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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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This year, in addition to the Yule ritual we’ll be doing tomorrow night with our little study group, I’m planning to loosely follow along with Three Cranes Grove for their “Yule Along”. It’s a set of 12 “feasts” between the solstice and the new year, intended to bring reflection and celebration of the season. I like the idea a lot, and though I’ll be traveling for part of it, I definitely want to do some of these activities.

This is what they have suggested, as well as my plans for each day:

  • 12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer (Woden) – I’ll do an offering to the Wild Hunt (mostly propitiatory – while I honor the Hunt, I don’t want them hanging around my house!)
  • 12/20 Mother’s night/Idesa/Solstice vigil (to be posted that day) – Yule Ritual to the Idesa and Frige, with bonus Solstice Vigil Candles lit from the setting sun, to be burned throughout Yule. Opportunity for oathmaking here; I am considering an oath towards this new study group, to solidify my commitment to them.
  • 12/21 Solstice Day – Baking! Lighting candles! Hooray for the Sun!
  • 12/22 Nature Spirits – Offerings to the nature spirits
  • 12/23 Feast of Fools – Not sure yet what to do here. This is typically about role reversal, but I may just do something silly with my husband/friends.
  • 12/24 Alfar and housewights – housecleaning and offerings to the spirits of my home
  • 12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – Presents! Hooray!
  • 12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – Celebrating being warm with my family.
  • 12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – More presents, this time with extended family. I need to figure out how to work evergreens into this.
  • 12/28 God/desses of the household (Frige) – Knitting! Lots of knitting, as I’m working on two big projects right now.
  • 12/29 Shining ones – Offerings to Thunor, Frige, and Ing Frea
  • 12/30 Bringing in the boar (Ing Frea, deities/spirits concerning oaths) – Roast beast! (Roast beast is a feast I don’t mind in the least!) I’ll make pot roast and consider my new year’s resolutions and any oaths I am considering making.
  • 12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – Party! Big party at my house, with friends and games and fun and champagne. I’ll initiate a conversation about resolutions, and maybe do some divination regarding the new year.
  • 1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time – Clean up, take down, and put away all the holiday stuffs. Get ready to go back to work, cook lunches, and make some pre-prepared meals. Basically return to the normal routine.

Some of these will be a little difficult, but I think planning for them in advance will make sure I stick to it. I love the idea of making Yule a “season” – a time of feasting, sacrifice, and honoring the various Gods and spirits of my path. I think this is a fun way to do it, and it means a little bit of sacred time each day, instead of trying to cram it all into one day and getting burnt out.

What are you doing to celebrate the Solstice/Yule? Any family traditions you have that you’d like to share? I’m always looking for new traditions to borrow and try out!

Blessed Yule!

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The Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) occurs on or around June 21 every year, and marks the astronomical point at which the sun has reached its highest altitude in the sky. This produces the longest day/shortest night of the year, and the holy day of Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is celebrated at this time. This holiday is often referred to as Litha among various branches of neopaganism, a reference to Bede’s naming of the months of the summer.*

Historically this holiday was celebrated in most of Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Germanic lands, where celebrations included bonfires and the picking of golden-flowered plants, supposed to have miraculous healing powers. In the Scandinavia, where the sun sets very late and rises very early resulting in extremely long days, the Sun is the central figure, as well as the lit bonfires and celebrations of community. People frequently danced around (and through!) bonfires as a ritual of protection, as well as driving cattle through the fires to protect them. The strength of the Sun makes the crops grow, and there is a great deal of promised bounty as people tend the crops and prepare for the upcoming harvest.

In the Neopagan myth, this is the time of the second battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, where the Holly King defeats the Oak King (who has reigned since Yule) and will then rule until December when the two will battle again. This begins the “Dark” half of the year, where the Sun’s power wanes and the days grow shorter again until the cycle begins anew at Yule.

Bonfires are a very common method of celebrating this high day, often accompanied by all night vigils. This seems to be both an honoring of fire and a warding against wildfires, which are at their most dangerous during the hot dry summer months. The spirits of the land are also important at this time. Most central, however, is honoring the Sun at her (or his) strongest point in the year. I usually make a special point to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on Midsummer, and always have a “bonfire” in my charcoal grill, where I make offerings to Sunna, who is at her brightest (and most destructive!) at this time. As a tropical Pagan, my relationship with Sunna is one of deep respect as well as joy, for while it is sunny here most of the year, and I love basking in her warmth, it is very dangerous to underestimate the power of Sunna in summer, especially on exposed skin.

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To those not from central Texas, West sounds like a direction, not a town. But West, TX is a town about 20 miles north of Waco on Highway 35, a central point of the Czech population and home to a Czech festival, a number of fine bakeries and ethnic food stores and restaurants, and a number of good, hard working people.

Earlier this week, a massive series of explosions at the West Fertilizer Company leveled part of the town of West. The community of responders is still looking for people buried in the rubble.  Ammonium Nitrate is not something to mess with. Some reports say the search should be completed sometime today, but things look pretty grim.

Boston has (understandably) taken center stage this week, but the people of West are hurting as well, and their community will continue to hurt just like the other damaged communities will after this week (My heart goes out to those who are being evacuated for flooding in the midwest as well). The Yellowdog Grannie has some information from the front lines of the rescue work – you should go read her blog if you aren’t familiar with her.

I went to college in Waco, and frequently went to West for pastries. If you’ve never had a handmade kolache, you’re missing out. While I was glad to see that my favorite of the West bakeries – the Czech Stop – survived the blast, I am even more glad to see that they are actively involved in helping get people back on their feet and care for the first responders. My heart hurts for this town – a town that I knew only by association really – and for my inability to do more than donate a little money.

And so, like I did earlier this week (and am still doing) for Boston, I turn to prayer.

Great Freyja,
Who flew like a falcon over the whole earth in search of your lost husband,
Place your falcon cloak over the shoulders of those who search through burned homes and buildings
Bring them peace in their terrible work.

May your sharp eyes and swift wings speed their search
May they find those who yet live.
Strengthen their hearts, which are already full of care for the wounded,
And bless all those who would aid them.

May the dead be at peace, and their families comforted.
May the survivors be at peace, and their recovery swift.

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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’m a Druid of the Office more than any other specific place, even though I try very hard to do daily devotions with my landbase. As such, I’ve tried a number of ways to make my little corner of this cubicle (which I share with other people) as Druid-friendly as possible. Plants have really helped warm up my space.

If you’re also an office-bound pagan, try getting a plant or terrarium for your desk (something that will tolerate low light, unless you have a window). Use it as a focus for 3 breath meditations when things get stressful and enjoy the extra oxygen!

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So I’ve been doing this ADF thing for a month, working my way through the Dedicant Path requirements, and I’m finding that there are some things about this process and this path that I really enjoy.

Obviously, the reverence for nature is a big one. I love that Nature – and the Nature Spirits – are a big part of practicing Druidry, and I’m encouraged by the focus on getting outside and being aware of nature in the place where you live. I’m a suburban druid, so there is definitely nature around, and it’s not too far for me to get to a large nature preserve. I’ve spent a few afternoons sitting by the bayou and just absorbing nature and watching the birds and lizards and fish. It’s nice to have that reverence for nature built into the Druid path as a critical part of spirituality. (This isn’t unique to Druidy, and many other Pagan paths also emphasize nature. I just really like this part!)

I also really like the flexibility of the Dedicant Path. Yes, I’m loosely following the Wheel of the Year book, but loosely is definitely the key word there. I’m taking the WOTY book as guidelines and a roadmap, but I’m forging my own path through, especially since I’ve already started or completed some requirements that I “shouldn’t have gotten to yet”. The requirements for the DP are very flexible, and I can see how each person who submits one for approval is going to submit something very personal and different. The questions are all geared to helping you identify “Your Own Druidry”, instead of having you regurgitate what’s in the manual or website information.

At the same time, I appreciate the emphasis on scholarship, at least so far as it can inform your worship of the Kindreds. I like mythology and learning about where and how these Gods and Goddesses were originally worshiped, and what kind of social structure they fit in. I’m not a reconstructionist though, I’m definitely a modern Pagan, looking for a spirituality that fits into my modern life. The balance between scholarship and modern application is one that I really appreciate, and something that I strive to find in my own spirituality.

That said, I’m a little confused about the role of some of the Gods and Goddesses in ritual, but I suspect that will clarify more as I learn more about Them and Their historic worship.

I talked before about my search for a magical system within ADF, and have subscribed to the Magician’s Guild email list. Obviously I’m not going to start working on their study program until I’ve completed the DP (too many projects all at once), but I’m hoping to find out more about how ADF handles magic. If it’s not something I like or think I can work with, I will just continue to work my traditional magic on my own, separate from my practice of Druidry.

I really like that it’s OK for me to do that; there is no law in ADF that says the ADF way is the only way to do things, or even that all members of ADF must do only ADF style rituals or magic. That’s the flexibility aspect again, and as someone who comes to ADF with some already formed preferences about magic and working with the Otherworld, I like that I don’t have to give up on things that I know will work for me. I’m definitely going to give the ADF style a try – that’s what this year on the Dedicant Path is for, after all – but I like that if it doesn’t suit my own way of doing things, I’m not locked into a practice I dont like. Even the Dedicant Path only requires that you follow the COoR for 4 of your 8 High Day rites!

I’m sure I’ll have other thoughts as I process my way through the Dedican’t Path. I’m about 1/4 through my second book (Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon), and finding that there were both a lot of things I knew and a lot of things I didn’t know about the modern Pagan movement. Reflections on this book should be interesting, given my background.

For now, though, I’m really enjoying this path of Druidry. It’s not immediately home, and there are some points that stick out at me, but on the whole, I think I’ll enjoy my year as a Druid. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up staying!

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