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Posts Tagged ‘wheel of the year’

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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Last year, around mid-October, I decided to do something different with my spiritual life. I was struggling where I was, six or so months after having left/been asked to leave (it’s complicated) a BTW coven where I had been an apprentice for close to 2 years. In my mind, I was preparing for initiation. Apparently that wasn’t how things were supposed to work out, and in the intervening time my HPS has made it clear that she doesn’t think people with my particular brand of mental illness (Bipolar/Anxiety/PTSD) are cut out for Witchcraft in general. Regardless of how I feel about this, it’s not likely to change her mind, and I found myself mired down in trying to sort out what I wanted from my spirituality and struggling with the transition from group-focused work back to only doing solitary work.

So I decided to try something new.

After doing a lot of reading on the ADF website, I jumped in with both feet, submitted my membership, and started on the Dedicant Path. I set myself the goal of completing it in a year – to do a “year and a day” with ADF – something I’d already been doing with my previous path. I didn’t know what I really wanted out of ADF, more than just to explore a new type of Neopagan spirituality and see if, as the song says, a change would do me good.

Over the last 11 months, I’ve worked my way through the DP, guided loosely by Rev. Dangler’s Dedicant Path through the Wheel of the Year book (which I highly recommend). Some of the work was decidedly remedial – I’ve been a practicing Neopagan for awhile, so writing about what the High Days in the wheel of the year were celebrating was a homework assignment and not particularly spiritually nourishing. Still, even those assignments got me to put my thoughts out in text, and sometimes challenged me to learn new things (especially as I started exploring the Northern Traditions/Norse Hearth). I was an established meditator, so that requirement mainly was about documentation, but again I used it to challenge what I had been doing and build new spiritual practices that could sustain me going forward, particularly the mental grove exercises.

What I liked about this work, especially with the guidance of the WOTY book, was how it paced me well over the course of a year. Yes, I finished a little early, but I didn’t get burned out after trying to finish all of the assignments in the first week. Slow growth is hard for me; I tend to get excited and try to do ALL THE THINGS. Because I paced myself, I think I got more out of it – I truly spent a year thinking and working on Druidry, with the end result being that I’m fairly comfortable in this system of practice now.

I also learned that I don’t have it in me to be a reconstructionist. While I like history, and definitely enjoy original texts and learning from original sources (or translated original sources), I have no desire to try to recreate accurately a historical Paganism. I am a modern Neopagan, and my practice reflects that. I use ADF-style rituals with no hesitation, even though I know aspects of those rituals aren’t found in the historical Northern Traditions. I combine aspects of the various Germanic Paganisms, knowing that they are related enough to work well in ritual together – my work with the Disir/Matronae isn’t documented directly in Anglo-Saxon Britain (Nor are the Gods Njord and Nerthus) but I haven’t found any trouble working with those elements, even in the same ritual, because they come from closely related cultures. Overall I find academic study interesting and often enlightening, but I don’t want to make it the focus of my Druidry – I am, and always will be, a modern Pagan.

I’ve developed (and am continuing to work on) relationships with a variety of different Spirits, from my Prairie Godmothers (and other Disir/Matronae) to Ing Frey and the other Vanir. As well, I am cultivating a deeper relationship with the land spirits and house spirits that I share my day to day life with. This isn’t new work, but these are mostly new entities for me to build relationships with. This isn’t something that comes particularly easily to me, so I’ve had to really work at this aspect of the Dedicant Path and my Druidry. I’ve found it rewarding, and feel much closer to my various Ancestors as a result. My work with Ing Frey was strongest earlier in the year, but I’m working on restoring that and making it stronger. I had some pretty significant mental roadblocks to working with Him, but He seems willing to be patient with me as I work through them. (Many thanks to Beth for a really enlightening rune reading to help with this.)

I’m also developing a new community of Pagans online, through the various ADF lists, twitter, and (ugh) Facebook. While it makes me very nervous to be involved with Facebook, it seems like a lot of the community is active there, so I’m willing to take a risk. (I don’t like the idea of someone snooping through my Facebook groups and asking me questions about my religion, but I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my privacy settings extremely strong so far. I need to go through and make sure that’s still up to date though.)

As well, I’m developing a community offline – there is a local Protogrove, and though my original efforts to contact them were fruitless, I’m told there are others who are actively trying to build the community here, so I am looking to find them and see if I can get involved. The Protogrove is Celtic, but I don’t think they’d mind an Anglo-Saxon Druid so much (and I don’t mind Celtic rituals either). I also have friends (online and off) who are beginning their Dedicant Path studies, or thinking of doing so, and I look forward to working with them as they worked with me as I did this program.

Is ADF what I thought it would be? Yes and no. As a solitary, ADF is largely what I make of it, and so I’ve been able to shape the materials into something that works for me. But it’s not the same as working in a close knit tradition either – which is fine, but I definitely miss that aspect of my previous work. It has what is, for me, a good balance of innovation and study, which helps me fine tune my practice. The overtly public nature of ADF makes me a little nervous, but I am not required to publicly do anything, so I can live with other people’s openness. I definitely don’t feel like I’m “done” in ADF – there is more here for me to do, and the last year is only the first step on that path. Whether that means I’m here “for good” or just “for now” I don’t know, but I feel that I’m being guided to go deeper into this tradition. I don’t know what my “place” will be – as a solitary, or as part of the community, or both – but I feel like it is possible for me to make a place for myself in this spiritual community.

Along those lines, I am going to be working on the Initiates Path as my next step in ADF. I do not have a desire to pursue the Clergy Training Program at this time, nor do I have a working community where I could complete that work, but the Initiates Path seems to be the logical next step for me.  I am not giving myself a timeline to do this program, because I don’t yet know how I will take to it. It is both more mystical and more scholarly than the DP. I am thinking of starting with Divination I, because I have been seeking to deepen my relationship with the runes I use in ritual. I am encouraged by the idea of adding a relationship to the Elder Wise to my practice, and of serving the ADF community.

I still miss the group I worked with before joining ADF – it’s possible I will always miss them. Maybe in the future I will be able to go back to that path, though it might have to be with a different group, as while it’s possible I don’t truly have Bipolar (just something that looks/acts like it due to other issues), I will probably always have some elements of Anxiety and PTSD to deal with. For now, I am trying to be content with my new experiences and community and not compare them to things I’ve done in the past. I am striving to excel at Druidry – both as a way to grow my personal spirituality and service to the Gods and Spirits, as well as serving the folk within a greater community.

I can only hope that, through my continued practice and studies, I will continue to grow spiritually and mentally, and develop better and deeper relationships to my Gods and Spirits. In the end, that’s the most important part, right?

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I officially submitted my DP documentation last night. I got the confirmation email, everything was transferred properly. The document was within the size limits; I’d had a friend proofread it and correct some inconsistencies and grammar mistakes. ‘

So now I wait for it to be assigned to a reviewer.

It was actually weirdly hard for me to push “submit” last night. It felt suddenly very personal and vulnerable, even though I’ve put all the essays up on this blog over the last year. Maybe it’s because, in its entirety, it’s a big chunk of who I am and how I practice. Maybe it’s because I included the oath rite and text. Maybe it’s just because it’s attached to my real name, and not just a blog handle. Maybe it’s because it’s being read and judged, not just out there on the internet as an example.

Regardless, it took me awhile to get the guts together to push submit and let it go.

Now I just get to see what happens.

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The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).

Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.

Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.

This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.

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I celebrated my Lammas ritual at around 5pm on Saturday, July 27. Normally I try to do my rituals when I have time alone in the house, and I had extra time this weekend where I was by myself, so I did my ritual then. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the COoR. I used the Solitary Norse Ritual template found here as the basis for my ritual, and added in special sections in honor of Freyr, as he was the god of the occasion, being that his is the sacrifice that goes with the first harvest. I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the gatekeeper. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, whiskey for Bragi and Heimdallr, a can of soda for the outdwellers, and shared a bottle of ginger beer as my primary offering. I also baked a loaf of corn bread to offer Freyr, which I then placed around the corners of my house as a blessing.

I liked this ritual template better for this ritual than I did when I used it for Ewemeolc. I still stumbled over the words some, which a practice run would have helped alleviate. I had real trouble getting the Two Powers to feel present, though I didn’t have much trouble feeling distracted – which is miraculous, as I forgot to feed the cat before my ritual, and he interrupted it. I made a cat-food offering at the same time as I offered (outside) to the outdwellers, and that worked fairly well. I used some of my own poetry to Freyr, as well as other published poems that I had collected, and used that as my primary offering and the centerpiece of the rite.

I wonder, in hindsight, if I shouldn’t have saved the loaf of bread for a magical working, after receiving the blessings. The loaf of bread was a sacrifice, but it was also used to bless my home afterwards (with chunks of the bread placed at each corner of the house).

After making my offerings, I asked the Kindreds to “give to me of your blessings” and drew the following runes:

  • Hagalaz: Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter.
  • Mannaz: Man/Mortality – The self. A sense of resignation, of orlog, or fate. The way of the world, an inescapable cycle of events. The power of humans together to attempt to make a difference, to take control of things within their power.
  • Nauthiz: Need/Lessons Learned – work without reward, oppressive forces that cannot be avoided, hardship. Lessons can be learned from this situation, but they are hard won.

Yikes. I noted that this was decidedly less of a glowing review of my ritual, made some extra offerings of incense to the fire, and closed out the ritual without much further ado.

This is the first time I’ve gotten three “doom-y” runes in a row, and the first time I’ve ever pulled hagalaz as an omen in a ritual, so I’m a little shaken up. I find Hagalaz to be particularly disturbing at this, the first harvest festival, since a late hailstorm can totally ruin a year’s worth of work.

I also noted that in this ritual I gave alcohol to the first offerings (Bragi and Heimdallr) but since I usually make my offerings to the kindreds from my own cup (because I like that symbolism) offered them a non-alcoholic beverage. I am currently on a medication that has some SERIOUS side effects if combined with alcohol, so I can’t drink. This is sad, because I really would like to offer more mead. And maybe I can skip my medication on the days I do ritual so I can share mead with my Kindreds (it’s the type of medicine that skipping a day is OK, I take it as I need it. I just had already taken some today). I wonder if that got me the really negative reaction, or if I’m in for a world of hurt for the next short while.

I’ve done a lot of pondering on this rune drawing in the week since my ritual, as well as asked for help from more experienced rune readers, and while the general consensus is that things are probably not good (either now or in the future), there are more positive ways to look at this reading, or ways to look at it that place it into context as more than just DOOM AND DESTRUCTION. For one thing, it could simply be that the destruction is of something that is standing in my way – which might be painful to let go of, but would be a positive-outcome in the end. Nauthiz can be the lessons I learn from that clearing away (or the fact that it really needs to happen), and Mannaz can simply mean that it has to do with me personally, as part of my self (which could be a direct reference to the fall being a time that I generally struggle with my bipolar disorder, and that this fall I’ll make some breakthroughs through hard inner work done). This could also reference the instability of my job right now, which would also make sense.

This type of nuance is something I’m not very good at with the runes, and so I intend to use future studies to really try to get a better read on how to use them well and wisely.

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Lammas/Lughnasadh/Freyfaxi is the holiday celebrated on or around August 1st in the Wheel of the Year, and can have many different meanings depending on the particular culture your variety of Paganism celebrates (hence the many different names). Generally speaking, this is the first of the harvest festivals in the Wheel of the Year and is the celebration of the grain harvest.

Lammas is the Anglo-Saxon celebration of “loaf-mass”, when the first loaf of bread made from the new year’s wheat is blessed, and then used for magic, usually to protect the rest of the grain crop. In the Anglo-Saxon chronicle it is referred to as the “Feast of first fruits”, which is mirrored in the modern Pagan celebrations of this time as the first harvest. This time also marks the end of the hay harvest, and the beginning of the harvest of grains.

Lughnasadh is the Celtic celebration of the first harvest, as well as the commemoration of the god Lugh for his foster mother Tailtiu, who died after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture (usually celebrated with games and sport and feasting). This was one of the Celtic “Fire festivals” and was often celebrated with bonfires and the visiting of holy wells. Ashes from Lughnasadh bonfires would be used to bless fields and livestock (A tradition that continues in Christianized Ireland, where priests frequently bless fields on this day). This was also traditionally a time of handfasting.

Freyfaxi may be a type of Norse festival of sacrificing horses to Freyr, who is the God of the harvest cycle in that culture. Unfortunately it seems to be named for a horse who was dedicated to Frey, but was stolen by a traitor priest who then defiled Frey’s holy stead, so I’m not really sure why there is a celebration in honor of it. (However, it is possible that there were horses sacrificed to Frey, it’s more the name that is concerning). In modern times it is seen as a sort of parallel to Lammas (which comes out of the Anglo-Saxon tradition). Some modern Norse traditions celebrate this time as one of community and sport, as it was the time of the annual All-Thing in late July and early August.

In modern Paganism, this is the time of the sacrifice of the Grain God, who lays down his life (as the grain is the “sacrifice”) only to rise again with the next year. This is commonly retold in the story of John Barleycorn, who dies and is reborn the next year. Many traditions practice offering up sacrifices in order to continue the turning of the seasons, in a mirror of the sacrifice of the God, who must die for the fields to be replenished the next year. The Goddess is pregnant at this time with the God who will be born again at Yule, to be sacrificed at Lammas the next year. Often this is celebrated with sacrifices of bread and other grains, and magic that centers around reaping the fruits of hard labors. Similarly to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, a loaf of bread is often baked and then ritually “sacrificed” to represent the sacrifice of the Grain God.

I usually celebrate this time of year by clearing out my garden in preparation for the fall planting season. It feels appropriate to be cutting down the old plants and starting the plot anew, with offerings of compost and manure. It’s still too hot to plant anything yet, but I try to start the “sacrifice” of the old plants that get tilled into the earth to renew the garden and bless the upcoming harvest (that will be ready in November or so). I also try to make freshly baked bread (usually cornbread, since I can’t eat gluten, so I don’t keep wheat in the house) to add to the sacrifices that are made at this time of year. This year, since I have just discovered the tradition of using that first, blessed loaf as a magical ward, I’ll be baking the bread, giving it as an offering, and then placing quarters of the loaf around the outside of my house.

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Midsummer is coming up at the end of this week (or Litha, or the Summer Solstice, however you’d prefer).  Here are a few things you can do on the Summer Solstice/Midsummer to keep that Druidic spirit alive – without necessarily doing a formal ritual:

  • Get up before sunrise and go somewhere to watch the sun come up. Then, stay up until sunset and watch the sun go down. It’s the longest day of the year – so honor the WHOLE day. (Yes, that means getting up at the ass crack of dawn. It won’t hurt for one day.) If you can do this at your home, lighting incense to mark the passage of the sun is a nice touch.
  • Grill something! Especially since a lot of places frown on outdoor bonfires, a grill is a good substitute, and you can make incense offerings to the coals.
  • Eat fresh, local, seasonal produce. Depending on where you are, this will vary widely. Here in the Swamp, that means sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, and squash, but berries are on their way out of season here already, as it’s getting quite hot. We’re just starting to get good peaches here too, but they really need another month. Watermelons, however, are in their prime.
  • Charge water with the power of the sun – place water in a bowl (covered lightly to keep out flies – I use a white flour sack towel) and let it sit in the sunlight all day (you’ll have to move it). Then use this water in rituals where you need a little extra oomph – I like to use Sun Water in my well, since I’m not close to natural fresh water that’s acceptable to use in my Well without endangering my cats! (It’s all mucky brackish stuff around here)
  • Make a Sun Wreath (or bouquet) – gather as many sunny flowers as you can, fresh, dried or silk all work, and arrange them as decoration in your home. I like to keep a very brightly colored yellow and orange wreath on my front door during this season. This is also appropriate altar decor, especially if you’re doing a ritual to honor Sunna or Sol.
  • Cook with fresh, summery herbs – basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage are all thriving at this time of year. In some places parsley and cilantro are in season as well. Cooking with fresh, summery herbs always helps me connect to the season. I especially like making a salad with fresh basil and fresh ripe tomatoes, with a little olive oil and salt. Yum!
  • Make Sun Cookies! These are regular sugar cookies (of whatever recipe you like) cut out with a sun-shaped cookie cutter. Or just in big rounds with yellow frosting. These can be shared with the office for a special treat, and everyone will love you for bringing them sugar.
  • Wear sunny colors – on purpose and with purpose. Your wardrobe doesn’t have to be part of your special celebrations, but if (like me) you’ll be in a cubicle for most of the Solstice day, wearing something sunny – and getting outside at lunch for a few minutes – can help keep me in a good frame of mind.

Any and all of these things can be done without anyone looking twice at what you’re doing, but they all honor the strength of the sun at this time of year, and help keep you in the spirit of the Solstice. I’ll be doing a number of these, along with my actual celebrated Solstice ritual, and will probably spread them out over a few days to remember that this is as much a season as it is a specific date.

Blessed Midsummer!

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