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This World is not Conclusion.
A Sequel stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson, LXXXIII

To call this final, capstone essay “Discipline” is oddly suited to the journey I have been on since beginning the clergy student discipline. In fact, over the course of this work, I have changed nearly every facet of my mundane life, including completely reinventing my personal practice, and yet still maintained the disciplines set before me – to pray, to take retreat time. Even in the fallow times, I knew that this practice would sustain me. It sustained me through a new job in a new field, moving, numerous mental health challenges, the death of my 10 year marriage and subsequent divorce, and the reinventing of myself that is ongoing as I step forward into the world unfettered by my previous expectations of myself.

This is not to say I never faltered – in the darkest days of my divorce, there was certainly not a lot of incentive to pray beyond knowing that I needed to pray. But I did it anyway, and coming out the other side of it I find myself having grown and changed in ways that seem both miniscule and radical at the same time.

So what have I done, or come to do over the course of my time as a clergy student?

I have a daily practice – one that has now expanded to include the practice of a daily office. My decision to pray every day, three times a day, has been hugely rewarding to my devotional practices and to my closeness to my gods and spirits. I have a (mostly) weekly practice, where I do a larger ritual that encompasses divination, usually a full core order, though usually improvised. I maintain a once-monthly retreat day, finding solace in my practices according to the clergy student discipline. I keep the high days, often with multiple rituals, both private and with my grove.

I also lead weekly study sessions on various topics, provide care and advice and spiritual counseling to my grove, and provide divination and mentorship to my grove and to a small cadre of new pagans online from all around the world. I’ve given presentations at festivals, written articles for Oak Leaves and for publication in other online spaces, and generally turned from a solitary, sheltered pagan into a public face in my community and online.

In short, I have started “priesting” – to coin the present participle of the noun.

I find it fitting that the rune that has followed me throughout my time as a clergy student is Gyfu – the gift, the rune of hospitality and reciprocity. Through it I have continued to find my space in the community, online, and with the spirits – through the giving and receiving of gifts. I have given good gifts, such as are within my power, and I have received blessings abundantly in return.

My relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper has grown as well. They are part of my daily devotions, each receiving a prayer every morning, as well as at my monthly longer rituals.

As an Anglo-Saxon druid, I have an easy connection to the Earth Mother, as we know the Anglo-Saxons revered her. I simply call her Eorþan Modor, which just means Mother Earth. She is the ground on which I walk, and I honor her both in the green spaces around my apartment and in the garden that I grow on my small balcony. I find there is nothing so fitting as growing some of my own food and herbs, that I can enjoy – and then give back as offerings themselves. But she is also a challenging goddess to serve. I see in her remnants of Nerthus, from whom she descends, veiled and mysterious, a peacekeeper, but also demanding of sacrifice. I say to her “may I learn the meaning of true grace through your guidance,” but she is enigmatic at times. Other times she is simply the fertile ground of agriculture, which is so prevalent only half an hour’s drive from where I live.

Finding my gatekeeper was more challenging. There is always Woden to ask for the task, but he remains distant from me. Hama – the cognate to the Norse Heimdall – is another easy deity to ask, but though I work with him closely as the patron of Nine Waves, he never felt right in my personal rituals. I went so far as to ask Modgud – the giantess who guards the gates of Hel – but she was completely unresponsive. So I started looking for unconventional gatekeepers, and realized that the essence of a gatekeeper is their liminality – their ability to exist both in one world and the next, to traverse the worlds and cross the boundaries. So I reached out to Eostre – the Anglo-Saxon goddess who is honored in the early spring, usually celebrated by modern pagans at the Equinox. Her name is cognate with many other goddesses – Ostara, Eos, Aurora, Usas, and the Proto-Indo European *Hausos – in meaning East, and in being associated with the dawn. Her reaction to being asked to walk with me through the gates can only be described as joyful, and so with her help, I speak into the worlds. She is the Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, the radiant maiden of the East, who dances upon the boundary between night and day.

My personal devotional practice is, as began in my Dedicant work, dominated by my relationship with Ing Frea (Freyr/Ingui/Yngvi). As much as this path has been one of becoming a public priest, it has also included the trials and tribulations of becoming his devotional priest as well. I do not know yet what that will entail fully, but I trust in him and his guidance and advice. He is the sacrifice and sacrificer, death and rebirth, the golden god of the grain, the harvest lord, providence and the sacrificial king. In him, my practice is rooted deeply. (Though strangely, his rune almost never shows up in my readings, and when it does, it often indicates harvests rather than Himself.)

Journaling has never been a strong suit of mine, and my omen records are extremely intermittent, unfortunately, due to having lost some of my documentation when my apartment was struck by lightning last May, which took out part of my hard drive – a lesson in backing up your documents to the cloud, certainly. I do know that my journals – most of which are published on my blog – have given me a chance to go deeper into this practice, to own it, and to come into my ownership of it.

This discipline has become a part of my practice of sovereignty, and through it I express myself in the world. I stand at the precipice, having finished the coursework, but not yet applied for ordination, and I find myself returning to the words of Emily Dickinson – this has been a great adventure, one that has been hard, at times exhausting, but always rewarding. It is with much anticipation that I step forward into the sequel, and get to see what lies beyond.

VSLM

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Three Cranes Grove is hosting an Earth-Along to honor Earth Day this year. It’s three days of individual practice that we all do “together” (in our separate ways) to honor the Earth Mother.

Earth Along - Day 1

You can find a full liturgy of offering to the Earth Mother at the Three Cranes Blog today as well.

I was planning on doing some garden work, and some meditation with my plants, as I tend my bit of earth and remember that I am the Druid of this Place… except that it just started pouring, and I am absolutely slammed at work. Perhaps tonight’s walk can be specifically dedicated to the Earth Mother (assuming it is not still pouring rain), and I’ll say hello to the trees I’ve planted in our neighborhood over the last few years. (My neighborhood does a tree planting day in February every year, to replace trees in the common area who have died or been damaged.)

I encourage you to find your feet on the Earth sometime today if you can do nothing else.

Hail to you, Hertha, Mother Earth
We ask that you support and surround us
For this rite, as you do for all rites,
For this day, as you do for all days.

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I think it’s about time I repost and update my daily practice, since it’s been a few years since I’ve talked about it, and it has evolved a bit. First, though, my altar has some new items that I want to show off!

Altar - April 2016

This is just the working surface (which you can tell is used, by the amount of ash that I continually fight to keep cleaned up). I have a shelf full of deity and spirit icons/tokens above the tree, but it’s hard to get a picture of both that looks good.

The new items are the incense burner on the left, and the oil lamp in the middle.

Both are made by blacksmith David Cohen, at Dark Moon Forge in Austin. I’m lucky enough to know David in person, having met him at the Texas Imbolc Retreat the last two years, and he is a wonderful artisan. I purchased the incense burner from him last year, and then a few weeks ago he was posting on Facebook about the new oil lamps he was making to gauge interest. Typically he doesn’t do mail-order items, preferring to sell his wares in person in the Austin area, but I asked very nicely, and he mailed me my new lamp.

I had to wait a few days to get the lamp oil in (I’m using Firefly Clean Lamp Oil, since it’s odorless and smokeless), which was agonizing, but I’m SO happy with how it looks. I’ve tried various configurations of candles for the fire representation on my altar over the years, and never found anything I truly loved. I also had problems with candles getting weird and needing to be replaced because they were only lit for 5-10 minutes at a time. This lamp will burn for any amount of time, and I just love the leaf handle (which does allow me to carry it around, but since it’s an open container of lamp oil, I’ll have to be super careful with anything like that). I still love and burn lots of candles, but for my altar, I see myself using this oil lamp for a good long time.

Regardless, if you happen to be in the Austin, TX area, I can’t recommend Dark Moon Forge highly enough.

As for my daily practice, I first posted about it in June of 2014 as I was working on my first pass at the Liturgy Practicum class, before I had started on the Clergy Training Program. I typically do this practice at my mid-morning “coffee” break (I don’t drink coffee, but I like to get up around 10:30 or 11 and stretch a bit.)

Not a lot has changed, but I have added to it slightly, and I still feel like it’s not quite finished.

(Three breaths to center self)

Hail to you, Hertha, Earth Mother – may I always be supported as I walk in your ways.

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The flame lights the way! (Light lamp)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The well flows within! (Fill/touch well)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The tree spans the world! (Bless tree)

Let us pray with a good fire! (Light incense)

Eostre, Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, hold fast these gates that I may speak into the worlds.

I make offering to the gods.
May their power be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

I make offering to the ancestors.
May their wisdom be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

I make offering to the nature spirits.
May their blessing be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

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.

Mighty, Noble, and Shining Ones, thank you for your blessings and your presence.
Eostre, Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, thank you for keeping fast the ways.
Hertha, Earth Mother – thank you for upholding me always.

(Three breaths to center self)
(Extinguish lamp)

I always think it needs a daily rune draw, but I haven’t managed to figure out a good way to do that. If I leave my runes on my altar, I forget about them when I need them for ritual or study group meetings, and though I have a journal specifically for readings, I never seem to remember to write down what I drew. (I have a working memory like a rusty sieve these days.)

I also feel like I should make some kind of offering to the deities I’m working with by name (Ing Frea, Hela, Frige), as well as to my ancestors and house spirits, but I also don’t want to have a 15 minute practice. I’ll never remember to do the whole thing if it’s going to take more than just a few minutes. Perhaps I need to have a weekly practice to make specific offerings. Or maybe I need an evening practice to do?

I’ve talked to other ADFers, and they seem to have more “built in” practices – an offering to the ancestors with breakfast coffee, and the like. I have trouble starting anything like that due to just sheer forgetfulness, but with all the beings I’d like to be building *ghosti with, maybe I need to just send myself a bunch of reminders!

Anyway, this is obviously a work in progress – I try to balance as much oomph as I can get into a small bit of time, knowing that I’m most likely to actually do the offerings that way, and so far it works nicely.

Any thoughts you might have on polishing this into something a little more “complete” feeling would be really nice!

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5.    Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The Earth Mother is probably the most obviously Neopagan part of the ADF liturgy, but She is an extremely significant part of Druidic culture and worship. While there are people who see Her as a thought-form, a goddess, an ecological organism, a local body of water, and an archetype (or some combination of the above) (Newburg), She typically takes the first and last offerings in ADF’s liturgy and is given the respect of the eternal All Mother from whom we all emerge and to whom we all return. This is not to say that there is no historical present for an Earth Mother figure (and, in fact, Tacitus calls Nerthus the Earth Mother to the Germans, and Gaia can serve in the role of Earth Mother to the Greeks), but that her role and primacy in ADF ritual is more reminiscent of modern than ancient worship. This element of our rituals helps ground the ecological and naturalistic currents in ADF’s population, and the presence of the Earth Mother places ADF squarely among the other Neopagan traditions with Earth/Environmentalism as the center of their worship, though ADF also worships more historically based god/esses (Newburg) and often participates in more historically flavored (if not actually derived) practices.

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This weekend at the Imbolc retreat, I learned a new prayer. It’s apparently quite an old prayer. OBOD Druid John Beckett spoke it during one of our rituals as the call to Inspiration, and it spoke to me.

So here it is.

Grant, O Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
the love of the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

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Last year I pondered the relevance of Earth Day at all, and the importance of Unless. I think those thoughts are relevant again this year, though with a slightly different slant.

This year I opted to participate in Three Cranes Grove’s “Earth Along” – From Saturday to Tuesday, I did something in honor of the Earth Mother as a devotional practice in celebration of Earth Day.

And maybe that’s not the same spirit that most of America approaches Earth Day with. It’s certainly not how I’ve ever celebrated in the past. In the past, Earth day has been about hard questions but token gestures, or reading The Lorax but taking home tiny potted trees that will surely die in the quickly approaching summer heat. (It’s 85F today.) In that light, Earth Day seems futile in the face of climate change, peak oil, fracking, pollution, and all the myriad ways that humans are exploiting the planet’s supply of non-renewable resources.

If nothing else, today really is a good day to reread The Lorax – it seems increasingly relevant in our increasingly consumer oriented culture.

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows,
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows,
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows,
Is the street of the Lifted Lorax.

(Do you need a thneed?) But I digress.

Earth Day as a religious observance seemed to make sense to me this year, so I squeezed in tiny devotions all weekend (while redecorating half my house). It was a very different experience – much less about token environmentalism and much more about devotion to one of the beings I honor as part of my religious and spiritual expression. (I did not honor Nerthus, choosing instead to honor the generic Earth Mother with no name. I can’t say exactly why I did my rituals this way, but it felt right so I went with it.)

I’m also feeling called to make this a regular part of my practice. I am not sure when I will fit in an additional offering, but perhaps I can just make watering my (newly planted) front beds a devotional practice in and of itself. Not having a garden this spring means I’m feeling out of touch with my bit of earth, and that’s never a good feeling for a Druid.

I hope you find meaning in today’s celebration of the Earth, however you honor her. The prayer below is from the Earth Along, which I liked and I hope you like as well.

earth

And may your Earth day, and all your days walking on the Earth, be blessed.

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Well, I wrote up a whole post about the Earth Mother earlier this week, and scheduled it for Tuesday… and then wordpress apparently ate it. So now I’m going to try to recreate it, which will probably be substandard to the original. But anyway, you get two E posts today, thanks to WordPress not paying enough attention to my earlier post! (Grumble…)

Rev. Ian Corrigan shared a post the other day on the Three Centers of Paganism – Deity Centered, Earth Centered, and Self Centered (not in the “selfish” sense but in the “development of the self” sense). I found it to be really thought provoking in how it reflected the divisions in contemporary Neopaganism (and how those divisions often end up with people getting mad at each other. To quote Rev. Corrigan, “In ADF terms we are good at Deity Centered, hound ourselves about being Earth Centered, and are just starting to develop stuff for Self Centered.” I’d argue that the Initiate’s Path is largely a Self Centered practice, which is part of what draws me to it, but I like that it takes place within ADF’s greater context, which strives to make a place for all three centers of thought.

ADF ritual is, primarily, about sacrifice to the Three Kindreds, but each ritual takes a space at the beginning and end to honor and thank the Earth Mother. In a way, she transcends the Kindreds – she is more than just a Goddess (though many approach her as such) and she is certainly more than just a Nature Spirit (she is, perhaps THE Nature Spirit?).

I usually approach the Earth Mother as Nerthus, the Vedic Earth goddess of the early germanic peoples. She isn’t a happy flowers and rainbows kind of goddess – she is intimidating, a goddess of community peace and sovereignty, and her historical practices reinforce the kind of devotion that her people had for her. From Tacitus:

By contrast, the Langobardi are distinguished by being few in number. Surrounded by many might peoples they have protected themselves not by submissiveness but by battle and boldness. Next to them come the Ruedigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, Suarines, and Huitones, protected by river and forests. There is nothing especially noteworthy about these states individually, but they are distinguished by a common worship of Nerthus, that is, Mother Earth, and believes that she intervenes in human affairs and rides through their peoples. There is a sacred grove on an island in the Ocean, in which there is a consecrated chariot, draped with cloth, where the priest alone may touch. He perceives the presence of the goddess in the innermost shrine and with great reverence escorts her in her chariot, which is drawn by female cattle. There are days of rejoicing then and the countryside celebrates the festival, wherever she designs to visit and to accept hospitality. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms, all objects of iron are locked away, then and only then do they experience peace and quiet, only then do they prize them, until the goddess has had her fill of human society and the priest brings her back to her temple. Afterwards the chariot, the cloth, and, if one may believe it, the deity herself are washed in a hidden lake. The slaves who perform this office are immediately swallowed up in the same lake. Hence arises dread of the mysterious, and piety, which keeps them ignorant of what only those about to perish may see.
A R Birley Translation

When Tacitus says “swallowed up by the same lake” he likely means “ritually drowned”. The only people who could look upon the face of Nerthus were then killed. She’s more than a little bit intimidating!

The Anglo Saxons also had reverence for the Earth as “Mother”, as referenced in several charms, the most famous of which is the Aecerbot – a remedy for a fallen field. It contains both Christian and Heathen elements, but is a good suggestion that for the Anglo Saxons, the Earth Mother idea was strong enough to survive Christianization.

But I don’t just approach the Earth Mother as a goddess. I also approach her as an idea, as an inspiration for environmentalism and “right living” by the land around me. Having a good relationship with my landbase, and being a Druid of this Place – stuff I’ve talked about here before. It’s all important. It’s also hard. It prompts hard questions like “Should I be trying to find a new job (that might not be as good as my current job) so that I drive less and burn less gasoline every week?” and “Is it more important to have a garden or to have sanity and downtime?” and “I want to have an organic lawn, which means it will have weeds – what do I do if I get a letter from the homeowner’s association about the weeds in my yard?” or even “Eating lots of animal protein isn’t the most sustainable way to live, but I lift heavy weights regularly and my body needs lots of protein to recover from my workouts adequately.” Being in communion with your landbase often means tackling hard questions about your energy use, the sustainability of the way you eat, and many other things.

Who is the Earth Mother then? To me she is something bigger and more critical than “just” a Goddess – I relate to her AS a Goddess, but I also relate to her as the Earth itself.

Hail, Earth, mother of all;
Be abundant in (the) Gods’ embrace,
Filled with food for our folk’s need.

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