pagan (I really don’t want a potential employer to be able to google me and find out my religion, among other things), but for now I can still fly under the radar, since leading a study group doesn’t require my name to be on any of the websites anywhere. I know I am somewhat gun-shy of joining up with a new pagan group, especially with how quickly my involvement in previous groups ended, but hopefully this will be good for me and my spiritual development.

I’m also taking suggestions for a name for our study group. Right now we’re calling ourselves the “Clear Lake Druidic Study Group”, which works, but isn’t very creative. There are four of us so far, but we may be growing. We’re primarily split between the Norse/AS and the Hellenic hearth cultures so far, but that may change as the newer folks start doing their own rituals at home and creating a devotional practice. Any suggestions are welcome!

 

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ADF has a good sized songbook of chants and songs that are used in group rituals.

Since I haven’t ever done group ritual that I wasn’t leading myself, I am only barely familiar with a few of these chants – mostly through watching ADF rituals online. (3 Cranes Grove has three large group rituals they just posted to YouTube, if you’re interested in seeing how an ADF ritual scales up for 300 people in a large outdoor tent!)

I’m extremely self-conscious about my singing though. I have a music degree, which may actually have made me MORE self conscious – I have good pitch, but I am very very aware of the shortcomings of my (untrained) voice when compared to someone who actually knows how to sing. That said, I’m learning a few of the ADF chants, and considering adding them into our rituals as appropriate. I don’t think we need a chant for every step of the COoR, but a processional and recessional might be nice, and I’m fond of the “Blessings in the Waters” song for after the waters of life are distributed. I really like the addition of music to prayer, and I think it’s a good way to focus.

Also, I’ve found I can use some of the “catchier” ADF chants to get songs out of my head. So when I get earwormed by something obnoxious, I start singing something I’m trying to memorize, and the concentration plus a catchy tune usually helps me stop with the endless repeats of “This is the song that never ends” or whatever.

The one “chant” (That I’ll just be saying as spoken word) I know I’ll be adding to our ritual for Imbolc is this one by Ceisiwr Serith.

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

I plan to use it to end the Two Powers meditation and bring us into the active part of the ritual. Hopefully it goes as nicely in practice as it does in my head. There’s something very cosmos-affirming about this chant/prayer, so I hope everyone else likes it as much as I do.  I actually intend to memorize it and use it as part of my daily devotions. My practice needs a bit of a reboot, and I think this will be a nice thing to add to get it feeling fresh again.

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Druids have book problems. My reading list for the Initiate’s Path is not anywhere near fully collected, and it’s already stacked up all over my desk (and the floor…) Books, books, more books. Two translations of the Poetic Edda, just to see what the translation differences are. Plus an extra book of Norse Myth retellings so I can read them as modern-language stories. A few study books on particular aspects of Germanic paganism. Add to that books about meditation, trance, magic working, running Neopagan rites, historical paganism and archaeology, language textbooks, and that’s only what I can remember offhand. Granted, I can get some of them from the library, but I am a writer-in-books.

I know, this makes some people batty, and I don’t highlight with horrible colored markers, but I like to highlight with colored pencils, and make notes with regular pencil, especially if something is particularly academic and dense. This means I make very good use of my local used bookstore. (Where my friend Yngvi works. I used to work there as well, actually).

Add to that reading beginning books on other hearth cultures to help my study group, plus reading for pleasure, and I go through a lot of books.

Some of those books (especially fiction books) I tend to stick with my Nook reader, because it’s very portable, and if I need to make notes I can, but for academic reading, even with a note-taking-capability, I tend to prefer dead-tree-books. Also it’s hard to get the kind of academic books I need for ADF as dead-tree-books.

Suffice it to say, though, that I love books. I love reading them, studying them, collecting them. My house is full of them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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It’s an expression I don’t really like, as it’s a bit twee for my tastes, and I don’t want to co-opt the QUILTBAG community’s term for living in secret (because I think that’s kind of shitty).

But it’s also the best term I have for the life I’m living as a Druid and a Neopagan, and there are definitely some similarities (in some places in the US) to being openly Neopagan, especially if you work with children.

My family is extremely Christian. My inlaws are extremely Christian. My mother-in-law is on record as saying that not being Christian is valid grounds for divorce, and though I have repeatedly explained that I can not and will not return to church, every time they visit, they go church shopping for us, and invite us to go. (I decline, but my husband usually goes).

My workplace, while fairly openminded and diverse, is probably not ready to have a Neopagan Druid in their midst (even if there are Hindu and Muslim people in the office in large numbers). I’d like to think I could explain it well enough now that I could have an intelligent discussion or three with various people, but I know my extremely Catholic coworker would be weirded out, and that I’d be a topic of inter-office gossip, at least among the other people in my position.

I live in Texas. I went to a Southern Baptist university, and have spent the majority of my life bouncing between dominations – from American Baptist to United Methodist to “converting” to Catholicism in college. I never settled in anywhere, and my break with the Catholic church was ugly, to state things mildly. I can talk the talk though – I’ve taken theology and Christian history classes, attended chapel my whole university career, and seriously studied the Bible for years.

I use that knowledge to “pass” as vaguely Christian, or at least “historically” Christian. I send out Christmas cards (that never actually say Christmas on them, and that are always nature related, and where I never mention Jesus). I go to church with my family on Easter when I can’t get out of it, because I can grit my teeth for an hour to make my mother happy.

I’m fairly conflicted about it, really. I don’t like lying, and my spirituality is becoming a bigger and bigger force in my life. It’s fairly easy to hide in a bedroom for now, but the book collection from ADF studies is growing steadily. I’m leading a study group where I’ll be meeting other Pagans, and taking on that responsibility inevitably means meeting other people. I don’t have a pagan name, which is typical for ADF, but sometimes I wish I used one for things like this. (Also, someone else outed me on the blog with my real name in the comments, which I was trying to avoid. Apparently not everyone gives two shits about people’s privacy online.)

So my general way of answering questions is to deflect. If you ask me straight up “Are you a Christian”, I will say no. But most other questions can be deflected. I can talk about ethics and values, can talk about Christian theology and history, I can talk about world religions and meditation and general spirituality. As a theist (although a polytheist), I can talk about the nature of Gods and the like. I have a World Tree and a Globe on my desk at work, and a calendar of nature and meditative sayings, plus an Old Farmer’s Almanac daily calendar. I surround myself with clues that someone who knows what to look for will see, but I don’t choose to actually talk about what any of it means.

Eventually, this will be problematic. If my husband and I have children, I suspect I will approach going to the Unitarian Universalist church for that, since it makes a lot of sense for children in my area to have a church they go to. But my family will want to know if I’m raising them Christian (or more specifically, from my inlaws, why I’m not raising them United Methodist), and will want to teach them all about Jesus. My grandfather will want to dedicate the child to Christ. My husband is fairly agnostic, but I don’t know if he would be okay with me raising Neopagan children.

Also, the farther I go in ADF, the more likely it is that my real name will become associated with the organization, either through publication or through working towards clergy certification. ADF is very clear that they are looking to create a *public* tradition of Neopagan Druidry, and a lot of members don’t have a lot of patience (or thought) for people trying to remain under the radar.

In short, this is a subject that fills me with a lot of mental indecision. There are benefits to just being open about things (though there are a lot of places where it’s none of anyone’s business, like work), but I face the possibility of real rejection from my family over it. As the oldest child, I’m expected to lead by example (something I’ve not done very well on this front, as my little brother and his wife are 3x a week churchgoers and host Bible study and Life Group at their house). I don’t face rejection well, and I still struggle a lot with “disappointing” my family. I’ve dropped hints on things like facebook that I no longer buy into a mainstream monotheist mindset, and gotten a lot of “oh well Jesus is okay with that” responses, because they’re not willing to see the change.

So for now, I stay in the “Broom Closet” (If you’re a Druid, is it a “Tree closet”?). I’ll cross those other bridges when I come to them.

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The Ancestors play an important part in my spiritual practice. Under many names – the Ancestors, the Mighty Ones, the Mighty Dead, Idesa and Alfar – they are one of ADF’s Three Kindreds and an important practice in the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

The Mighty Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. They watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk. – The Worlds and the Kindreds

Some articles and references for the Ancestors, particularly the Disir/Idesa/Matronae (Female ancestors and guardians)

Historically, the Norse/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon cultures had strong beliefs about their ancestors being a part of their family’s good fortune. These beings – which are sometimes confused with Nature Spirits after awhile, especially if they are connected to a burial mound or site – watch over their descendents and protect them in life, often interfering to bring good fortune or luck in battle. If you wanted to speak with a particular Dis, you would go out and sit all night on her burial mound, seeking her council (a practice called out-sitting).

In my personal practice, the Ancestors are a part of my daily life. I make regular offerings to a group of Idesa I call my “Prairie Godmothers” – women whose strength and courage helped bring their families to the United States, where they lived as pioneers. Every time I clean my kitchen, I light a candle to them, and make them a small offering of thanks. I want to channel their courage and inner fortitude in my own life, so I invite them in regularly.

I’ve also been called directly (through a blog-friend who does Seidhr) to work more with my dead and spend time with my ancestors. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have tried to incorporate more work with them into my practice, and to spend additional time with them when I do ritual. I’m not very good at it yet, but I am trying to make this more a focus of my practice. As part of this, I’ve been collecting family genealogy from both my and my husband’s family in a central location in our home. Keeping this information current and easy to reference helps me connect to my direct ancestors. I would like to expand this practice to more spiritual ancestors, whether they be ancients or just other figures in history who can guide me in my spiritual work. Hopefully this will help me fulfill the request to pay more attention to my dead.

I put a lot of stock and respect in the answers I got from Beth on the subject (prompted by my constantly receiving the rune Hagalaz while not seeing elements of destruction and chaos around), so I trust that this is important, both to my ancestors and the mighty dead, and to Hela herself, as the goddess of the underworld. Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated by cultivating a relationship with a Goddess of Death, but I am well aware that my being uncomfortable is either something she doesn’t much care about, or is actively seeking. It’s definitely outside my comfort zone.

I had some particularly interesting dreams about two ancestors of spirit, back when I was practicing Wicca, but I haven’t seen or sought them out again. I need to begin seeking some Anglo-Saxon and Norse ancestors, particularly women ancestors (for some reason I am very drawn to them). I don’t know much else to do beyond granting them offerings and paying attention to them, but as I develop better trance and meditative listening/journeying skills I hope I will have some better ideas of things I can do – and maybe even names or personalities I can begin to associate with them.

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