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Posts Tagged ‘eostre’

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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The Pagan Grove has a great post up about Eostre the Goddess for last week’s “E” post. I don’t know that I can do half as good a job as she has done with the subject, so you should definitely go read her post! An excerpt about Esotre herself:

Eostre is a rather elusive deity.  In the lore, She is attested to only by the Venerable Bede in De Temporum Ratione, where he talks about the Anglo-Saxon month of Ēostermōnaþ; claiming it is named for the Goddess Eostre who was honored that month.  Normally, if all the evidence we had for a deity was one post-conversion scholar, I would probably dismiss it.  But the curious thing about Eostre is, though Her existence is not attested to by other authors or place-names, She is rather easy to trace through the etymology of Her name.

According to Ceisiwr Serith, an expert on Proto-Indo-European religious reconstruction based on linguistics, there was probably a PIE Goddess whose name was similar to Xáusōs – in fact, She’s one of the only PIE Goddesses we can pin down.  Her name, and probably Her functions, are the etymological source of many Indo-European Goddesses, such as Eos, Aurora, Saule, and our Goddess, Eostre.  This indicates that She is a Goddess related to the dawn – to the liminal time between light and dark – but it does not tell us anything specific about an association with the spring.  No other Indo-European dawn Goddesses that I could find have specific spring associations.  However, Bede tells us that the entire month (near our modern-day April) was named after Her.  Her association with the season was apparently so strong in Anglo-Saxon England that Her name supplanted the more traditional, and Christian, European name for Easter (variations of Paschal).

I connect to Eostre for the spring equinox (even though her official month is probably in April), as a goddess of spring and of the dawn. She is a liminal goddess for a liminal time – the change between dark and light, winter into summer. I ask for her blessings on my new endeavors for the year and for all the things I plant and grow (even if I plant them pretty far before April).

I have a copy of Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World that I have not yet read, but it’s getting close and closer to the top of the (ever-growing) stack. It focuses on Eostre, Hreda, and the Matrones, and so I am hoping it will be very useful in my personal practice.

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My Spring Equinox ritual was performed at 4pm on Friday, March 22, 2013, just after I had gotten home from work. This was a solitary ADF style ritual following the full CoOR. Using the published ritual template provided by the Solitary Druid Fellowship for the Equinox, I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother, Heimdall as the Gatekeeper, and Eostre, Freyr, and Honey bee as the patrons of the occasion. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, mead and poetry for the Kindreds and the Beings of the Occasion, and a handful of sweet smelling flowers for Honey Bee.

After my Imbolc ritual, which felt a bit too complicated, I went with a much simpler format – both for the ritual poetry itself and for the offerings. I had a much more solid connection to this ritual than the last one I did, and I really felt like my offerings were received well (though I think the Ancestors liked the brownie better than the mead). I gave myself a good bit of time after I got home from work to decompress before I started the ritual, and that seemed to go very well. I felt very grounded, especially at the beginning of the ritual.

All the offerings, once made into their various bowls, were spread in my gardens as part of the blessing of the coming spring. I hope the added blessings will give lots of oomph to my seedlings, and they will come up strong and stable and produce lots of veggies.

I really liked the SDF ritual format – I was able to do a little bit of improv around some of the shorter sections, where I felt I wanted to fill things out a bit, but I didn’t feel tied down to just “reading” a bunch of poetry. Also I really like the poetry I chose as offerings, some of which I modified to better fit what I wanted to say. I liked doing poetry as an additional praise offering, even if I didn’t fully write it myself, since it gave the ritual more depth. It also made the “focus” of the ritual longer, something I had wanted to do after Imbolc.

I lost focus about halfway through the ritual, but I think that was largely because my neighbor started mowing his yard right by my windows, and it distracted me. While I can’t control that in the future, hopefully as my focus grows I’ll be able to tune out lawnmowers better.

I drew runes as the omen for this ritual and got the following:

  • Kenaz: Torch, Ulcer, Cheer, Pain, Death. Kenaz can be read either as torch (from some rune poems) or ulcer (from other rune poems). As the torch it is power to create your own reality, the power of light. Open to new strength, energy, and power now; the fire of regeneration or the warmth of a hearth fire. It can also be a beacon that draws you home or illumines the dangers of your path. Kenaz provides a clear warning of danger, but danger that can be avoided. It can also be death, a sore that eats away at your insides, a battle that goes poorly. This rune’s dual meanings means it must be read in context, and often is up to a great deal of interpretation.
  • Berkano: Birch, Strength, Flexibility, Resourcefulness. This is the rune of resourcefulness and making something from nothing, and Rev. Dangler speaks of it as the rune of “female strength” (Very Basics of Runes 47). It speaks of birth and rebirth, and physical or mental growth. There is also an element of strength and pride to this rune meaning, alongside the current of fertility and creativity, that you can see in the last two lines of the rune poem. I see self-sufficiency as well, in the first lines of the poem (the tree that brings forth new trees generated from its own leaves)
  • Othila: Stationary Wealth, Ancestors, Completion. This is inherited wealth or property, the kind of wealth that is passed from generation to generation and is stable and secure. Safety, increase, and abundance, or perhaps the completion of a task in such a way that it is stable and secure. Acting from your center, with all the support of your ancestors and your heritage, and being secure in their values.

There are many possible pitfalls on this path, but if you are wary and careful, you will be given the strength and resourcefulness to overcome them, and you will end in a place of completion and wealth.

I swear I mixed the runes up really well, but these are the same runes I’ve drawn for my most recent weekly rune drawings. I can’t help but think there’s a message they’re trying to tell me, but I’m not sure I know what it is.

The question I asked was “What blessings do the Kindreds give to me?”

I’m starting to think I just have a block against interpreting runes. I know what the meanings are (obviously), but actually coming up with how they apply to anything, or make a story together is another thing altogether. Especially when I keep drawing the rune that means “either a good thing or a really bad thing, you figure it out”. I do think there is a middle way to read Kenaz, or at least there could be – it could be that there are dangers and troubles, but that Kenaz will illumine them if you are careful and watchful.

The best sentence I could come up with for this reading is basically a rehash of the rune drawing I did for Imbolc, but with different runes and a slightly more positive spin or outcome. At best, I can take away that I’m going in the right direction, but that hardships aren’t over yet.

Another possibility is that I need to spend some extra time getting in touch with my Disir (Female Ancestors), and that they can help me with this struggle. This particular way of reading could be pointing at some of my mental health problems, though I’m not sure how that specifically answers the “blessings” question.

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The spring equinox, commonly called Ostara, is the high holy day that occurs halfway between Imbolc and Beltaine, on the astrological day when day and night are equal – usually around March 21. It mirrors the autumnal equinox, but serves as the gateway into the “light” half of the year.

Commonly, Neo-Pagans celebrate this holiday as the first coming of fertility to the land, with symbols of pastel flowers, rabbits, and eggs (much like the symbols surrounding the secular and Christian celebrations of Easter, which gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, for whom both the Christian and the Pagan holidays are named). The Anglo-Saxon celebration of Eostre in April, though slightly later than our modern celebrations, is the historical basis for this holy day. Eostre is the goddess of the dawn, and her celebration in modern paganism frequently emphasizes the strengthening of the sun. In the secular calendar, March 21 is counted as the first day of spring, which lines up well with the religious celebrations at this time.

This time of year is also the beginning of the rebirth of the agrarian gods, and in the myth of the Goddess and God commonly told in eclectic Wicca, this celebration is when the young God begins his courtship of the Goddess.

Egg decorating is a common custom during this time, for pretty much everyone, and is something I look forward to each year. I’ve decorated eggs since I was a child, and I find that I don’t feel “right” about this time of year until there is a collection of brightly colored eggs in my fridge. I also enjoy decorating my house with birds, nests full of eggs, bunnies, and flowers – symbols that I leave up through Beltaine usually, and the beginning of summer. I have a special connection to rabbits (and have since my childhood), so I enjoy surrounding myself with their imagery for this season.

Also common is the eating of chocolate (and other candy), especially in egg, bean, or bunny shapes, and I will always support holidays that encourage chocolate eating.

This is also one of the few holy days that has a myth that lines up with the agricultural calendar in my area. Though many people are just seeing the first renewed signs of life, it’s not hard to imagine this time of year as one of first plantings and the first fertility of the land (especially with eggs and rabbits as such potent fertility symbols). Since this is the time of year that I plant my spring garden, it’s nice to celebrate the holiday along side celebrating having my garden in the ground. This year the first seedlings will be coming up the week of the Equinox. Planting a garden is a deeply religious experience for me and is a crucial celebration of this season of the year (even if it doesn’t happen right on the actual equinox), and I make a point of channeling the fertility that abounds in Pagan religious celebrations into the ground itself, to increase the yields and fertility of my garden.

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