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Last night some friends and I (Hi Yngvi!) did a group ritual to celebrate Hallows. It went well, minus one quick trip to the kitchen for a forgotten offering, but it brought to mind some of what I miss about previous ritual groups I’ve worked with, and something I feel I’m missing out on as a solitary Druid.

In the Core Order, you do a lot of work to set up a ritual – warding, honoring, recreating the cosmos and hallows, etc. Then you welcome in the Kindreds… and then it seems like there’s a short working where you make offerings to the deities or spirits of the occasion and then it’s right on to the omen and blessing part of the ritual, take everything down and you’re done. The middle part – the actual working in honor of the high day – is fairly short (or nearly nonexistent) compared to the rest of the work.

In my previous work, there was always setup involved, distributed to members of the group (or done by the leaders, depending on the step), but the main focus of the work was definitely on the High Day working – and it was definitely WORKING. There was decidedly magic involved. Maybe because my previous group was Wiccan, and a Witch Turns The Wheel, but I miss that feeling of purpose, and of magic, in my ADF rituals.

I also miss sitting with my groupmates after the working as we discussed the working and all things magical, winding down the energy and grounding. Last night we did a small ancestor toast, but that was really it, and we were on to dismissing the hallows and taking down the ritual. There are definitely reasons for that – some of which I didn’t know before hand (like we were only doing one round of toasting, so I should name everyone in the first round instead of just starting with the first one and then being like “whoops! now we’re done?”). Plus we were short on time. But it still felt like the “guts” of the ritual weren’t the important focus that they could have been. (This is not a criticism of my friends’ ritual skills – I was co-leading the ritual, so it’s just as much my fault!)

I am finally getting to where I have parts of the COoR that I use consistently (though I just got a new ritual template from another Anglo-Saxon Druid, and I’m totally stealing parts of that for my own use), and there are even parts I can improv offhand without a script, but I haven’t found a good way to feel the “magic” of High Day rituals.

Maybe that’s just a difference in focus – the high days are about honoring and giving gifts and receiving blessings, not about actively, magically turning the wheel of the year. The ADF rituals I’ve done where I’ve had magical workings to do – especially my oath rite – have been much more powerful. High days feel more like a ritual of obligation and less like they spring from a magical need. It feels like a Druid honors, offers, celebrates… but a Witch works.

Perhaps I need to work on combining some of my previous path into my ADF workings, and elaborate on the “work” part of the ADF COoR – it’s definitely got a spot built into the ritual format, but it’s not a required part of the high day. As I work out how to meld the Neopagan Wheel of the Year with the Anglo-Saxon holidays (which actually line up pretty well – no surprise there), I think I may be feeding some more Neopagan magical work into the ADF celebratory rituals. I’m more driven to do rituals that have purpose, and “Yay Ancestors, Have a Beer!” isn’t quite the purpose that I need from my rituals.

As much as I’m a working Druid (and intend to continue to be so), deep down I think I may still be a Witch – and a Witch Turns the Wheel.

Blessed Hallows!

 

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My Samhain Ritual was performed October 31, 2012, in the late afternoon. Normally I would wait until evening to do a ritual for the Mighty Dead, but I’m more comfortable doing full rituals when I’m alone in the house. Instead, I darkened a room almost completely, so even though the sun was out, I did the ritual by candle light. Between the darkened room and the smoke from the incense, the atmosphere seemed to fit the occasion.

This was a solitary rite, following the full ADF COoR. For this ritual, I honored the Earth Mother in an unnamed aspect; the Gatekeeper was Manannan mac Lir. Patrons of the rite included Donn, Lord of the Underworld and the Cailleach Beare, Grandmother Hag of Winter. I brought the following offerings: silver for the well, cedar incense for the fire, and a bottle of good hard cider for the Kindreds and Patrons (as I can not drink ale or whiskey).

This was my first High Day ritual, but not the first time I’d used the COoR. I’m glad I’d gone through it once before, because it gave me the experience to put together some rituals from the ritual archives (as well as a bit of my own material) into a full Samhain rite that I’m quite pleased with. The wording all came pretty easily to my tongue, though I’d read through it several times to help make sure it would flow. I am still not quite comfortable speaking in a loud voice in an empty house, but I made sure I was at least speaking with strength behind my words. The ritual centered on Donn and the Cailleach, an idea I got from one of the rituals in the archive that I really liked a lot. I have a lot of hesitation working with the Morrigan, and I wasn’t comfortable calling Her in my first ritual, even though many of the Celtic Hearth Samhain rituals honor the Dagdha and the Morrigan. My personal experience is one of strengthening my ties to the Mighty Dead this time of year, so being focused on Donn and the Cailleach seemed fitting.

I did find a major issue with my altar, and that was the location of the offering bowl in relation to the fire. Namely, I singed off some of my arm hair pouring offerings to the Kindreds. Not a particularly appealing incense. I’ve since reorganized it slightly.

I didn’t have a huge wealth of “feeling” from this ritual, however. It certainly had moments of poetry and beauty, but the depth of feeling and emotion wasn’t there in the way I am hoping it will eventually be. I know that part of having a Hearth Culture is to build up that current of energy between you and your patrons, and I am looking forward to feeling those ties strengthen. I would also like, eventually, to be able to do a COoR rite without needing a printed or written guide. While the words were ones I really liked, and some of them were even my own, it didn’t have the same feel as speaking “from the heart” does when it comes to prayer. Perhaps I will build in a time of spontaneous prayer into future rituals, since balance seems to be a good goal here, and I enjoy the act of writing out ritual material as well.

Omens Drawn:

  • Nion (Ash) – Weaver’s Beam, Connection, Wisdom
  • Ailm (Silver Fir) – Foresight, Inception, Perspective
  • Iodhadh (Yew) – Ancestors and death, memory

Use the wisdom and power of the Ancestors to gain perspective and see the “big picture” of the path ahead, a path that will lead you to transformation.

This is not the first time I’ve drawn Iodhadh recently, and I have to admit it’s a little puzzling to me. I understand that I’m undergoing a period of transformation and “Death” (of one path and beginning another), but I also feel like the messages are saying “listen to the Ancestors”, and I don’t know what they’re saying! Maybe I will do another separate reading specifically to ask them for their advice.

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This is the first of my High Holy Day essays for the DP, and addresses the November Holiday.

Samhain is one of the cross-quarter “fire” festivals in the Celtic hearth culture and is often celebrated as the beginning of the Neopagan new year. (In a society where the next day starts at sunset, the next year starts at “sundown” in the fall.)

This is the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld are thinnest. I’ve heard it said that at Beltaine we go to the Otherworld, and at Samhain the Otherworld comes here to us. It’s a time of remembering the dead of the last year, as well as all of the Ancestors and Mighty Dead, and many celebrations  focus on the thinning of the veils and the presence of the dead among us. Dead feasts are common, where the evening’s supper is set with an extra plate for the dead, or where food is left on the table over night, and a fire left burning in the hearth, so the departed dead can enjoy the comforts of life for one last celebration.

For those in the Celtic hearth, the meeting of the Daghda and the Morrigan is sometimes brought to mind, the interaction between life and sex and death, and the role of the Gods in the fates of man and battles. Also at this time, Donn, the God of the Underworld and the Land of the Dead is honored, as is the Cailleach Bheur, the Grandmother Hag and Queen of Winter, who comes with the onset of the cold and may represent the Ancients. Tales sometimes mention the first frost as specifically hers, and though I live in a place where we rarely get any frost at all (most years it doesn’t ever freeze here), I find that on cool fall mornings, I can feel her energy and the energy of the waning world.

Of course, this is also the time of the final harvest. The last of the ‘harvest’ festivals in the Neopagan calendar, Samhain is the hunting harvest, when livestock were slaughtered in preparation for winter, since it’s now cold enough for the meat to be preserved or frozen without spoiling. All the food for winter is gathered in, and the year draws to a close. While it is a time of preparation, it’s also a time of plenty, and a good time to share our bounty with the Ancestors and our beloved dead, now when there is a store of food to share.

I’ve always loved fall as a liminal season. It feels like a time out of time, between summer and winter and between life and death. There is, of course, death in the fall, but also the promise of rebirth (both with pregnant animals and with crops that must freeze in the ground to germinate in the spring). I find that I’m drawn to store up for winter, even in the age of 24-hour Mega Mart stores and living in a place that doesn’t have much of a “fall” (or a “winter” really). It’s as though, deep in my bones, I know winter is coming and I should be prepared. I also love that it’s finally cool enough to cook warm, comforting, sustaining food.

I love the secular celebration of Halloween too, but I separate that from what is sacred about this time of year. There is a kernel of truth in gearing up for one last hurrah before winter, and playing dress up in costumes is just plain fun. And I can eat candy without feeling the least bit bad about it. Plus the spooks and witches and ghosts and jack-o-lanterns are just a time of fun, good friends, and good memories for me. I often make a really adorable batch of vampire-bitten cupcakes. But the secular Halloween has little to do with the liminal, sacred Samhain, and I enjoy that I get to celebrate both.

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ADF follows the standard Neo-Pagan wheel of the year – 8 festivals tied to the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days that are seen throughout most of the Neo-Pagan religious groups. These are ostensibly based on the agricultural cycle and are a combination of (mostly) Celtic and Norse traditional celebrations.

I love the wheel of the year. It flows, and it’s a holiday every 6 weeks (more or less), and there’s a lot of beauty in it.

Unfortunately I’m also a gardener in southeast Texas.

The agricultural cycle here is not even remotely like that of the Norse and Celts who (presumably) originated these festivals, or even much like those of the Brits and Northern Americans who first celebrated their Neo-Pagan counterparts.

I grow things pretty much year round here, with a few exceptions. In general, the months of June, July, and August are a time of “wait and see”. Which is to say “Wait and see what’s going to shrivel up and die from the sheer heat and lack of rain.” Okra does pretty well if it’s well established (but it too will shrivel up and die if you plant it too late), and hot peppers do pretty well too, but again with the “well established” clause. Tomatoes quit producing fruit by June because it’s just so damn hot – our lows are usually around 80-84 degrees by then – and the plants just throw in the towel by the beginning of July unless you can get them some shade.

Then in late August and September, you plant the garden again (usually with things that fruit relatively quickly) and whabam, you’re harvesting cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes in November.

After Samhain.

When the wheel turns to the “dark” half of the year and everything is dead, awaiting the rebirth of the sun.

In October, you plant broccoli and cauliflower and onions and leeks and root veggies, and those are harvested mostly through the winter until you plant your spring garden the first weekend in March. Then come the first of May, you’re getting your first taste of vine ripened tomatoes… just as we’re celebrating the festival of “thank the Gods it’s not cold anymore, let’s have sex.”

In short? It just doesn’t line up. I’m harvesting for the fertility festivals and planting for the harvest festivals and… it’s just a mess!

This makes for some interesting mental gymnastics, and puts the impetus of the wheel on things OTHER than the actual cycle of agriculture in my backyard. I can certainly celebrate the fertility of mind and creativity and ideas, but it’s hard to distance that from what I know is really going on in this little piece of swamp I live on.

I don’t have an answer for fixing it though. I love turning the wheel. And I’m generally drawn to the Celtic hearth culture, way more than I am the Greeks or Romans. Maybe I ought to look into the Vedic cultures, if I want my celebrations to line up with my garden outside.

Either that, or I just have a party more often than every 6 weeks.

The Feast of the First Tomato Salad is worth celebrating, even if it’s not an official holiday.

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Welcome to the Swamp!

I’m a freshly minted Druid working slowly on the Dedicant Path (hereafter the DP) as my first steps and my “guide” to ADF style Druidry. I’ve been involved in various Neo-Pagan and traditional Wicca groups (though not initiated) for the last ten years, but as things didn’t work out there, I found myself going to the ADF Website again and again. A few weeks ago, after lurking for six months, I figured it was time to just jump in and see where it got me. While I’m much more comfortable with myself as a Pagan or a Witch, I’m curiously exploring this Druid label as a new path going forward.

I’ve done a few basic rituals – the Dedicant Manual has several “first step” rituals that I’ve done, including the first full blessing rite, and then did a full Core Order of Ritual (hereafter COoR) ritual for Samhain to kick off my Dedicant’s Year. I’m currently working in the Celtic hearth culture, just since that’s where I’ve worked previously, but I’m open to change there as I encounter the various Gods of the Indo-European cultures. Samhain provided the opportunity to start off my Dedicant year of Druidry in what I hope will be an auspicious time, being that it’s the new year.

I also set up a ADF-ritual-capable home shrine, but that’s the subject of another post!

I think I’ll end up liking the COoR once I get used to it. I certainly like reading the rituals, and I memorize things pretty quickly, so hopefully I’ll be able to get things to flow a little better than they did on my first go around. Doing a Samhain ritual so spur of the moment meant I had to improvise a bit with offerings, which I hope won’t happen at Yule.

I’ve been taking my offering bowl outside to pour it into one of my gardens after ritual, and each time I’ve seen something that’s made me think I am doing the right thing. The first blessing ritual I did had an enormous monarch butterfly out in the butterfly bushes (I have a bee and butterfly garden), and after my Samhain ritual I found a toad! Granted that’s only twice, but it’s nice to see the land spirits giving me a little bit of feedback. I’m pretty plugged in to my “bit of earth” here, since I garden and leave offerings outside often.

I’m a relatively proficient Tarot reader, and I’m attempting to learn the Ogham (using a number of resources). I’ve not seen a lot of references to Tarot with the ADF website, but a lot of people seem to be keen on the Runes and Ogham, so I figure it’s worth a shot. I’m generally up for learning in general, and having two divination methods in my bag of tricks seems like it’ll be useful regardless.

As for what to expect here? I’ll probably post some of my Dedicant Path essays, plus whatever happens to pop into my head that relates to living as a modern Neo-Pagan (Druid).

I hope you like what you see, and that you will come and sit a spell, have a root beer, and generally talk shop, as we attempt to forge whatever paths we’re all on in the world.

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