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Posts Tagged ‘two powers’

6. Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The first instance of Fire and Water in ADF Ritual is typically the purification step, where we purify first with water (usually by sprinkling), and then with fire (in the form of incense) (Newburg). Where water washes and cleanses, incense purifies and fills us with sacred fire, and we are renewed by this step of the ritual and made ready to participate in the offerings that come afterward.

Fire and water are also the two most common representations of ADF’s Two Powers – the powers we draw upon for our magical workings and energetic currents (Newburg). The fire is the sky power, the power of the upperworld, of order and craft, and of the expression of will. The water is the underworld power, the power of chaos and potential. When these two powers meet, as they do in each participant in an ADF liturgy, they provide the magical current from which we have the power to do the work of making sacrifices and opening the gates. They also provide a grounding and centering aspect to ADF ritual, which  prepares the ritual participants for working together and mentally calms and prepares them for the energetic work that we do in each ritual (Bonewits “Step”, Newburg). These mirror nicely the two worlds that existed before the creation of the world in the Norse myths – the realm of ice (water) and the realm of fire, from which all things were made.

Fire is also the primary means of sacrifice to the upperworld, as it transforms our offerings into a form that the spirits can use. As well, at the end of each ritual, we imbibe the waters of life – waters which have been transformed by blessings (which often come from the otherworlds, and can be represented by fire) and which send us out into the world renewed and re-energized. By fire we give our offerings to the spirits, and by water they return blessings to us.

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I’ve always been intrigued by the various methods of “grounding and centering” found in Neopaganism. For one thing, they frequently involve digging your “roots” deep into the earth, to either draw up or send down energy, to find balance (if you are an ADF Druid, they also include sending your “branches” up into the sky, to draw down the energy of the sky power). Fundamentally they are all about creating a balance of energies from which to do magic.

One thing that stuck to me from a book I read, though, was a different sort of method of centering and grounding. It’s a different kind of visualization, and one that I’ve always found interesting. The book is one of Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series – though I don’t remember which book. Basically, instead of doing the typical Neopagan “ground, and then center” – the character in Lackey’s book “Centers, and then grounds”. You draw yourself – all the versions of yourself, your external self, the self you portray at work, the self you portray to your family, all the different “yous” that exist, into one solid, concrete, centered SELF, and THEN you connect to the ground, and use that grounding to root yourself and sustain the unified you-ness.

It’s a different sort of way to think about grounding and centering, but the visualization has always helped me when I feel really scattered and out of sorts. Things at my job are very unstable right now, so I’m finding myself with a lot of anxiety and a lot of general frazzledness. I like this “center and then ground” method a lot when I’m feeling that way, because it forces me to address that multi-tasking takes its toll.

In addition, I’ve ramped up my focused meditations to Freyr, in preparation for Lammas (which I’ve decided I will celebrate in honor of Freyr specifically, and then honor the Vanir Pantheon in general for the Fall Equinox, which is the second harvest festival). For what it’s worth? He still prefers Sandalwood incense. I guess that’s just going to have to be my connector to Him.

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“An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period (800 words min).”

I began my meditation journal at the beginning of November, 2012 and am continuing to journal as of mid-April, 2013, covering my five months of systematic meditation. I was already a regular practitioner of sitting (or breath-oriented) meditation before I began journaling, so this process was one that I used as a set of experiments to see what I could add to my existing practice that would deepen and enrich it. As well, I am intending to do continuing work in ADF, and I wish to have a solid foundation from which to build.

My first meditation journaling was just a record of the meditations I was already practicing, on average several times per week. (I do breath-centering daily, several times a day, but for this exercise I only counted intentional meditation lasting more than 5 minutes.) Though my mid-week meditations are not done on specific days, I made sure to meditate at least 15 to 20 minutes on weekend days each week. Frequently I would use a 9 breath counted exercise, doing nine repetitions of nine counted breaths. I usually do this practice sitting or lying on the floor in the room where I have my altar, often after having done my daily devotions of lighting incense and short prayers. I have done some meditations outside, either in my yard or in the park, but I am plagued by lawnmowers – I have yet to find a time to do meditation outdoors where someone in my neighborhood is not operating heavy machinery within earshot. This is, I suppose, a side effect of living in a development. My meditations at the local park, which stretches out onto Armand Bayou, have been more successful, especially when I can go out onto the boardwalk and sit undisturbed.

I have found, through my practice, that I am able to more easily enter trance while lying down as opposed to sitting or standing. I think this is due to the “ease” of lying, as well as my yoga practice and finding a common thread in corpse pose. I can frequently maintain better concentration while lying down than sitting upright (though I continue to use both postures). The only point where this did not work as well was during the Two Powers meditation, where I found it much more powerful and successful to be upright in some fashion as I connected to the Sky power.

I also experimented with movement based meditation, through walking meditation and use of the “Embracing the Tiger, Return to the Mountain” movement from Tai Chi. While walking meditation was somewhat successful, ultimately it proved difficult to maintain any sort of focus, as I was too worried about getting hit by cars or running into things or tripping on uneven sidewalk. The Embracing the Tiger, Return to the Mountain meditation, which consists of a series of movements repeated several times, was more successful. At it’s very basic, it’s two full, slow breaths – Reach up, reach down, pull in, push away.

  • Standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent, inhale and bring your arms up in front of you, moving your hands along your midline until they reach up over your head. As you do this, straighten your knees.
  • When your hands are fully above your head (but elbows are still soft), exhale and swing your arms out to the sides and down, rotating your palms to face down once they reach shoulder level and bending your knees again. At the bottom, cross your hands at the wrists, left hand in front, so your palms are facing your body.
  • Now inhale, uncrossing your arms, and pulling your elbows back at your sides, drawing your hands to your waist, palms face up, straightening your knees.
  • Then exhale and push away from you, keeping your elbows close to your sides and your palms rotating around so they are facing away from you, knees bending again.

I usually did 9 repetitions if I was seeking a short, but very calming meditation, or (if I had more time and was looking for a deeper meditation) would allow myself to continue the practice for a certain amount of time. I find this exercise to be extremely good at creating mental balance (as well as physical balance).

I made heavy use of the iPhone app “Meditator” – which tracks meditation through use of unobtrusive sounds. Over time, I increased the space between the “reminder” sounds as well as increasing the overall time of my meditations. I usually meditate for about 20 minutes now, sometimes continuing after my timer has marked 20 minutes. I also use incense as a measure of time, meditating until the stick of incense burns out (25-30 minutes usually).

As a continuing part of my spiritual discipline, I began over time to add object focused meditation to my sitting meditation time, concentrating not only on my breath, but on deepening my understanding of the Kindreds and the cosmology of ADF. As part of this discipline, I endeavored to create a “mental grove” – a place where I could go as part of trance meditations whenever I needed to center myself. This was perhaps one of the most fruitful exercises of my meditation journey, as I now have a visualization I can turn to whenever I need to center myself and enter a light trance state. This mental grove has a fire, a well, and a tree, and while I am there I am often visited by various members of the Kindreds, especially nature spirits. I have, through this practice, deepened my relationships with several nature spirits, including Rabbit, Toad, Owl, and Stag. This is also the mental state where I had my first encounter with a spiritual being that I have come to associate with Freyr, which was extremely exciting and also a bit disorienting.

I fully intend to continue to work from my mental grove and to add more trance journeying to that work. So far I have found that spirits are willing to visit me there, but I would like to place more work on visiting them – especially because as I currently practice, I am dependent on whomever would like to visit. I would like to be able to go, via trance, and speak with specific spirits when I need them (if, of course, they are open to the idea), so more work with journeying is needed.

I also plan to continue my meditation journaling on my blog, through the completion of the Dedicant Path and forwards into more study with ADF. I’ve found the exercise of weekly journaling to be very beneficial. It helps me to keep track of what I’m doing, and serves as a reminder to stick to my practice. I write my journal entries every Sunday night, and that means I have always meditated at least once during the week, since I sit down at a specific time to write about them. It’s been a good practice of accountability, as well as one that I’ve found spiritually enriching.

Overall, in the last five months, I feel like I’ve deepened an existing meditation practice from something I did “fairly regularly” to a crucial part of my mental and spiritual life. The basic trance state of my mental grove has become a very important discipline for me, and I use basic meditation throughout my day as a way to increase focus (and decrease anxiety, something I struggle with a great deal). While I certainly can’t sustain focus for the entire duration of a 20 minute meditation, I am definitely better at not letting distractions get to me too much, and I’ve become more skilled at returning to my point of focus without much fuss. I’m also better at detecting distractions early, as opposed to following them mentally until I suddenly realize I’m no longer focused. I’m pleased with my progress and glad I had the discipline to stick with this requirement.

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“An essay focusing on the Dedicant’s understanding of the meaning of the ‘Two Powers’ meditation or other form of ‘grounding and centering’ as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience (300 word min).”

The Two Powers meditation is a form of grounding and centering used by ADF specifically as a way to create a stable platform from which to work ritual. Grounding and centering is a fairly common Neopagan practice that involves connecting with the earth energy and stabilizing your own energy – it is a form of meditation that allows the practitioner to enter a balanced energetic state from which to work ritual and magic (or just from which to continue their day). ADF’s two powers differ from many other Neopagan rituals in that they specifically call upon both the Earth power and the Sky power, pulling up energy from one and tempering it with the energy of another.

As I work within a (mainly) Norse hearth, I frequently connect to these powers via a World Tree mentality – that my body and mind become the axis of the world, through which the Earth and Sky flow freely. While this doesn’t specifically relate to any one Norse practice, I think it is reflected in the ADF cosmology of Fire, Well and Tree – where the axis is the tree, the Sky power is the fire, and the Earth power comes up from the well. I find this imagery particularly useful when beginning ADF style Core Order of Ritual rites, since I am using the images of the hallows within myself, as a tool of balance, and then using that energy to recreate those hallows as a point of ritual focus.

I’ve seen conversations on the ADF Dedicants list of people who connect with the Earth power as “hot” (due to the central core of the earth being molten and hot) and the Sky power as “cold” (from the coolness of space) but I prefer the more Earth based reflections of these powers. The Earth is cool, because when I dig my hands into the dirt it is cool and damp. The Sky is warm because the sun is warm on my face and warms my body and the land. I do not refer to either power as gendered, since I dislike the idea that “feminine” and “masculine” can be so easily matched to these powers. I think they are beyond gender, though I relate to an Earth Mother and to a Sun Goddess, so perhaps I can perceive both as female (in a way). I still prefer them to be genderless sources of power. I especially dislike the gendered orientation when referring to the powers as Chaotic and Ordering (since I don’t think masculine or feminine traits can or should be placed on that spectrum).

My personal work with the Two Powers started off very unbalanced. I had plenty of previous experience connecting to the Earth power, but had not ever tried to connect to or use the Sky power. I’ve corrected that through practice, though I still find it easier to connect to Earth. If I ever find myself having trouble with the Sky power, I can usually just step outside though – I live in a place that gets lots of very powerful sunlight! I tend to practice meditation either seated or lying down on my back, and I find it much easier to practice the Two Powers meditation when I am seated or standing upright, as it facilitates the feeling of being an axis between the powers. Adding hand motions to the Two Powers when standing before my altar was also helpful, as I used my hands to literally scoop the Earth power up into myself and then pull the Sky power down through my body. The addition of movement, especially in relation to using the mental image of a World Tree to complete this meditation, was really useful. I have also found that I do better with the Two Powers if I take time to center myself on my breath for a few moments before I begin the visualization.

My next step in using these Two Powers will be to use them as a source of direct energy for working magic in ritual. I am comfortable using them to ground and center, but I have not yet truly worked with drawing on those balanced energies as a source of magical power specifically. As I work more with these powers, I expect that my experience of opening the gates will become stronger, since I will have a better idea how to channel these Two Powers into that act of magical work.

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I did sitting meditation every day this week, as part of a re-set of my mindfulness practice and in an attempt to help with some mental health issues. I did 15-30 minute meditations, usually starting with 10 minutes seated and then moving to lying on my back on the floor. I’ve found I definitely have better luck meditating lying down than I do sitting up, at least when it comes to getting to that state of calm half-awareness.  I think partially this would be alleviated by sitting on a cushion instead of on the floor itself, so we’ll see if that helps this coming week.

I usually end my meditations with the Two Powers, which I’ve found feels very different lying down than it does standing up in ritual. Not sure that one is “better”, but I feel more grounded when I’m lying down for sure.

I continue to light incense to Freyr several times a week, and have started including a short prayer to him in my morning devotionals (beyond just saying “good morning”, as He asked).

I have also continued to see the Crane in my mental grove at night before I go to bed. In that light, I’ve downloaded some of the materials for the Order of the Crane and will be reading through them to see if this path is for me. I’d also like to do some focused meditations with Garanus in mind – he is not a Nature Spirit that I’ve worked with much in the past, though I have worked with and talked to local great blue herons and green herons in my area. The one major conversation I had was about the state of the waterway behind where I live, so it was not a devotional relationship like the Order is.

One noteworthy meditation this week had a little visitor. I was lying on the floor, in a sort of half-trance state, moving between my  breath and my mental grove, when something MOVED on my ARM. I looked down, and there was a tiny green anole lizard on my arm, apparently having let himself in through the open window. (I’m not sure how, there’s a screen) It definitely ended the meditation, as I then chased him around the room for 10 minutes before catching him and putting him outside.

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Nothing new and exciting to report. I did a 10-15 minute seated meditation three times this week, and found that my focus is getting better again. Also that I tend to focus better when I meditate sitting in front of my altar – which is probably a combination of quiet space, a place that I’m used to doing work, and something about sitting on the floor feeling more “meditation-y”.

Also, this week, one of my cats has decided that he wants to try meditation too. Or rather, he finds my sitting on the floor to be a good excuse to bug me for pats. I’ve had to start locking him out of the room when I want to really focus, though at one point I just made HIM the focus of the meditation and tried to be really in the moment about it. Both approaches worked alright.

I did the full Two Powers meditation once this week as well. I’m getting better at feeling the sky power consistently – aided by the fact that it’s been very warm and sunny this week.

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There’s been a lot of talk on the Dedicants list about the Two Powers meditation, and eventually I have to write an essay about it, so I figured I’d get some of my thoughts about this particularly ADF style of meditation written down.

I was already very accustomed to the “grounding” and Earth Power part of the Two Powers meditation before I started on this path of Druidry, so getting started with the Two Powers was pretty easy for me. That first connection happened almost without thinking about it, since I was already used to the tree roots imagery for grounding and centering energy.

Connecting to the Sky Power was a little more difficult, but I found that getting outside into the sun really helped. Fortunately, we don’t have too much grey here, even in the winter, so I have been able to actually feel the sun on my face, instead of trying to visualize it. I only had to do that a few times before I could get the visualization down. I’ve always been “solar powered” (which is a good thing to be, if you live in southeast Texas), so I just had to warm up to calling down that power instead of just basking in it like a lizard. (I may have been a lizard in a past life, for as much as I like basking in the sun.)

I love using Ceisiwr Serith’s prayer as the central point of my meditation, when I get both powers fully flowing:

The Waters support and surround me.
The Land extends about me.
The Sky reaches out above me.
At the Center burns a living flame.
(A Book of Pagan Prayer, p. 36-37)

There’s something really centering and powerful about saying that once I get the two powers flowing. It helps me to get a good feel for the mingling of the powers, as opposed to just housing the two currents themselves.

Also, I am looking forward to doing this meditation as an active meditation when I’m putting in my garden, since I’ll be elbow deep in the dirt, but standing in the sun. There’s a very tangible current to the two powers in a garden (or even in a potted plant grown from seeds) – the untapped potential lives in the earth, and is drawn forth and materialized and made orderly by the sun.

Overall I really like this meditation, and I’ve come to do a mini 5 step form of it when I’ve got a few minutes and feel like I need to ground and center at work:

  • relax
  • draw up the Earth Power
  • draw down the Sky Power
  • feel the two currents mingling
  • release

It takes only a minute or two, and it’s a nice desk-visualization. Connecting to the Earth Power is a little hard from the 9th floor, but after a little practice I can usually feel the current in a few breaths. If I was consistent about it, I’d make it a part of my lunch break every day, especially since I bring my lunch, and everyone else in my multi-cubicle goes out most days, so I have the place to myself.

I took to this form of visualization and meditation relatively easily, but I think that’s just a factor of having had a good bit of experience with both visualization and grounding before I came to ADF. This was a new way to experience grounding and centering (particularly the adding in of the Sky Power), but the function is something I was pretty used to doing. I don’t know if I will continue to use it as a daily practice long term, but it does seem to work well for keeping my brain engaged when I’m starting to get distracted.

In ritual, I try to focus on it for longer than I do in my daily practice, since I think it’s a little more important to be truly and fully grounded before attempting magic (which is what opening the gates really is). Sometimes that works and sometimes not – I still get a little anxious before full ADF rituals, so pausing to do this step is something I definitely need to focus on.

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