PCTP Work and a Fall Update

I never intended to only update this blog once per season. *headdesk*

Still, I’ve given the place a facelift—it was due, after nearly three years of blogging with the same template. If you’re reading via email or RSS, please come check out the new appearance! It’s quite pretty, if I do say so myself.

Yesterday I received approval on my final PCTP course! I’m all approved to submit my letter of intent, and I’m extremely excited to do so. The last year has been quite a journey: I finished my DP a year ago, began the PCTP work, and now I’ve become a DP mentor, Organizer of SDF, and Coordinator of the Brighid’s Hearth SIG. That’s a lot of stuff, even without the everyday highs and lows that come with coursework and responsibilities.

While I wait for a verdict on my letter of intent, I plan to put up my coursework in a new section on this blog. It’s always been helpful to me to look at examples of others’ work, and I like to think that my work my help future students. Check back in the coming days, and I’ll post another update when I’ve gotten everything online.

In the meantime, wish me luck! The next stage of the journey is about to begin, whether that includes priesthood or another path.

Summer Solstice, SDF, and Me

Some of you reading this are old friends. Some of you are new friends. Some of you are probably here wondering who the heck I am after yesterday’s announcement.

So I’m going to do what I do best, and tell you a little story.

In late November of 2010, I joined ADF. (How I got there is another story!) Back then I lived in northern New Mexico, in the mountains east of the Rio Grande Valley. Though it was a beautiful and magical place, it was cold, it was isolated, and it was very lonely. My husband and I were living in a 200-year-old fortified plaza, “modernized” by our land-lady, who ran a bed-and-breakfast out of the plaza and worked the attached farm and orchard. I’ve never lived so close to the land, but just then the land was frozen and settling in for the long hibernation of the mountains in winter. The Earth Mother in all her beauty was surrounded me, but she was hunkered down for a nap, and I was more or less left alone to find my path.

It seemed I wasn’t the only person to join around that time and feel the ache of solitude. A number of us—some of you who still read this blog!—shared our blogs and formed our own community. I pretty quickly struck up a friend with Teo Bishop, whose blog Bishop in the Grove quickly became much more than an ADF Dedicant journal.

On he went to blog for Patheos and Huffington Post and interviews and all sorts of amazing things. It was a pleasure to watch, and I continued to take a little bit of pride in our early correspondence about the nature of sacrifice, meditation, deities, and all the ‘ologies and ‘isms of Druidry.

Then, last August, he contacted me about an idea he had, a way to help solitaries. In an odd bit of synchronicity, I had just returned from the Summerland gathering, my first ADF festival, where I discovered just how difficult it can be to be the newcomer in a long-standing community. I wanted, after seeing how it felt to know no one, to help solitaries feel like a part of the community I found myself looking at from the outside. When I embarked on the pre-clergy training program, I knew I wanted to serve solitaries. I went into last fall with a new vision for my path.

Over the next months, Teo worked with ADF to establish the Solitary Druid Fellowship. I like to think I did my bit, advocating for the project with the few ADF leaders I know, but mostly it was Teo’s baby and Teo’s determination that carried it forward. SDF took off, and has been successfully offering liturgy and community to solitary druids since last winter’s solstice.

And now, here we are at the summer solstice.

In another odd bit of synchronicity, not a month ago I chose to leave my grove and return to solitary practice—and then Teo approached me to take over leadership of SDF.

I said yes, of course, and we’ve all arrived at this blog, wondering who the heck Kristin McFarland is and what she has to offer solitaries.

I don’t have a resume to offer. I don’t have a long list of credentials or a thick black-book of contacts. I’m just me, offering my hopes and dreams for ADF and for solitary druids on all paths.

Like I always do, I slept through this morning’s sunrise. Every Solstice I think, “Hey, I’ll get up and do a sunrise ritual! It’ll be amazing!” And then it never happens. (Last year, I was in Mexico on my honeymoon, and I planned to do a beach devotional at sunrise on the Solstice. That would have been amazing. At least I have the dream of it, if not the memory.)

I slept late, and when I got up I had to putter through drinking the two cups of tea that make me functional enough to act like a civilized human being. Then I exchanged some texts with my husband. I brushed my hair. I read my RSS feeds. Then my cat barfed everywhere and I had to clean it up.  And then the maintenance crew started running the weed-whacker outside my apartment, and then the garbage truck came and started honking at them, and then, and then, and then.

By the time I got to collecting my ritual implements, I was already feeling a little frazzled. I forgot a cup for the waters of life and had (not for the first time) to consecrate the water bottle I keep on my nightstand. My offerings of incense went out repeatedly. The barfy cat tried to jump on my lap. I dropped my binder. I forgot what I wanted to say.

But all the noise from outside dropped away. It was just me, sharing liturgy with every druid in the Fellowship. There was silence and sacred space, because I created it.

That is the magic of solitary practice. We don’t need a coven or a circle or Stonehenge to create meaningful ritual. We just need our intent.

I tell you all this not to demean myself or lower the bar of expectations. I’m telling you this because we are all together in the effort it takes to create the sacred in the midst of the mundane. We may be walking different paths, but they lead to the same place, out of time and out of space: in the end, we are all in that sacred space, sharing silence, sharing intent, and sharing our worship.

For me, Druid ritual will always be practicing my worship alone at my altar in the frozen pink foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and knowing that Druids everywhere were sharing in my work. Even apart, we’re together when we step into the sacred.

If you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for putting faith—or at least curiosity—in me. And thank you for sharing ritual with me, wherever and whenever you do it.

Mindfulness

In case you needed another reason to cultivate mindfulness in your practice, learn from my example:

Tonight, as I sat down to my nightly devotional, I realized the well on my altar needed topping off. Thinking of a big decision I still need to make, I absentmindedly picked up the bottle I keep on the floor next to the altar, and poured a hearty measure of water… into the pillar candle that serves as my fire.

*facepalm*

All was well, and I was able to light my fire with no more than a few warning sputters and crackles, but believe me—I kept my mind on the present as I performed the rest of my ritual.

Gender Politics in Worship?

As part of my efforts to shake up my home practice, my husband is creating a random deity “generator” for me, a program that will email to me a specific deity or entity to honor during my nightly ritual. The list of deities comes from me, of course, and tonight I sat down to make it.

I listed all the deities I’ve worked with and felt connected to, as well as all those I’d like to get to know better. I put a lot of thought and care into those Beings I’d like to draw closer to my hearth. But as I began to glance back over my list, I realized that it’s pretty lady-heavy.

Am I, as a woman, inclined to worship goddesses rather than goddesses? Have I connected with them because of our shared femininity? Do I feel more comfortable praying to a Being who has, on some oddly-perceived level, more in common with me? Am I (I say this in a whisper) sexist?

What an interesting and alarming thought. I’ll be exploring this a bit more in the coming weeks.

How about you? Are you more inclined to worship a deity that shares your gender identity?

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I resigned from my grove this weekend, readers. It was a big decision, and one that took me a long time to do. For a variety of reasons, it was the right choice, but there’s “a bend in the road” now, as Anne of Green Gables would say, and I’m not sure what’s around it.

I’m happy to be returning to solitary practice. As a grove member, I was often unable to balance my grove work with my personal work. That’s a failing of mine, but it became dire enough that I had to take steps to shift my focus. Home practice is the foundation of all practice, and because of that, it’s the most important.

Wish me luck! These are big changes, but I think they’ll be for the best.

Healthy Self-Promotion

I hope my readers will forgive me a little bit of schilling for my new Etsy store.

You can find it at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TwistedMagic

I’m selling miniature wire trees, perfect for altars! I’d also like to branch out into a little more stone and metal pagan artwork. Here’s a sample of my work:

apatite

Please think of me kindly if you know someone who needs a representation of the Tree for their altar!