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Posts Tagged ‘gods’

I am, by and large, an Indo-European pagan. I work with Gods from a number of cultures (Manannan, Hela, Ing Frea, Thunor, Heimdall/Hama, Hecate), but I’ve rarely (even before ADF) ventured outside this language/culture group. However, there’s a day of mourning called for today that I think I’ll be participating in.

From The Wild Hunt:

In another part of the world, ancient statues, relics and other historic sites are being pillaged and destroyed by ISIL. The destruction of these treasured artifacts has upset many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens. One California Pagan, Jack Prewett has called for a Global Day of Mourning on April 18. Prewett calls the destruction a “tragedy for humankind” and says,“Let us mourn the loss of our history, our heritage. Cry for those that will come after us and know that once we had our history in our hands and let it slip through our fingers.” Why did Prewett choose April 18?  That is the U.N.’s World Heritage Day.
ADF Priest Michael J Dangler has also called for devotions – in this case, the making of art objects – in honor of the desecrated sites.
And Galina Krasskova has put forth a post about devotions in honor of the many Gods of the many Peoples who inhabit the lands that are currently under siege.
So if you have a little time today, remember this tragedy, and remember the Gods and Goddesses of those lands. I intend to make offerings in their names tonight, and hope that maybe my small voice can be joined with the voices of others. After all, I can’t fight this on the ground, and I certainly can’t fight it in person, but I can pray, and make offerings, and give honor to the Gods of those peoples, in hopes that They can help evict those who are committing atrocities across their lands.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious about it (and by no means should you feel confined to make offerings and devotions only today, on World Heritage Day), a library or museum would be an especially powerful place to do so. It is history and art that are being destroyed, and it is from our centers of history and art that we can reach out and (hopefully) do a little nudging of the cosmic forces in the direction of preservation and the end of this reign of destruction.

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A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures.” (600 words min.)

I came to Druidry after almost two years of pre-initiation study with a Gardnerian Wicca coven that turned out to be incompatible with my mental health issues. I was very upset with the loss of my coven and found I couldn’t practice Wicca on my own in a way that I found satisfying, so I needed something to challenge me spiritually in a way that would be different from what I had been doing before (since that was no longer something that was going to be an option). After a few months of reading everything I could get my hands on about ADF, I joined and started the Dedicant Path immediately, with the idea that I would have the best chance of really giving this new mode of operation a try if I worked on their introductory study program. I didn’t make an “official” first oath, but I promised myself that I would finish the Dedicant Path within a year of starting it, and that I would use that time of spiritual searching to decide if this had the potential to be a lifelong path for me.

I also went in hoping to have a Grove to learn from and with, but that hasn’t worked out well for me. My efforts to get in contact with the local protogrove have not been productive, and their only meetings take place at a private home (and I am uncomfortable having my first meeting with people I’m intending to do ritual with taking place in a stranger’s house). Their hearth culture is also very different from mine (at least as I am currently practicing), so I have contented myself with finding my Druid community online, especially with the support of my Regional Druid and the ADF mailing lists. It is curious that I did so poorly practicing as a solitary Wiccan, but have settled into practice as a solitary Druid. I think it is the community online and the structure of the Dedicant Path that has helped me stay on track. Having something that I am pursuing as an academic and spiritual study has done a lot of good, and is encouraging me to continue my studies in ADF.

I started this path fairly certain that I was going to practice in a Celtic hearth of some kind, but after only one High Day, started looking elsewhere – the mythology just wasn’t clicking with what I felt I should be doing. I have since done several Gaulish rituals that went very well, but settled into a Norse hearth culture, with a newly developing transition into a more Anglo-Saxon based style. This was a totally new mythology for me – I am not even a reader of comics, so I didn’t have comic books or movie mythologies to contend with. My first experience was through a good friend who is a practicing Vanatruar. He was telling me of his relationship with Freyr and Freyja (particularly Freyja) and I decided to give the Norse hearth a try just to see how it felt.

I had some serious trepidation about the change, because there are some really unsavory things that are promoted in the name of Norse Mythology, but I figured going through the ADF side of things would protect me from a lot of that backlash. I read my Hearth Culture book, HR Ellis Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, and set about learning about the Norse Gods and their culture. As time went on, though I did make an initial contact with Odin, I found myself drawn very strongly to Freyr, and I had a personal encounter with him in a meditation that put me on the path to working with him in a way that I hope will become one of patronage. While I haven’t had any really close experiences with Him regularly, I feel that relationship will deepen with time and practice.

I have my altar set up in an ADF style (with a few nods to my Norse hearth yet, since I haven’t found any statues that I like) and I light incense and meditate there regularly. I utilize the ADF methodology of Threes as an integral part of my worship – Three Worlds, Three Hallows, Three Realms, Three Kindreds, and though the Norse Mythology claims nine worlds, I connect them all with the World Tree (with the Underworlds Below and the Upperworlds Above), so I don’t see much of a disconnect. I find the Three Kindreds belief system works particularly well for the Norse, since they strongly believed in Ancestor worship, in a proliferation of land and nature spirits in the world around them, and in a full pantheon of Gods with different functions.

Recently, I’ve found myself being drawn toward the Anglo-Saxon strain of Germanic paganism, though I have other aspects of my practice that fit into more of a pan-Germanic worldview. I am cultivating a relationship with Njord and Nerthus, who are not talked about in the Anglo-Saxon sources I’ve seen so far, and I have a strong relationship with my Disir/Matronae/Ancient Mothers, whose cult spanned most of Germanic Europe at various times. I think this will remain something that is somewhat fluid about my practice, since there is a lot of overlap between these cultures, and that doesn’t really bother me. What draws me to the Anglo-Saxon hearth is the similarities to things I understand (being an English speaker) and that it is the culture of my ancestors, some of whom date back to pre-Norman Britain. I will be trying, as I move forward, to add more Anglo-Saxon flavor to my rituals, hopefully through writing more ritual material for my own use.

Overall my transition into the Norse hearth was both immediate (ritually) and slow (personally) – it’s taken me awhile to get to know this new group of deities and their surrounding customs. I work primarily with the Vanic deities, specifically Freyr (or Ing-Frey), and I would like to have a better relationship going forward with His sister and father (and possibly mother – Nerthus is a goddess that I find extremely intriguing, and my research about her has only increased that intrigue). I like that she is a sort of “Earth Mother”, and that she can fill that function in ADF ritual, while still remaining a separate functioning Deity in her own right. Some recent articles I’ve read have put her name as a linguistic cognate to Jord (the other “Earth Mother” of the Norse), and I am fascinated by her role in the hierarchy of Deities, as well as her domains of holiness and peacemaking.

I have kept to my informal first oath, writing this penultimate essay of the Dedicant Path before I have completed the final High Day of my year of observations, and I am very proud to have stuck to it. In a way, it was a promise I made to myself, to give myself this time of searching and exploration of something different. In some ways I feel like I haven’t learned much at all, but then I am reminded of just how far I’ve come in a year, and how many new paths are open to me now.

I don’t know for sure if ADF will be my path forever, but I am finding myself increasingly comfortable here. There is a great deal of tolerance for variation, an emphasis on scholarship (but also an emphasis on practice, when scholarship falls short), and I am drawn to the practice of ADF style rituals. I think the poetry of those rituals makes them work well – even if they seemed very strange to me at first, coming from a traditional Wiccan worldview. While I have not always fully embraced the views that get presented as “ADF’s”, I like that if you ask three Druids a question, you should expect six answers. The balance of scholarship and personal practice/personal gnosis is one that I think I can find myself at home in as I continue this path. I am drawn towards the Initiates Path at this point, though I do not know if I will start on that coursework immediately. I crave a deep, meaningful spirituality, as well as meaningful community and spiritual interactions with other people – something that can be hard to get as a solitary. I hope through ADF’s embrace of technology, through my ability to volunteer to help in the organization, through learning more and mentoring other new Druids on the Dedicant Path, and through furthering my own spiritual practice, I can find my own place here in this corner of Neopaganism.

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One essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to each of the Three Kindred: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)

ADF splits many of its observances into threes, a number that seems to have been fairly sacred to the Indo-Europeans. There are the three worlds – the underword, the middleworld, and the upperworld – the three realms of land, sky, and sea, the three hallows of fire, well, and tree, and the three Kindred, sacred to our worship, the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Gods and Goddesses of old.

The Ancestors, sometimes called The Mighty Dead or the Mighty Ones, are associated with the underworld, with the sea, and with the realm of the well. They are sacred to burial mounds and crossroads, as well as to the sea.

To the Norse, the ancestors were a vital part of their culture, and ritually remembering them was a vital part of their family religious structure. The dead could influence the living, and bring good luck or bad, depending on whether their rituals were followed correctly. This included sacrifices of objects, food, and drink, as well as the ritual of “outsitting”, whereby one brought offerings to an ancestor’s burial mound, made the offerings, and then sat all night in meditation to commune with them and receive messages from them (this was especially common for mothers and grandmothers). These ancestors were usually buried nearby where the family would live, and were considered to protect and help ensure the survival of the family.

I generally divide my “Ancestors” group into three types:

  • Ancestors of Blood – These are my direct relatives, and those relatives that I inherited through marriage. They are my grandmothers and great grandmothers, the people to whom I am related by blood, as well as my grandmothers-in-law. I consider my inlaws to be part of my family, and so I place them here. I keep a special place in my home (the mantle of our fireplace) for pictures of my and my husband’s grandmothers who have passed away as part of my relationship to my Ancestors of Blood. I also make sure to keep up with the genealogical research that has happened on both sides of my family tree (and my married-into-family-tree), and keep that in a special place in our home.
  • Ancestors of Heart – These are the people to whom I have been close in this life, who have left their mark on me as a person, but who have passed on to the otherworld. They include teachers and mentors, and most especially my two martial arts teachers – a Shotokan Karate Sensei and my Tai Chi Sufi. Those two men did a great deal to shape who I am and how I think, and I am sad to have lost them. My relationship to them was very close, and though I am related to neither of them, I consider them as part of my Ancestors of Heart. I keep them alive by telling their stories, and by passing on their wisdom to those around me.
  • Ancestors of Hearth – These are the people who shared my faith (or something like it) in an earlier time in the world. They are likely Anglo-Saxon in descent (though some of them are Scottish), and I include my husband’s German and Danish ancestors in this group as well. This is the group of Ancestors I relate to the least at this point, because I am not sure what they would think of my modern practice, but I am trying to reach out to them.

Special among my ancestors are my Disir, my ancestral mothers, an idea I gained through my studies of the Norse. The cult of the Matronae was common throughout Western Europe, and I see no reason why it should stop there. While I call upon my Ancestors of Hearth as part of this group, I also have a special group of women called my Prairie Godmothers (who are like Faerie Godmothers only they carry wooden spoons and are very concerned with the running of households and the strength of their families) – from both my family and my husband’s family. These are the women who came to the United States and scratched out a living here, making a new life for their families. Though they were all Christian, I take great strength and inspiration from them, and I try to remember them as I build my hearth and home – even though I am a modern woman with a 40 hour a week job outside the house.

Beyond the various things mentioned above, I have a small hearth shrine in my home, set up on my stove (the place where I do all the cooking – I have a fireplace, but it is not used most of the year. I use my stove daily). I light candles there in honor of my Disir – both the ancestors of my blood, my Prairie Godmothers, and those who walked this path before me. I try to make sure the kitchen is clean before I light those candles, out of respect for them. My hearth should be in good order before I ask for their blessings.

My usual offering to the Mighty Dead is to share with them a portion of my own cup, marking it as a sacrifice – this is a drink that I purchase specifically for the occasion, and I choose to share it with them. However, they also like brownies. (And who doesn’t?!)

The second of the three Kindred are the Nature Spirits, sometimes called the Noble Ones, the Land Wights, the Land Spirits, and the Sidhe, as well as the Spirits of Place. They are associated with the middle world, the land, and (to some extent) the tree – though the tree usually has other functions in ritual, the Nature Spirits seem to fit best there, and trees are among the Nature Spirits. (Also, to the Norse, the World Tree is inhabited by several nature spirits, my favorite being Ratatosk, the squirrel). This is a fairly broad group of beings, from the elves, wights, and trolls who inhabit particular places and objects (and homes) to the larger Nature Spirits, like the spirit of Stag, or Owl, or Rabbit, as well as the smaller spirits we see around us, and the spirits of the trees themselves.

To the Norse, the world was one full of spirits, from Giants (Ettins and Jotnar) to trolls (who could be good or bad) to elves and dwarves, who each inhabited a certain type of place and required a certain level of decorum in dealing with them. Unlike the Sidhe of the Celtic lands, it was considered very bad form not to accept food or gifts from these beings, as frequently they would turn out to be of great benefit (and refusing them would usually peeve the offering spirit, which was something to be avoided at great cost). Even today in parts of Iceland, a road will be moved to go around a rock that is known to be inhabited by Elves, or extra time given to allow the Elves to find a new home before the rock is moved to allow for road construction. These naturekin frequently like small, shiny objects and offerings of milk and honey, or a portion of meals as an offering. One of the most productive books I read on this subject has been Kvedulf Gundarson’s Elves, Wights, and Trolls, which offered deep insight into the various Norse distinctions between these spirits and how to live productively among them.

My personal relationships with the Nature Spirits run more along their natural embodiments as animal spirits, especially Owl, Rabbit, and Toad – creatures I have had a fascination with since I was a very small child. I find that these animals often act as guides for me when I am working in trance states, and I frequently find that I can get wisdom from them, just based on their behavior and mannerisms. I also like to leave offerings for my local house spirits and the spirits of the land on which I live (They especially seem to like homemade chili, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. I do live in chili pepper country.) These relationships aren’t particularly deep or meaningful, but I find it important to honor those spirits who live here on this land with me, even if I don’t work with them directly.

In ritual, I tend to call the Nature Spirits as their fur and feather natures, instead of calling on tree wights or river wights, though I lump all of those under the distinctions of the Nature Spirits. These are the Noble spirits with whom we share this middle world, and their presence can add good energy to ritual observances. Also, they have the ability to affect the world in ways that we do not, being beings of different substance and gifts, and so I find it appropriate to honor them and make offerings to them. My usual offering to the Nature Spirits is the same as that to the Ancestors – a portion of my own cup, something I have purchased specifically for the purpose of sharing it as a sacrifice. They have also received both grain and honey as a sacrifice, but that was quite a challenging sacrifice to make, since I don’t have a fire to pour the honey into, and pouring it into the communal offerings bowl made a very sticky mess. As a solitary, having to clean a whole pile of sticky offering bowls was a bit off-putting, so I’ve stuck with more easily pourable sacrifices most of the time.

Third among the Kindreds (in this list, though certainly I would rank them all as having equal importance) are the Gods and Goddesses, who have perhaps the longest list of names: The Shining Ones, First Children of the Mother, The Gods of this Place, The Great Ones, The Elder Ones, Eldest and Wisest. They offer us a clear connection to the creation of the world, though they are not usually the same generation as those who created it. Most of our Gods and Goddesses are their children, but they are the First Children of the Mother Earth, whose body was formed out of one of their forbears.

They are associated with the upper world, with the sky, and with the hallows of the fire, to which offerings to them are most often burned. The Deities of our chosen hearth (or of our chosen preference, if we don’t follow a hearth) provide a lot of the backbone for the structures of ADF, especially as it follows the Wheel of the Year. While some festivals might be just as easily associated with Nature Spirits (Spring Equinox) or the Mighty Dead (Samhain), we usually attach associated Dieties of the occasion to that worship, and a lot of our thought and energy goes towards building relationships with those Deities that we chose or are chosen by.

Whether I think of the Deities as beings to be worshiped or not (which is something I go back and forth about, as the word worship for me comes with a lot of emotional baggage), certainly the words honor and love come into play. We honor these great beings, because of all the Kindreds, they have the greatest power at their disposal. Each of the Gods will have a domain where he or she is best found, Njord by the ocean, Freyr in a garden or in a plot of farmland, but they are not bound to those domains, or even bound to the domains usually associated with them. While Freyr may be a god of fertility and frith and peacemaking, there is no reason he could not also act as a protector. The Gods may have limits, but those limits are much fewer and lighter than our own as humans. While we interact daily with the Nature Spirits, and owe our very existence to our Ancestors, the Gods hold a special place in life as protectors and nurturers and challengers of what we can accomplish as humans.

It is with the Gods that I find I hold the greatest *ghosti relationship. With the Ancestors, they already have a vested interest in me. The Nature Spirits are more indifferent, but some are inclined to be friendly (and even helpful towards) humans. But with the Gods I feel that the *ghosti relationship is truly the sacred one – I offer so that they in turn may offer. There is some evidence that the Norse believed their primary relationships were with the Ancestors and Nature Spirits, only calling on the Gods for big things, but I find that I prefer to have a closer relationship to the Gods than that. Still, I find that my relationship with the Gods is most defined in formal ritual, as opposed to casual offerings or remembrances, like I do with the other Kindreds most of the time. I encounter them primarily in ritual, and I try to make that count. I also try always to make their offering directly from my own cup, because I want it to be something special that is “mine” that I am specifically offering to them as a shared offering.

I am attempting to cultivate a more personal, daily relationship to specific Gods, notably Ing-Frey, through my morning devotions and my meditation times. I would like that relationship to transcend the boundaries of a ritual setting and embark more on a patron relationship. Beyond that, I typically work with and work for the Norse Gods, though I am trying to transition to a more Anglo-Saxon hearth (which is hard, because one of the Gods I’d like to get to know is Njord, but I may just have to cross-hearth for that one).

I try to make sure that I am giving small offerings, fairly regularly, to the Gods just for the sake of giving offerings, usually of incense or of food. I think it’s important to keep up the communication, and I frequently meditate during these offerings of incense. I try to not make every encounter with the Gods (or any of the Kindreds) simply about asking for things, though I am not afraid to ask for things if the situation warrants it.

Combined, these three Kindred provide a complete spiritual picture of the types of spirits that an ADF druid can expect to work with through ADF style rites. While far from an exhaustive list of ALL the types of spirits that might be out there, the three Kindreds provide a solid grounding in Indo-European beliefs about how the world was ordered, and how they should interact with it. By basing my own practice around these three types of spirits (even if I don’t always do so in a truly Norse-derived way), I know I’m plugging into a spiritual current that is growing and developing around the world as ADF grows and creates its own spiritual egregore. As well, I know that I am honoring the primary divisions of the spirit world that my spiritual ancestors would have seen and believed in.

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Meditations are slowly creeping along this week. Beyond the meditation I did in my Beltane/Maitag ritual, I did a few other sitting meditations, but I ended up cutting most of them short, either due to frustration or anxiety. This is probably the opposite of how I should respond (instead I should sit and meditate longer) but there are days when it’s just … ugh. So I give myself credit for making the effort this week, and we’ll move on from there.

I’ve had what I can only call an agnostic sort of week, spiritually. It’s not that I doubt my own experiences (which I always have done, and will probably always do), it’s more than I’m doubting what my motivations are for even seeking out the Gods in the first place. I do my devotions and I did my Beltane ritual, and that all is going well enough. But I just keep getting this nagging feeling that none of it really makes any actual difference regardless. That if something bad happens, nothing – not my relationship with the Gods, not my prayers, not my working to change it – will fix it. It’s half “why am I bothering” and half “do They even care anyway.”

This is probably a symptom of some of the bigger mental health issues I’ve had recently, but it’s made it hard to stay motivated about the DP. I have another virtue essay finished, so that’s a good step, but my next essays are to start working on the Three Kindreds and Personal Religion requirements, and I’m just finding that I don’t have any gas in the tank to tackle them right now.

I am hoping that I can do some focused visualization to reconnect with the experiential side of Druidry and see if that helps out some.

For anyone out there with a better experience of spiritual guidance, I’m open to suggestions. I know Rev. MJD says that belief follows action, so I’m still doing the actions. I’m just a bit discouraged about it all I guess.

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This has been one of those weeks where meditation has felt like I just can’t settle in, so I’ve tried not to force it too much. I’ve done lots of mind-quieting meditations for just a few minutes, and I’ve kept up my daily devotions that I do over my morning cup of tea, but this week has just been too hard to really focus. So I did my meditations by the seat of my pants, and tried not to worry about it too much. Distractions happen, and things will settle back down soon (I hope).

There are several parts of my life that are unraveling at the edges right now, so I’m feeling a bit frantic, and I have several friends and family members who are in need of a lot of support right now.

I’ve actually wished for a sort of Druid prayer or healing or magic circle, where we can go to pray and do magic for each other as we need support. I am feeling like I can’t do all the things that I feel like I need to do right now, without taking a day off work and doing nothing but ritual and magic for a day (and I can’t do that, especially not since I’m already missing a day of work this week for jury duty). Maybe there’s a ritual and healing circle that I can be a part of.  Here’s me looking to be part of some kind of a community again. This is a common thread for me.

Maybe I just need more butt-on-floor time at my altar, and to just let things go.

And maybe I’m just learning the lesson (again) that I can’t do anything to help when bad things happen to people. It’s just very hard to sit by and watch and not be able to help out as friends and family go through hard times.

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I am reminded, having read several things this week, that there is no litmus test for Paganism. We are, by nature, an eclectic and assorted bunch, with various tastes, skills, and goals. But those various tastes, skills, and goals do not make us more or less valid Pagans than anyone else.

This comes up especially in response to something I read over at Druid’s Cosmos, where I left what was probably a comment that should just have been a response post. She was feeling discouraged because she felt left out, or “less than” because of all the people around her (online) who were talking about direct contact with, or visions of, the Gods.

There are lots of people on the internet – on blogs, forums, and mailing lists – who like to talk about their mystical experiences. This is pretty natural. For one thing, when you’re first encountering something new and exciting (much like when you’re in the first, budding, exciting stages of a relationship) you want to talk about it all the time! You want to share how wonderful it is! Also, mystical experiences of the Kindreds can be a little scary, and it’s just as natural to want some reassurance from others that they know where you are and can relate to what you’re going through.  It becomes self-perpetuating as well, as everyone struggles to talk about THEIR mystical experiences, and the impression given is that everyone has these deep and powerful religious experiences (and frequently!) and that somehow you’re not “in” the group if you’re not having them.

This creates something of a selection bias that I’ve found myself falling prey to. I too grow quiet in those conversations. I’ve only recently had what might be termed a mystical encounter, and it’s not something that’s happened regularly or even sporadically since then. I get vague creeping-on-the-back-of-my-neck feelings that it’s still there, but nothing worth being excited about. Before that, in all my working within different parts of Paganism, I’d never had a *direct* contact with the spirit world before. Sure I’d had experiences that were powerful, that told me I was doing what was the right thing – but nobody had ever talked in my ear before.

And if I’m honest? I felt a little left out by that, especially once I joined the ADF community.

ADF specifically trains people towards mystical experiences in the Dedicant Path, even going so far as to encourage (though no longer require) development of a patron relationship to complete the DP. This, combined with our natural proclivity to talk about things that are happening to us (especially things that we think are special) – and to keep silent in discussions where we don’t have anything to add – gives the impression that *everyone* in ADF has all these amazing mystical experiences all the time (since someone is regularly talking about it on the lists) and that part of being a Druid is having a deeply personal, deeply mystical relationship with the Kindreds.

I think that impression is wrong.

Not that many Druids and Pagans don’t have those relationships – they obviously do, and those relationships are obviously fulfilling and meaningful. But many OTHER Druids and Pagans (equally as many, I’d guess, if not more) are there because the act of devotion is what centers and grounds their practice. They are there to honor the Gods, to follow the Old Ways, to worship the Kindreds, and to find spiritual fulfillment through those acts.

The internet is a tiny microcosm of Paganism, if Margot Adler’s numbers of modern Pagans are to be believed. Most of those Pagans are not writing blogs or posting to email lists, they’re quietly going about their business, being Pagans in their daily life. Maybe they’re Secret Agent Druids who work in offices (like me), or teachers or doctors or engineers or scientists or fire fighters or whatever it is that anyone else might do.

Those people – the quiet, every day, ground-and-center, worship on their landbase, remember the High Day Pagans – they are just as much Pagan as the devoted spirit workers, the god-touched, and the deeply mystical. They are no more or less than what their actions speak of them as being. They’ve been called to different work.

Paganism, and especially Druidry, is a Religion of Doing (orthopraxy).

We don’t much care whether you think of the Earth Mother as the land on which you stand, some great Goddess of tradition (like Jord or Nerthus or Gaia), the Great Biosphere Herself (Gaia Hypothesis), or some shifting combination of all three. When you do an ADF style ritual, you honor the Earth Mother. If you are honoring the Earth Mother (however you think of Her, and whether or not you have a personal, first-name relationship with Her or not) you are on your way to practicing Druidry.

In short, are you doing the stuff? If yes, all the rest is just you figuring things out on your own.

All the mystical experiences in the world might mean things to you personally and give you great comfort, but they are not Doing the Stuff. Because I don’t think my experience is so far out of line with others. I think sometimes you have deep and powerful rituals, and sometimes you have mediocre ones, distracted by the lawn mower next door. Sometimes you have rushed rituals, and sometimes you don’t get to do your morning devotions until noon because your spouse had car trouble and your kid threw up on the bus, and life happened.

Sure, some of those reporting constant mystical connection probably have it, but for the rest of us, Paganism has to be part of our lives – alongside all the other parts of our lives.

You’re not less of a Pagan (or Druid) because you can’t directly hear the Gods. You’re not more of a Pagan (or Druid) because you can. We all have different gifts, different callings, and different skill sets. Some people take naturally to divination, others do not. Some take easily to high liturgies and poetry, others like to work off the cuff. Some people worship an entire pantheon, others work with one or two specific Gods exclusively. Some people can organize and run a ritual or a festival, others simply don’t have the mental tools to do that. Some people have the mental connection that allows them to “hear” and “see” the Kindreds, others do not. We’re all Pagans (and Druids) together.

Can you learn to have those skills? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Is it important to learn what skills you DO have, and to work on developing those? Probably.

But don’t mistake “having a certain skill set” or even “having a certain relationship with the Gods” with “being a better (or more legitimate) Pagan.” It can seem glamorous or special to have that kind of deep relationship that allows you to truly hear the Gods – and it IS something special, and something that I’m working on developing for myself. But it’s not required.

There is no litmus test for Paganism.

Do the Stuff.

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>> In which the Druid in the Swamp reveals that she is, in fact, a complete barking moonbat. Enjoy. <<

Breathe in, Breathe out.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

I am breathing in a long, slow in-breath. I am breathing out a smooth, calm out-breath.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

You’re still thinking about breathing.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

Find the stillness. Think about trees. Remember the mental grove? Big tree. Oak tree, loooooong limbs that stretch out all around, breathe into the limbs, breathe into your toes and grow roots, breathe in, breathe out. Be inside the tree, reach out to the water and the sky, breathe in, breathe out.

Still thinking.

Breathe in, breathe out.

That’s better.

Stop thinking about better. Just breathe, dammit.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Hi.

!

Uh.  Hi? Hi! What am I supposed to say now? Who are you?

You know who I am.

Really? Ok, well I figured I was still guessing. I’ll guess that’s right for now, or at least stick with it.

… now what am I supposed to say? Oh great… thing… god? You ARE a god, right?

<laughter>

So I’m supposed to be talking to you. I guess this is like praying, right? I introduce myself and say hi and then tell you all about… what? My desk job? How boring am I, really. I’m glad you liked the cedar incense though. Do you like the pine as well?

<pause>

I like the pine AND the cedar. Maybe I’ll burn both together?

<pause>

Ok, mental note to buy more cedar incense. Um. Now what do I say? Do you… uh… do you like tea?

<laughter> Yes, I like tea. And honey and mead, but you knew that already.

I did? Oh. I guess I did, yeah. Ok, so honey with your tea. What about cider?

<pause> Mead is better.

Ok, Mead. Though you won’t mind if I drink the cider myself right? And maybe share some?

Of course that is fine.

If I can find some, I’ll bring you some raspberry mead. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s amazing. I guess I get to learn about meads now, too. Hey I have tea every morning, maybe I can … um … say something when I drink it? If you don’t hate my office building? Which would be OK, I kind of hate my office building.

<laughter> Just good morning is a start.

I can do that.

>>To be continued (maybe) <<

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