Doubts, Dreams, and Other Things

I’m still here, readers. I’ve been through some very exciting personal things, and some very intense doubts about — well, lots of things.

But my daily practice has remained. It is my rock, the one constant thing in my life, every single day — aside, of course, from brushing my teeth and dealing with my contact lenses. Every night, before bed, I make offerings, give thanks, and perform a divination for the coming day, and that decompression time is frequently the quarter of an hour each day that keeps me sane, in spite of all the wonderful craziness in my life right now. I’ve even added to my practice with monthly retreat days, and I find myself looking forward to those retreat days like a traveler in the desert seeks an oasis. Those days ‘refill the well’, as writers often say, and they give me the spiritual sustenance I need to carry on in the midst of daily life.

That daily practice is what proves to me that I’m on the right path. In spite of my busyness, in spite of drama and conflict, in spite of my insecurities and occasional doubts, my dedication to the Kindreds and to the druid path have no wavered.

Did you know I’m working on the pre clergy training program classes, readers? It’s true. I’d like to be an ADF priest one of these days. My life has just gotten so much more complicated, and I’m about to start dedicating 110% of my time to my fiction writing, so this dream will take a little bit longer to accomplish than I would like. But I will make time for my studies, just as I make time for my devotionals. I feel the call, and nothing—not even achieving my professional dreams—will change that.

In the mean time, I just need to learn a little bit more balance and call on the discipline I learned in my DP studies. I’d like to finish my first essay for my first class this Sunday and submit my work, just before the legal new year begins. Keep me in your thoughts, and wish me much distraction-free time!

If you miss my writing, and if you find yourself looking to refill your own will, check out my post at SolitaryDruid.org, and browse a bit while you’re there. Teo’s liturgy is wonderful, and I think my own contribution is nothing to sneeze at. Be well readers, and pray with a good fire. I hope to return more regularly in 2013.

The ‘Shoulds’ and Individual Agency

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter on the ADF mailing lists about the ways we should live, the ways we should change, what we should do because the ‘Ancients’ did it; a lot of people are concerned about the right way of developing a hearth practice, the right way of meditating, even the right way of living.

I find it troubling because ADF is not a religion of dogma: yes, we care what you do in ritual, but we’re not going to tell you how to live. Granted, our principles should guide and shape your way of living, but we’re not going to tell you, “BECOME A VEGAN,” or “ALWAYS OPEN THE GATES AT YOUR HOME ALTAR”.

The clinging to an imagined ancient way of life troubles me, too, and for almost the same reason. Even if ‘the Ancients’ had a uniform lifestyle and religious practice (which they didn’t), they still lived in a completely different world than we do. They ate fruit and meat they could gather and hunt, yes, but they did that because they had to. And they offered blood sacrifice because, well, that’s what they did.

But we don’t have to do either of those things. We have the luxury of eating December clementines shipped from tropical climes. We have the luxury of frozen, pre-prepared meats. We have the luxury of offering expensive fermented beverages instead of blood. Our world is not the world our paleopagan ancestors lived in.

My umpteenth-great-grandmother couldn’t vote. She couldn’t choose to become a fighter pilot. She couldn’t make choices about her world beyond the scope of her own home. She might have died in childbirth, or of appendicitis, or she might have shared my congenital heart condition and died at 27 because she didn’t have the option of life-saving surgery. And her umpteenth-great-grandmother couldn’t even conceive of things like voting, rights, or even luxury.

We have to live in our own world.

Yes, it’s right and pious to want to offer traditional items, but the fact is, we know more now than our ancestors ever did. They would, I think, want us to make safe, responsible choices for ourselves and for our earth.

It all boils down to those words: safe, responsible, and choice.

We need to be safe. We need to keep our planet safe. If that means not offering our own blood without a finger stick or the means some women have, then don’t do it. Don’t go slicing your palm open with a kitchen knife and risking infection and injury. If safe actions mean offering polished rocks or carved wood to the well instead of pollutive silver, then change your behavior. Don’t mindlessly stick to tradition, even when tradition can hurt you.

We need to be responsible. Only we can develop our home practice. Only we can do the work and create relationships with our patrons. Only we make the necessary life-changes and start trying to preserve our Mother Earth. Saying, “Well, how do you do it?” or “How did the Ancients do it?” is declining to take responsibility for your actions. You are giving up your agency in favor of the choices of someone who may not know better.

Finally, you have to choose to pursue right action. You must commit to doing the work, to spending the extra time, to trusting your own educated instincts. Refusing to make your own choices is, again, irresponsible. You must value your own knowledge, experience, and intuition, and you must decide to make your own choices.

The beauty of druidry is that it values our individual agency. By venerating the ancestors, we are honoring the spark which makes us all human, that gives us the knowledge that we must choose responsibly and safely. We live in a different age, now, and our agency comes with a lot more duties: and most of those duties involve making the right, sustainable, safe choices.

Please don’t throw away your agency. It’s the most valuable thing you have. Only you can use it, and it’s the driving force that will put you on a path toward better self-knowledge and a better understanding of your religion.

Samhain 2012

I haven’t been posting much here lately (I’ve been busy with other druidy things, I swear!), but I will say that our grove had a lovely Samhain celebration tonight. I love the dark half of the year rituals when it’s cold and afterward everyone huddles around the fire chatting and eating home-cooked food. I loved our ancestor altar tonight, set aside in a pavilion away from the ritual area, hung with veils of tulle and lit with dozens of candles. I also love it when the tulle catches on fire and I have to bound across the pavilion saying, “Sorry, but FIRE! FIRE!” and then we team up to put out the fire–and then we move on. I love when everyone does their best and is focused and supportive of everyone else. I love it when we all wear our cloaks. I love it when everyone takes a semi-negative omen seriously and pulls together to make things right with the Kindred. I love it when we sing with gusto, if not well. I love it when we giggle over the waters of life because it’s just so marvelous that we’re receiving the blessing–and it helps that the alcohol warms us up after we’ve been shivering for 45 minutes! I love it when birds or bugs start singing and we all catch each others’ eyes and grin. I even love it when the fireworks go off at the stadium when ritual falls on game nights, because the fireworks always seem perfectly timed.

I love it when it’s just so real, and I come home so aglow that it takes me hours to fall asleep.

I love being a druid.

Conversations from a Mixed Household

My husband and I are working through the ongoing process of balancing a ‘mixed marriage’ lifestyle. It’s something I’d like to write about extensively, and I’m tentatively planning on pitching an article to a ‘real’ publication. That said, I’m not an expert, but I am very lucky to have a supportive spouse. Most of our arguments are touched with humor. The following is an excerpt from a real Google Chat conversation…


Altus:
so, but we’re agreed that we tell the children nothing of your heathen ways and raise them as rigid secular humanists?

Wren:
lol
what’s a rigid secular humanist?
and what if they want to celebrate yule and imbolc?
imbolc is fun, you leave stuff outside to get blessed, and then you eat bread and butter. or cheese.

Altus:
you’re going to raise them to believe in fairies aren’t you

Wren:
no…
“if you don’t clean your room, the bad fairies will live in it and hide your toys! bad fairies love a messy room!”
:-D

Altus:
you get to field the 2am ‘The bad faries are trying to steal my liver’ or whatever then

Wren:
lol

 

There you have it. All things are possible, with just a little laughter.

Magic 101

I am new to this tradition.

There, it’s been said. I’ve only been a practicing pagan for about 19 months. Before that, I was sad and lost, before that I tried to be Catholic, and before that, I was Catholic. I went through the Goddess experimentation phase when I was about 12, doing some divination and trying to think about deity in terms of sheity, but I won’t take the cop-out that many newish pagans do and say, “I think I always was Pagan, I just never knew…” Nope. I was raised Catholic, though I do remember I had a disconcerting (to the Sunday school teachers, anyway) tendency to stare at the flame of a candle during prayer and think of it as the Holy Spirit.

I digress. Still, I’m coming to my pagan and magical practice with little background in such things. I’ve read tarot for years, but always thought of it as a tool for contacting one’s own subconscious, not as a magical connection with the divine.

Things are changing, though, and I’m starting to implement more magical practices into my domestic routine. I’ve set up a kitchen altar, I’ve made a place for Brighid on my creative work table, and I’m starting to think about creating household holiday/High Day traditions. I’m also, yes, starting to think a few years down the road, when we may have wee druids joining the family—if the wee ones are interested in religion, of course—and how I’ll want to work the old ways into our family life.

And it all boils down to this: I’m not sure where to start.

I’ll be more specific. I recently fell in love with Pagan Soccer Mom Kris Bradley’s idea of a blessing bowl, a magical object used to charge and, well, bless items that need some divine lovin’. I passed the idea on to a druid-friend who is already a mother, she loved the idea as well, and we’ve been hunting the perfect bowl ever since.

I never found a perfect bowl, but I did find a good bowl, brown on the outside with a green lotus pattern on the inside. (And pretty bowls never go to waste in our house. They’re always full of fresh fruit, vegetables, bits of my wire projects, or being used to hold keys and sunglasses.)

I brought it home, washed it semi-ceremoniously, then said, “Er… now what? It doesn’t feel special.”

Of course it’s not. It’s a bowl I bought at TJMaxx. There’s nothing special about it. Kris Bradley’s bowl became special over time and use. I’m willfully starting a tradition from scratch. I don’t have a full ritual on my calendar until next week’s druid moon, and I have no specific rite to make sacred this bowl.

This is where Magic 101 comes in: I wish I had some reliable, handy magical cookbook, with general recipes for blessings and charging and protecting, and an encyclopedia of “ingredients” at the back. I wish I had a great-grandmother’s grimoire or commonplace book or anything to give me somewhere to start. But even my great-grandparents were so far removed from their Ozark and Appalachian roots that they would have had no help to give. Our family folklore is long since lost to time.

I know I’m trying to skip to the end, to have knowledge handed to me on a platter. The real answer is to start that book, to keep a journal with what I do now to bless or charge or protect, to experiment with ingredients and develop my own encyclopedia. But that won’t make my wish come true until I’m grey-haired and handing the thing on to my granddaughter.

I suppose I’m generating the raw material. Because I didn’t know what to do, I improvised: I took the bowl, put it on my altar, and put into items I know (can feel) are already blessed or charged: my beat up old triskele necklace,  a piece of quartz that lives on my altar, my bit of the maypole cloth, my brat bhríde, a couple of holey stones, my Manannán mac Lir necklace. I figure the bowl will pick up some good energy from my daily time at my altar, and those already special items will leak some of their good vibes into the bowl.

DSCN1620

It seemed as good a place to start as any. I guess I should write it down.

But I could use some guidance all the same: How do you all know what to do? Do you, as I did, just do what feels right? And, the big question, do you know of a great book that will help me start working some magic?