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Posts Tagged ‘incense’

It struck me this morning that I’ve never talked about (or sent readers to) the craftswoman I buy a good portion of my devotional items from. She’s made a number of things throughout the years (my prayer bead addiction was not helped by the time she spent making hand-beaded things).

Right now her shop is smaller – she’s recovering from some tough financial times and crafting requires a lot of overhead/upfront costs – but I think the items she makes are absolutely worth looking at.

The order I received this morning was for handmade charcoal incense.  I purchased it in three scents:

  • Queen of Heaven: jasmine, amber, spikenard, myrrh – for Frige
  • Dweller in the Green: juniper, fir, cedar, patchouli – for Ing Frea
  • Memento Mori: galangal, myrrh, amber, black pepper – for Hela

They smell *wonderful*, are long burning, and have been (in various incarnations) part of my ritual practice for years. Beth’s original incense blends were deity specific, but the burden of keeping up with SO MANY blends eventually made that unsustainable. She has blends now that are more “function” specific.

Beth relies on her shop profits to keep her household running, and I cannot recommend her service highly enough. Her prayer beads are wonderful – the energy of them is just fantastic, and they are very well made and sturdy. Also, the tea light candles that she dresses are perfect little portable devotional items, and they smell wonderful. She does still do custom items and prayer beads as well, and I’ve been super happy with both her willingness to work on ideas for us coming up with the perfect item and with her intuition as she creates the items.

I’m always a fan of supporting pagan crafters, and I’ve been a long-term customer of Beth’s. If you see something you like in her shop, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

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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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Since this weekend is Memorial Day, many of us in the USA will be inaugurating the summer cook out and grilling season.*

As such, especially with Memorial Day being a time to remember the men and women who died in the Armed Forces, it’s a good time to do a little covert Druidry at your cookout. Once the main meal is cooked, stop by the grill with a handful of loose herbs or incense (crumbled incense sticks work too), and offer them to the fire as an offering to the Ancestors of the land and the warrior Ancestors (or any Ancestors, if you are not celebrating Memorial Day). Say a prayer thanking them for their service to their community and to their upholding their virtues. (You don’t have to be all RAH RAH PATRIOTISM to appreciate these Ancestors, but if you’re more comfortable, you can make an offering this way to ancient warrior ancestors instead, or any familial ancestors, as Memorial Day was developed out of earlier Decoration Day customs where people picnicked and decorated familial graves. )

This works best if you’re cooking over charcoal, since there will be hot coals to use. I’m not sure how you’d do it over a propane grill, but maybe just place the incense/herbs on a piece of foil on the grill over the heat?

You can make an offering to the “fire” any time you’re grilling or cooking out, especially over charcoal. I make land spirit offerings this way, just to help me remember that I can build my religious practice into my everyday life.

*Note: grilling hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and chicken is not a barbecue. It’s a cookout. Barbecue involves slow cooking and smoking meats, and is a specific food. This is an important distinction, regardless of whether you put a bottle if barbecue sauce on the table as a condiment.

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I’ve made some pretty serious updates and changes to my main altar space lately. It was getting extremely cluttered, and I wanted it to have a different feeling than it had previously. You can see my first and second altar updates at those links, respectively.

This is what it looks like now (apologies for the yellow tone – the room my altar is in is actually painted yellow, and taking pictures in there at night makes the whole place feel like it’s lit by firelight. This is quite cool! But makes for very yellow pictures!)

altar4-13a

That’s the entire altar area. I moved a lot of the meaningful but not functional items up to the shelf above the altar. Eventually I’d like to add some God/dess statues there instead of just the little owls and the green man and the acorn, but for now it works. It also got the taller candles up out of the way, and leaves my actual working space looking like this:altar4-13b

The new things on the altar are as follows:

  • A new World Tree – this one is made of a recycled oil drum, through a craft group in Haiti. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth on, but ultimately decided I liked it. Plus, since it’s wall mounted, it doesn’t take up any extra space on the actual working surface.
  • A new offering bowl – I was using a collection of small bowls, and that was just too much of a pain to work with. I bought this wooden bowl and have been much happier with it.
  • A new goblet – I still have some small bowls and a tiny pitcher for offerings, but most of the time I’m offering drink (lately mead) and so I’m pouring it out of my own cup. This was rather unimpressive when I ended up using a regular drinking glass, so I purchased this aluminum goblet. It works VERY nicely. Eventually I’d like a handmade ceramic one, but this is a good in-between.
  • A new incense burner – one that does specifically well with the type of incense I usually burn. (that’s the little silver disc on the right). I’ve been burning loose incense for actual rituals, in the little blue cauldron burner, but I burn stick incense as offerings during the week. (You can see two unburned sticks in the top picture)
  • A set of tingshas (only visible in the top picture) – I couldn’t find a bell I liked, and wanted some sort of musical signal to start my rituals. These tingshas were inexpensive and make a very bright clear sound. I’m quite happy with them (if not yet always good at striking them properly).

Overall, I think these changes have increased both the visual appeal of my altar space (it’s less cluttered) and the overall functionality of it. I still have the things that are meaningful to me, but I have a more clear working space and better flow for doing ritual.

I know an altar space is always a work in progress. I’d love to get some little Norse statues, especially of the type similar to god-posts or figurines found from the Viking age. I’d also like to get some more symbols for Freyr. I know as time goes on, this little altar will evolve, and other altars are already starting to spring up in my house. I’ve got my “hearth”, which is really just a collection of candles on my stove right now, but it serves as a place for me to keep my hearth-fire lit. And I’d like to add some sort of Ancestor altar somewhere – though finding a good, cat-proof spot for it may be challenging.

I like the process of evolving it though. A good altar is a place where Work happens, and is a functional as well as a beautiful space. I think mine is getting there!

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I didn’t write this – Rev. Michael Dangler did. You can read the rest of his post here, and I highly suggest you do go read it. It says a lot toward what we expect of our Priests in times of grief, and what we can expect of each other.

A Prayer for Boston
Rev. Michael J Dangler

Artio, a Child of the Earth calls out to you.
Today, there has been pain and suffering,
And it weighs on my heart and soul.

I call out to you, Healing One,
Protector of your folk.
Be there for those who are in need,
And comfort those who seek it.

Wrap those in pain in your healing arms.
Bring them warmth if they are cold,
And soothe their fears.
Let those hurting never be alone.

Artio, Bear-Lady, I call to you:
Be there for those in need.

Monday night, I sat with others I “know” online, and we all approached our altars and lit incense and prayed together. What we do between the Worlds, and what we do in the Otherworld, affects the outcomes in this World, even when it is only in a small way. These prayers bring us comfort and reorientation in a time where we are overcome by information about which we can do nothing.

Our ancestors did not have 24 hour news channels and endlessly repeating video clips. But they knew how to pray, because so much of their lives was out of their direct control. And we can take a cue from them – the knowledge that sometimes all you can do in a situation is come together, support each other, and pray. We are Children of the Earth, and from Her, and from the Kindreds, we can take some measure of comfort.

May we all find the peace and healing we need at the hands of the Kindreds, especially those most closely affected in Boston.

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I didn’t make my goal of sitting meditation every day this week. Distraction, thy name is Druid. Still, I am working towards the state of emptiness and focus that will help me enter trance states more easily, without being distracted by too many thoughts (I’m not trying NOT to think, only not to be attached to my thoughts, or allow them to break my focus.) I’ve been focusing on my breath most of the time, but I’ve also done some tree meditations that I like.

I picked up a copy of The Book of Nine Moons this week, since its been recommended on various lists. I was delighted to find that it’s designed to go with the Initiates Path, since that’s where I am considering focusing after I finish the DP. I was really encouraged by the first few chapters, as its exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. I don’t think I’ll start early on it, since I do want to finish my DP first, but I am definitely going to tailor my meditation practice towards the eventual IP work. I figure the more I plan ahead, the easier it’ll be and the more I will get out of it.

My devotions this week consisted of sharing incense (and wine) with Freyr and starting to introduce myself to Freya. I am also, as mentioned, working on building an ancestor practice focused on my Disir. I’m encouraged by my early work, which consisted of doing some kitchen work with them in mind, and charging my hearth candle to them specifically. I got a ton of resources to work with from Heather over at Loki’s Bruid that I am working my way through. I really think this will be a big part of my practice, and I’m excited to begin real devotional work. I’m planning one meditation specifically focused on connecting with them this week.

I need to get back to my practice of tea with the kindreds, though I do a miniature version with my morning devotions every day. I sip tea and say a few prayers, and then try (since I’m at work) to get a good solid chunk of clear breathing and listening.

I am definitely working out a Norse path that will work within the ADF framework for now though. I haven’t felt called to Asatru or Vanatru at all, even while I’m directly trying to work with the Norse Gods and traditions. Hopefully I can make it work as well as other ADF members seem to have done!

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I’ve had an altar of some form or another in my home for quite some time (right now, I actually have two). ADF style rituals have specific things they need in terms of supplies and bowls, receptacles for offerings, and representations of the Fire, Well, and Tree. As such, before I did my Samhain ritual I went and did some altar styling to give myself a better workspace for ADF rituals.

This is the result (more or less):

My World Tree is pretty obvious – that’s a piece of driftwood that I found on a local beach. In front of that is my Well, a hand carved bowl from South Carolina. And then two representations of Fire in front of that – the three candle cluster and an incense burner. Those three items set up the ADF cosmos for each ritual. (I do not always leave the World Tree standing up, as it’s not super stable that way and is a bit off balance.)

There is a clear glass vase for holding liquid offerings, plus an offering bowl and a cup to drink from. The offering bowl and the cup are a matching set that I’ve had for years, and I like that they match. My offerings to the Kindreds go in a vessel that matches the vessel they give me the Blessings in.

The two taper candles are there for extra light and because I like candles. Also on the altar are some owl figurines, a Nature Spirit I’ve long had associations with (along with Toad and Rabbit), plus a little green man figurine, a big wooden acorn, a sand dollar, a holey stone that a friend brought back for me from a trip to the Middle East, and an aspen-leaf candle holder. These are all things that have spiritual significance for me, though I do eventually want to get some small shelves to get the figurines up off my working space.

The altar itself is a wooden cube bookshelf I got from (I think) Target, and I store all my Pagan and magical supplies in the closed baskets, with assorted books in the other open shelves. This sits in my craft room/spare bedroom, so it has to be dismantleable in a short time in case of guests. It pretty easily turns back into a bookshelf top with some assorted candles on it without much trouble.

Since I’ve used the altar a few times now, I’ve already made a few changes. I moved the offering bowls and offering pitcher to the right side of the Fire, so that I can pour offerings without setting my arm hair on fire (that smelled lovely, let me tell you). I also now have a set of wooden oghams, and those live on the upper left side of the altar most of the time as well, for daily drawings. I also added the two woodburned world tree symbols that I got from the Magical Druid. They sit to either side of the tall World Tree.

I do my sitting meditation on the floor in front of this altar, sitting on a big floor pillow. I often burn incense, and that creates a nice ambiance. Because it’s a bookshelf, I have to stand for rituals, so I’ve taken to putting my scripts in a small binder that I can hold with one hand. It lives in the open cube on the left hand side.

Overall I think it’s a functional altar, if not super elegant. I’d like to have a bigger working space eventually, ideally one that I could use outside, since a real fire would be nice for burning offerings. As it is, if I give spirits to the Shining Ones, they go in the same offering bowl with everything else, so I tend to give offerings of good incense to them. I’d also like a more proportional World Tree, so perhaps I’ll do some work with the driftwood one and trim it down and make a nice base for it. I think it’s a good Tree, just a little out of proportion with the rest of my space!

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