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Posts Tagged ‘ritual’

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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The 2015 Spring Garden was almost a complete failure – the only thing that did well were the beans. So I’m back (from outerspace) with a new plan, some more mulch, a trash can full of compost, and plans to really *magic it up* this year. I am not content to just put the garden in the ground. This garden needs magic, or I fear it will go the way of last year’s garden, and I will get no tomatoes and be sad.

The container garden contains only herbs and one yellow squash plant that I’m attempting to make work. We’ll see:

  • cilantro
  • Italian oregano
  • straight neck yellow squash
  • scallions (green onions)

The actual garden bed contains:

  • Tomatoes (Arkansas Traveler, Globe, Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Yellow Pear, and Juliet) – almost all cherry tomatoes this year
  • TAM Jalapeno (3)
  • Sweet Banana Pepper (3)
  • Clemson Spineless Okra (4 hills of 2 plants)
  • Bush Blue Lake Beans (3 full rows)
  • Eggplant (Japanese Long)
  • Genovese Basil

The whole thing (except the bean rows, which haven’t sprouted yet) is mulched thickly with cedar shavings, which will hopefully help with weeds.

I’ve also got an order in for some “seed bombs” (mammoth dill, italian parsley, genovese basil, and mixed romaine) to toss in my garden bed with the aloe and the lime tree, to try to make something out of an otherwise useless little corner of garden. If it doesn’t work, I’m not super sad, but the seed balls look easy to use and sprout, and the bed gets lots of sun. That bed currently only contains the out of control aloe plants and Frank. Frank is my 15 year old oregano plant. He’s very hardy. At his largest, he was the size of a coffee table, but he’s much smaller than that now.

In the past, my most successful garden came after I blessed it with a drink that came out of a very powerful ritual. Next week is our Spring Equinox ritual, and so I think I will make extra of our sacred drink (remind me to post on that sometime) and use it to bless the garden. It’ll have strong blessings in it, and I can do a ritual myself to bless the ground. I’ve made a small earth mother talisman for our Druid Mooncast workings, so perhaps she will come and participate as well.

I really *really* don’t want another failed garden. It was so hard last year to look out and see it overtaken with weeds, not producing any fruit at all. I know I went and got a new job and spent the month of May living somewhere else, which didn’t help, but it still feels personal. So this year, I’m doing my best to ensure success.

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2. Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)

Priest/ess – The person leading the ritual, who is often (but not always) the leader of the group. S/he will make the primary sacrifices, and will be in charge of making sure the rest of the liturgy goes off as planned. Also in charge of improv/control when things get out of hand. The Priest/ess is responsible for the energy created in a ritual, and usually directs that energy as needed or determined by the purpose of the rite.

Bard – The person who leads the chants and praise offerings. Preferably someone with a strong voice and some ability to sing. Skill with an instrument is beneficial, but not required. May lead magical workings, depending on the working involved.

Seer – The person who takes the omens and interprets them for the group. May also have other roles in the ritual.

Fire Warden – The person who makes and tends the fire. Also the person who puts the fire out, if it gets unruly. Arm this person with a fire extinguisher, especially in an enclosed or otherwise flammable space. Especially necessary in windy or difficult conditions, it’s important to have someone specifically assigned to control the fire so that the other ritual participants don’t have to worry about it. This is a crucial role and one to which a single dedicated person should be assigned, and they should be able to keep at least part of their attention on the fire at all times.

Liturgist – The person who writes the liturgy itself. This role can be performed by any of the above, depending on the number of willing volunteers in a group, and may or may not overlap, as this is a pre-ritual position primarily. (This is the function that I am most often tasked with, and also most worried about doing – a well written ritual can be easily ruined by bad participants, but a poorly written ritual is hard to save.)

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1.    Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)

Ritual can have many, many purposes and functions, depending on how widely you define ritual. Limiting it to sacred/religious ritual, the list is still pretty long – from 30 second morning devotionals said in the elevator on the way to the 9th floor to extended group magical workings and high day rites, there are as many different purposes as there are rituals, really. Each ritual will fill a function in the lives of the humans that perform it (otherwise, why perform the ritual?). That said, I think generally ritual serves as a place to connect – to connect humans to each other, and to connect humans to the sacred forces that inhabit this world (Corrigan “Intentions”).

If we look at ADF Core Order ritual, for a high day or other high occasion, we’re still primarily looking at those two purposes. The group mind and group energy serves to connect us to each other, to strengthen our friendships and bonds, and to be the backbone of our religious communities (Brooks, “Goals”). The offerings made and blessings received serve to connect us to the spirits around us, Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Deities, and to create a baseline relationship for us to use in those contexts (Brooks, “Goals”). When we stand at the sacred center, especially in a group with a united mind and purpose, we have the opportunity to fulfil both functions of ritual in a profound way.

Other rituals will fit into different places along those spectrums, where a solo ritual done to a Patron is almost entirely about connection to that one sacred spirit, but a community ritual to welcome a newborn (or other rite of passage) is almost entirely about connection as a group and community (Corrigan “Intentions”).

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention a third function of ADF Core Order ritual specifically, which is the recreation and restrengthening of order in the cosmos (Dangler). Our rituals mirror the creation and ordering of the cosmos, and in doing so serve as a way to strengthen that order. While there is a place for chaos in the cosmos as well (for order without chaos will die, just as chaos without order will never accomplish anything), our rituals are primarily orderly and serve to reinforce that order.

 

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I fleshed out my morning devotional this week to be something like a miniature core order. I have used a prayer that Rev. Mike Dangler shared on Facebook (it’s actually a song, but I am using it without music for now), as well as some of the bits from Ceisiwr Serith’s A Simplified Version of ADF Ritual. This ritual is clearly designed to be done at my home altar, but I have a copy of it saved on my phone for use at work. I am working on getting a tiny hallows (mint-tin altar setup) that I can use for these situations. I am not sure how I’d do the offerings when I’m not at my altar, but ideally I’ll be dragging my butt out of bed 5 minutes earlier in order to do this ritual before I leave the house. That happened most mornings this week.

It only takes about 3 minutes, which is perfect for me for a morning ritual.

Here is the current format:

(Three breaths to center self)

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

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)

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

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

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

The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us
At the center burns a living flame
May all the kindreds bless us.
May our worship be true
May our actions be just
May our love be pure
Blessings and honor and worship to the holy ones.

(Three breaths to center self)
(Extinguish candle)

I feel like it’s still unfinished at this point in time. I’m not sure what I need to add, but it feels like there needs to be one more closing statement, perhaps something to mirror the Fire/Well/Tree imagery from the opening. It certainly works as a mini-ritual though, and I like all the various parts.

I need to be careful and remember that this practice has to be built over time. I can easily see myself letting this morning ritual get longer and longer, until it’s no longer really something I can fit into my weekday mornings. Which defeats the purpose of having a regular devotional practice. It has to be doable/attainable to become habit. It’s really easy for me to throw myself into 40 new practices all at once, and then burn out and stop doing all of them. I’m trying with this to start slowly, with just a morning devotional/ritual, and we’ll see where I feel like I can add other bits of ritual practice into my day/week.

I should also mention that I do a regular devotional practice to my female ancestors, particularly when I clean the kitchen (which happens every few days). It feels right to honor them then, at my “hearth” (stove), so I light a candle or some incense and say a small impromptu prayer. Perhaps eventually I’ll write up a set prayer for this specific practice.

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This week Yngvi and I finally got to meet up with three members of the local protogrove. They were all very friendly, and I think we’ll get on just fine. They are okay with us continuing our study group as is, and at least one of them would like to join up with us, since she wants to work on her DP.

Also the local Grove Organizer and I have the same birthday (March 2) and two other people (Yngvi and another lady) also have March birthdays, so we’re thinking of doing a Druid Birthday Bash of some sort, to celebrate.

My “radar” is still in good working order – I walked into the coffee shop and immediately picked out the people I was going to be chatting with (as did Yngvi, who I made do the first introductions, because I am kinda shy). Dunno what led me to go “those ladies. Those are the ladies from the PG”, but I did – and apparently they picked me out as soon as I walked in as well. Hooray for good intuition and “radar”.

I don’t know yet if we’ll be joining them for rituals regularly or not. They do rituals on the official “day” of the high day (so Beltane is always on May 1), which means weeknight rituals, and that’s tough for me. They aren’t far away, so it may work, but I’ll have to rearrange my whole weekly schedule to make it fit, and depending on the week, it may just not be possible. Plus, the study group will still be having high day rituals as we work our way through the different hearth cultures, and that may conflict with the PG rituals. My primary loyalty right now is to the study group, and since I’m leading that, I can have the rituals at our regular meeting time, so the high day is on the closest Friday to the actual official “day”. (We did Imbolc on Jan 31, for example.)

The PG is primarily Irish Celtic (they call themselves the Houston Celtic Druids in some online forums), but they weren’t phased by Yngvi and my Germanic/Scandinavian/Anglo-Saxon hearths. In fact, they seemed interested and curious, which I took to be a good sign. As well, my dreams about herons and cranes have continued – and I found out yesterday that one of the locals is a member of the Order of the Crane in ADF. I am not sure I’ll bring it up with her until I know her a little bit better, but it was interesting to hear that she’s involved there.

All in all it was a good first meeting. Yngvi and I will continue to lead the study group, now possibly with some new members from the PG, and we’ll see where things go as that progresses. Now that I have some faces and personalities to put with names, I’m more comfortable going to a ritual at someone’s private home, so that hurdle is out of the way as well.

ADF serves both communities and solitary pagans. I’ve spent most of my ADF time as a solitary, but that seems to be rapidly changing. It brings up a lot of my fears about being “out” as a pagan (I really don’t want a potential employer to be able to google me and find out my religion, among other things), but for now I can still fly under the radar, since leading a study group doesn’t require my name to be on any of the websites anywhere. I know I am somewhat gun-shy of joining up with a new pagan group, especially with how quickly my involvement in previous groups ended, but hopefully this will be good for me and my spiritual development.

I’m also taking suggestions for a name for our study group. Right now we’re calling ourselves the “Clear Lake Druidic Study Group”, which works, but isn’t very creative. There are four of us so far, but we may be growing. We’re primarily split between the Norse/AS and the Hellenic hearth cultures so far, but that may change as the newer folks start doing their own rituals at home and creating a devotional practice. Any suggestions are welcome!

 

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ADF has a good sized songbook of chants and songs that are used in group rituals.

Since I haven’t ever done group ritual that I wasn’t leading myself, I am only barely familiar with a few of these chants – mostly through watching ADF rituals online. (3 Cranes Grove has three large group rituals they just posted to YouTube, if you’re interested in seeing how an ADF ritual scales up for 300 people in a large outdoor tent!)

I’m extremely self-conscious about my singing though. I have a music degree, which may actually have made me MORE self conscious – I have good pitch, but I am very very aware of the shortcomings of my (untrained) voice when compared to someone who actually knows how to sing. That said, I’m learning a few of the ADF chants, and considering adding them into our rituals as appropriate. I don’t think we need a chant for every step of the COoR, but a processional and recessional might be nice, and I’m fond of the “Blessings in the Waters” song for after the waters of life are distributed. I really like the addition of music to prayer, and I think it’s a good way to focus.

Also, I’ve found I can use some of the “catchier” ADF chants to get songs out of my head. So when I get earwormed by something obnoxious, I start singing something I’m trying to memorize, and the concentration plus a catchy tune usually helps me stop with the endless repeats of “This is the song that never ends” or whatever.

The one “chant” (That I’ll just be saying as spoken word) I know I’ll be adding to our ritual for Imbolc is this one by Ceisiwr Serith.

The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us:
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindreds bless us.
May our worship be true
May our actions be just
May our love be pure.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the holy ones.

I plan to use it to end the Two Powers meditation and bring us into the active part of the ritual. Hopefully it goes as nicely in practice as it does in my head. There’s something very cosmos-affirming about this chant/prayer, so I hope everyone else likes it as much as I do.  I actually intend to memorize it and use it as part of my daily devotions. My practice needs a bit of a reboot, and I think this will be a nice thing to add to get it feeling fresh again.

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