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Posts Tagged ‘wicca’

I’ve long thought about writing up the holidays that I celebrate, as an Anglo-Saxon pagan druid with a strong English folk bent. So here you go – the wheel of the year, with the names I call each holiday and what I do primarily to celebrate each one.

  • Yule – greenery, lights, candles, and 12 days of preparation to begin the new year
  • Candlemas – the celebration of the returning light. Buying and preparing candles, cleaning oil lamps, blessing the home with light.
  • Eostara – the celebration of the dawn, the radiant dawn maiden Eostre, and the balancing towards the growing light of the year. Sometimes just “Spring Equinox”
  • May Day – For summer is a comin’ in and winter’s gone away-oh. Celebration of summer, and also of the first harvests of vegetables in Texas, planted back in February.
  • Midsummer – bonfires, grilling, burned herbs for protection, and protection against hurricanes and tropical storms. Purification by fire, dawn and sunset rituals.
  • Lammas – John Barleycorn, the sacrifice of Ing, the first grain harvest. Loaves baked and sacrificed for the blessings of the harvest for the whole season. Sacrifice – personal and as a group – made to ensure the prosperity of the group.
  • Harvest Home – very much a mini-Thanksgiving, this is the height of the harvest, and the middle of the second growing season in Texas. Naming a harvest queen, drawing her around in a wagon to bless the town. The “holy month” of the harvest.
  • Hallows – Ancestor’s night, the welcoming in of winter, the blood harvest and final sacrifice. Celebration of prosperity (hopefully) and of a year well spent. Entering into a liminal time between Hallows and Yule in preparation for beginning the cycle again.

I should note that a lot of this calendar is UPG and modern Neopaganism derived, just with an English-folk flavor to it. It works for me, and makes me feel connected to the ancestors of spirit from whom I draw my practice.

I also observe the Anglo-Saxon Lunar Months, which begin on the new moon – the true new moon, not the dark moon (so 2-3 days after the actual “dark moon”, when the first crescent is visible in the sky). You can find out when those dates are here.

This lunar calendar is given to us by Bede, so your mileage may vary as to how accurate it is, but I find it meshes well with the 8 holidays I celebrate above:

January, Bede explained, corresponds to an Anglo-Saxon month known as Æftera Geola, or “After Yule”—the month, quite literally, after Christmas.

February was Sōlmōnath, a name that apparently derived from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; according to Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest. The connection between Old English mud and Bede’s “month of cakes” has long confused scholars of Old English, with some claiming that Bede could even have gotten the name wrong—but it’s plausible that the name Sōlmōnath might have referred to the cakes’ sandy, gritty texture.

March was Hrēðmonath to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, and was named in honor of a little-known pagan fertility goddess named Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern dialects of English, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century.

April corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Eostremonath, which took its name from another mysterious pagan deity named Eostre. She is thought to have been a goddess of the dawn who was honored with a festival around the time of the spring equinox, which, according to some accounts, eventually morphed into our festival of Easter. Oddly, no account of Eostre is recorded anywhere else outside of Bede’s writings, casting some doubt on the reliability of his account—but as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one.”

May was Thrimilce, or “the month of three milkings,” when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day.

June and July were together known as Liða, an Old English word meaning “mild” or “gentle,” which referred to the period of warm, seasonable weather either side of Midsummer. To differentiate between the two, June was sometimes known as Ærraliða, or “before-mild,” and July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;” in some years a “leap month” was added to the calendar at the height of the summer, which was Thriliða, or the “third-mild.”

August was Weodmonath or the “plant month.”

After that came September, or Hāligmonath, meaning “holy month,” when celebrations and religious festivals would be held to celebrate a successful summer’s crop.
October was Winterfylleth, or the “winter full moon,” because, as Bede explained, winter was said to begin on the first full moon in October.

November was Blōtmonath, or “the month of blood sacrifices.” No one is quite sure what the purpose of this late autumnal sacrifice would have been, but it’s likely that any older or infirm livestock that seemed unlikely to see out bad weather ahead would be killed both as a stockpile of food, and as an offering for a safe and mild winter.

And December, finally, was Ærra Geola or the month “before Yule,” after which Æftera Geola would come round again.

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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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One of my favorite blogs is the one written by Hecate Demetersdatter. She’s a grandmother (a Nonna) and a Witch, and I get a great deal of inspiration and knowledge from reading her tales and posts. Even though we’ve never met, I consider her an elder in my path – someone I can learn many things from, because she’s been doing this a long time, and she knows her stuff and shares it willingly (at least parts of it) on her blog.

She’s the inspiration for my being a “Druid of this place” – of truly caring for and knowing the land I live on, even if I am a youngish Druid, and don’t have years of experience under my belt. (She also loves poetry and ballet, two of my own loves, and so her blog frequently delights me with those as well.)

Anyway, she’s posted a Solstice Tale that I found delightful and thoughtful, and, should you be so inclined, I think you’d enjoy it too.

You can read it here.

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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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One of the email lists I’m part of has been having a really interesting discussion about the difference between prayer and doing magic. I firmly believe there’s a place for both in Paganism, and as I read more about Druidry, I’m hoping to find a balance between the two there as well.

To me, prayer is talking to/with the Kindreds (Gods, Ancestors, Nature Spirits) – prayer is essentially about communication, though it can be about asking for things. But asking for things through prayer removes the control from the situation. You’ve asked your Deity for something, and now you wait to hear their answer. (Which is a little like meditation – prayer is the talking part, meditation can be a listening part (though it can also be other things))

Magic, on the other hand, is taking a situation into your own control. It says “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, with things A, B, and C, in accordance with my will and energy, to create result Q.” I might ask for a blessing on the work from Diety/ies, but I am the one doing the work, and I am therefore responsible for the result.

In a metaphysical sense, I see magic as a way of stacking the deck of events, an idea I got from the blog Rune Soup. Basically, in a world where any outcome is possible, magic stacks the deck in favor of the outcome going a certain way. The more out of control the possibilities, the bigger the magic has to be to have any affect. My favorite example is the lottery example, which says that if your odds are 1 in 6 million to win, and you do magic really well, and reduce those odds to 1 in 1 million, you’re still likely not going to win the lottery, even though the magic worked.

So far, in ADF, I’ve heard a lot about prayer, especially as it relates to piety (which I see as both prayer and devotional action). The ADF-Dedicants and ADF-Discuss lists have talked about conversational prayer, petitionary prayer, and especially offertory prayer – prayer used as part of an offering of praise. Though spontaneous prayer is definitely common, the major rituals are often formulaic or formula driven prayers, and Ceisiwr Serith’s Book of Pagan Prayer is quoted often as a starting point. The Book of Pagan Prayer is a collection of prayers to various Dieties for specific occasions, and many of the prayers are lovely and powerful.

They are not, however, acts of will-driven magic. I’d like to think there’s a part of ADF that would have a space for magic as well.

ADF ritual is, in some ways, thematically magical – you do the offerings to get the blessings, ideally the blessings that you are asking for. The *ghosti relationship that defines how ADF relates to its gods encompasses both being a good guest and being a good host, and the reciprocal hospitality that goes along with it. This can be argued as being a form of magic – you’re not just begging for something, you’re building a relationship whereby you can ask things of the Gods and they can ask things of you. Still, it’s not a personal-responsibility sort of system at its core. Yes you’re responsible for making the offerings, but you’re still at the whim of the Gods when it comes to what blessings you receive. If you’re asking for Patience, you may find yourself more patient… or you may (more likely) find yourself in situations that try your patience mightily, and have to figure it out for yourself.

I’m looking for a system that has space both for magical work and for prayer – for creating a deep relationship with the Gods, for petitioning the Gods for blessings, and for working to create change around me. I can see situations where I might do both prayer AND magic for something.

Say, for example, I’m looking for a new job. In addition to doing the “fill out job applications and send them in” ritual, I might pray for the foresight to find openings around me, but I might also do magic to open new pathways and do strong sending magic on the applications before I mail them out/deliver them. Before an interview, I might pray for comfort and reduction in nerves, but also do some sympathetic magic to sweeten the relationship between myself and the interviewer, so that I make the most favorable reaction. I’d be doing divination around all of this to determine if something is the right path for me going forward, or to help me see the unseen in a new situation.

Ideally, I’d be using my own will and the power I can raise myself to direct change, and asking for additional power and blessings to aid that work from the Gods. They may choose not to aid me, but I am still the one initiating the work, and still the one ultimately responsible for the outcome. This seems very different than asking the Gods to fix or change something for me.

Which comes down to my interactions with the COoR.

The Core Order of Ritual is a devotional format designed to enact the basic “magic” of Druidry – the *ghosti relationship of offerings and blessings. There’s a section in the end, after the receiving of blessings, where there’s a note that “any magical workings should be conducted here”.

If I’m honest, I find that a little disruptive so far. The state of mind that I enter to devote my time, prayer, praise, and offerings to the Kindreds is not the same state of mind that I enter to work magic. Maybe I’ve just not experienced the true energy of a well-done COoR rite yet (which is possible, I’ve only experienced my own), but I find that I’m wanting to work magic in a different context. Not even that I’m looking to cast circles and do Neopagan like magic. More like I’m interested in Traditional Witchcraft type magic, with sympathetic magic and symbols and sigils and herbs and candles and lots of home-grown energy sent out in the direction of some change.

As a solitary Druid, I’m working my own magic on my own time and schedule, so I can do that magic separately or in a ritual as I so desire. However, I don’t know how well a very personal magical working would go in a large group setting like a Grove. Magic works best when it is focused and well-directed, and a congregational style setting isn’t really one where I see getting focused and well-directed results, even in a group with the best intentions. It’s hard enough with a small coven of Witches who are all used to working together and who are well briefed on the imagery and chants and symbols beforehand! The advantage of a group is that you can tap into more energy, but without good focus and an agreed upon, specifically defined result, you get fuzzy magic. And fuzzy magic makes for fuzzy results.

Maybe this is possible in a small Druid setting more than it would be in a more congregational style grove ritual. I imagine there are both types of gatherings, just as there are in any community-oriented religion. That still means separating magic from the COoR though. (And there’s no rule that you have to use the COoR all the time either, so maybe my focus on that is unnecessary.)

So how does this all fit together into Druidry? Do I just separate my magic from my prayer and devotional rituals, since I see them as different things, or is there a new kind of magic I need to learn, a kind that fits into the COoR better?

Obviously a balanced practice has both prayer and magic, and I want to think there’s room for both in Druidry. I’m just having trouble finding the place where magic fits.

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