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I’ve written a great deal about my daily practice on this blog. There have been periods of prolonged drought, periods of genuine doubt, and times when I felt like my daily practice was all that was keeping me invested in my Druidism.

In my ADF Dedicant studies (which will be a central focus for me until Imbolc), one of the tasks for the student is to develop a steady daily practice. A regular practice, especially for solitaries, is key to taking your religion out of the book and rooting it in your life.

I had almost no regular practice in August. I kept the High Day, but after that I woke up and started my mornings with only a casual glance at my shrine. I was busy in my head before stepping out of bed, and I didn’t take much time to slow down and seek out the Kindred.

But I have a syllabus now. I’m a dedicated religious student (as I mentioned in my Druid School post). I’m going gung-ho, and I’m starting as a beginner.

ADF member, Melissa Burchfield, wrote a piece on ADF.org on how to adopt ADF’s Core Order of Ritual (COoR) for solitary use. For those who don’t know, the COoR is what makes and ADF rite an ADF rite. It’s the foundation for all ADF liturgy.

On this article, Melissa lays out a series of “tiers” for the beginning student. In the first tier, she strips down the COoR to these components:

  1. Initiating the Rite – Bell Ring, clap of the hands
    Light candle
  2. Purification - Breathe deeply, nine times to center
    and clear the mind.
  3. Honoring the Earth Mother
  4. Statement of Purpose - "I have come to honor the gods."
  5. Inviting the Kindred
  6. Key Offerings - Made to the Kindred
  7. Thanking the Beings - In reverse order
  8. Thanking the Earth Mother
  9. Closing the Rite - "The rite is ended."

Notice that the numbers are a little wacky? That’s because the COoR has a total of nineteen steps in its full form.

I performed the first tier of this druid ritual this morning.

For step one, I rang triple Goddess bell. I lit my candle and said,

“I light this candle in the presence of the Shining Ones above, in the presence of the Ancient Ones below, and in the presence of the Nature Spirits all around me.”

Step two was easy, and surprisingly effective. Feeling tense? Breath nine deep breaths. It’s like magic  (*ahem* — magick).

Honoring the Earth Mother is always a strange moment for me. I feel like my prayers can never be big enough. I said something to the effect of,

“Holy Earth Mother, on whom we move and live and have our being, all praise and honor belongs to you. From you we are born, and to you we shall return.”

What can I say? I was a cradle Episcopalian. I like the formalities.

After the statement of purpose (which can sometimes be elaborate, as in the case of a High Day ritual), I invited the Kindred.

I like this part. This is where I speak out loud to the Kindred and ask that they be present in my ritual space. When I call to them, I describe them, and by doing so I engage my imagination. I get to see them in form, in color, with attributes. That’s how it was this morning, at least.

I simplified my offerings today. Taking cue from Melissa, I poured a bit of steel cut oats into a small, clay serving cup, and used it for all of my offerings.

I made offerings to the Three Kindred, ending with the phrase that I hear at most ADF gatherings:

Nature Spirits / Ancestors / Shining Ones…. accept my sacrifice.

I love liturgy. I love the repetition of meaningful phrases. I nerd out over it sometimes. Saying the phrase “accept my sacrifice” with the same cadence and tone that we did at Eight Winds makes me feel — just a little — like I’m still at Eight Winds. Liturgy allows my small rite to feel like a giant group ritual.

I offered my thanks to all, and closed the rite.

The whole thing took about five minutes.

I share all of this not to present myself in a special light. My practice should not garner me any praise; that’s not what it’s for. But, I do feel that people — solitaries, especially — need to see that there is always an opportunity to begin your practice again, to start from scratch. With a beginner’s mind, you can simplify your religious life and relearn how to be what you are.

It all starts with a single flame.

Have you ever stripped things down to the basics? If so, what was that experience like for you? Do you find that a ritual with a reliable form and structure makes sense, or are you more of a ritualist who keeps it loose?

What would your “beginner” ritual look like?

The Spring comes, and my life transforms. It seems to be almost as reliable as the coming of the Cottonwood snow. It happens every year, this pull towards the world; this letting go of Winter’s introspection.

In the past week, I’ve experienced a great upheaval and shifting in my professional and personal life. Relationships are changing, and I’m doing my best to remain calm and steady, respectful of the balance between what I can do to move things forward and what the currents are naturally doing on their own. It’s been hard, and I’m a little exhausted.

I think this pulling back from intense spiritual work, including a break from blogging and a relaxing of pressure around my DP work, has allowed me to prepare for this shift. My daily practice is still strong — stronger than ever, in fact. My devotionals have become so deeply a part of my life that I almost cannot remember what it was like without them. This sacred time feels less like a requisite of the DP course, and more a natural extension of my being.

In light of the hefty transitions and the attention they require, I’ve decided not to attend Wellspring. This saddens me a bit, as I was really looking forward to meeting my fellow sojourners in the flesh. But, I just turned over a huge plot of land, and I’m planting a season’s worth of new seed. You don’t just up and leave during the first few days and weeks after planting. You stick around. You water the earth. I have to make sense of what is coming, and I need to be here in order to do that.

I pray that all of my friends and readers have been well since last I wrote here, and I hope that you’ll reach out to say hello. To all of those attending Wellspring, I hope you have a brilliant weekend. I’ll send my spirit to be with you around the sacred fire.

Bright blessings,

Teo

April was a month of great change and upheaval. Perhaps I’ve been holding on to Winter, and all that it represents, and the Gods would have no more of it. Or, it could be the result of cosmic forces; a planet gone retrograde, or some other unseen spirit. I cannot say. All I know is that in the past few days I’ve felt a shift back into a familiar rhythm, and the world I walk through has not come apart completely. Not just yet.

My daily meditation and devotion throughout April was consistent, and at times quite affected by the circumstances of my life. Then, there were moments when I realized just how grounding and important my daily practice has become.

I wrote on April 11th:

For some time now I have felt a weight upon me. The uncertainties of my life, specifically in my work, leave me confused about what choice to make. Often, the result is a static state; a refusal to choose anything at all. The creative flow becomes blocked, and depression sets in. I ask not with a sincere heart how I might move past this sense of bewilderment, but rather I counter every offer of help with a negative, pessimistic response. It wears me out.

My time in devotion is different. While there are some days that start smoother than others, and my devotionals may be more or less affected by the other circumstances of my life, this is a sacred time. It is made sacred, and the weight is lifted. If only I could continue this feeling and carry this space out into the rest of my life.

Several inspired works came during devotional this month. In time, I’ll post them here on the blog. I’m also considering, with great sincerity, how I might take my writing and shape it into a publishable book. I feel that there is a great need for new myths in our community – new stories we tell to explain our experience of this modern, crumbling, beautiful world – and I feel that there may be a calling for me to write such myths, as well as songs of praise (a book, perhaps, to accompany the great works of Ceisiwr Serith).

I wonder what my readers might think of new myths being written… Would you find use in reading and telling stories of a totally modern, but utterly re-enchanted world? Could the creation of such works become a vibrant, relevant component of our modern Pagan and Druid path?

From Ian Corrigan’s blog, Into the Mound:

1: The Cosmos is holographic – the whole is repeated within the parts. Especially, the human microcosm reflects the macrocosm.

2: The Gods exist in the macrocosm.

3: Therefor, their reflections exist in each individual human microcosm. These reflections are what Jung perceived as the ‘archetypes’.

4: Thus, when we invoke the Gods, and they draw near to us, their reflection draws near to our conscious awareness. Often it is only these internal daemons of the Gods that we actually perceive in our invocations, and that can be sufficient. The Gods act as and in those reflections just as they do as and through an idol of gold. Sometimes we are able to expand our awareness outside of our microcosmic bubble, and perceive the God more directly… Those are the big events…

 

Eyes closed, offerings made and a candle was lit for Brighid. My breath grew long and slow. The blackness of my mind became illuminated with color, and image. Before me was a green pasture stretching out towards the other edge of darkness. In front of me stood a large tree, next to which was a stone well (not unlike the one I’d seen at the holy site in County Kildare). Between these two sat a third.

She was radiant, and soft. She sat on the ground, and there was food in front of her. Her hair was golden, and he face pale. She emanated light.

I approached her and sat down. I could not see the details of her face, but I sensed that if I could I would see a gentle smile. She seemed at once very young and unfathomably old. She was beautiful.

I stayed only for a moment, and then I stood and backed away in the direction that I’d come. She maintained her focus on me until it all dissolved into the blackness again.

 

I gazed on this scene for only a moment, but what I saw, however brief, was unique to my experiences in meditation. There seemed to be an interaction between my imagination (a key component in meditative work) and something else; something other. It did not make me tremble, as did my first interaction with Arawn. Instead, it brought a feeling of peace and tranquility.

I take it as a blessing.

 

Praise be to the Bright One, who is, Herself, the Fire! She rests beside the Tree and the Well, and her radiance is a blessing to behold!


I sat in my room, staring blankly at my altar. I hadn’t even lit the candle or prepared the incense, and I was already stressed, bewildered, and overwhelmed with the drama of the morning.

The episode leading to this emotional state of emergency involved two missing shipping receipts, a lost package in Alaska, and $400 dollars. I was a frantic mess, running around the house, trying desperately to find the pink and gray Post Office notes, certain that I would end up with a very expensive consequence for my dis-organizational tendencies. My husband tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t be consoled. I collapsed into my chair, folded my arms across my chest, and proceeded to pout my very best pout.

He quietly left the room.

After a few minutes alone I thought about making a petition to the Kindreds, and I thumbed through A Book of Pagan Prayer. There was nothing for my specific situation. I started to wonder if there was something ethically problematic about asking for aid in the retrieval of a lost item. Is that too trivial? Should I wait to petition the Kindreds for something more dire? Recovery from a life-threatening illness, perhaps? I didn’t know what to do.

So, I decided to do my devotional anyway. I would approach my altar with sincerity, and, if it felt right in the moment, I would ask for otherworldly assistance in as respectful a way as possible. I would do it in a spirit of ghosti.

I centered. I purified. We opened the Gates. I blessed my offerings and lifted them up to the Kindreds. I lit a fire for Brighid. I sought out guidance through the tarot, and the images were both intuitively correct and intellectually foggy. Then, I approached the altar, closed my eyes and spoke from my heart.

I said that if the Kindreds deemed this cause worthy of their assistance, and if they would kindly help resolve this situation in my favor, I would, in return, donate a portion of the $400 to a group that seeks to restore balance and harmony with the Earth, and that honors the Gods.

There. I’d spoken my peace. I’d also made an oath to the Kindreds; not something a devoted Pagan should take lightly. I felt better. I’d done all I could do. I closed out the space and left my room.

Sitting in his office across the hallway was my husband, typing away at his computer. When he saw me he paused, and reached for something on the desk in front of him. He held up the two missing Post Office receipts. He’d just found them.

I grinned, and chuckled under my breath. How brilliant. How perfect.

Before thinking to long about it, I went back into my room and opened my computer. I went to ADF.org and found the link to “Donate” through their web-store. I made a donation, fulfilling my promise to the Kindreds.

All was right in the world again… just like that.

Ghosti!

I experienced a kind of breakthrough this morning during my devotional. For the first time since I began this path of Our Druidry, I sang my liturgy.

It was a magnificent feeling.

I think the experience was so fresh, so powerful, because the sung liturgy the part of the Episcopal church service I cherished the most. As I mentioned before, I was an acolyte, and I loved the liturgy. Wholeheartedly. I knew the rises and falls of the melody, and was moved by them. I relished in them. I sang along beneath my breath. It never occurred to me before today that I could facilitate that sort of worship on my own.

I had just finished intoning the AWEN, and I was centered and still. I was listening, deeply. From the silence, I heard in my mind, “Sing to Arawn.”

(I’ve learned to follow these voices during worship, and not spend time inspecting them too closely. When you receive this sort of quiet direction, you take it.)

So I did, and the experience was, in so many ways, more natural for me than speaking the invocation has ever been.

The melodies were simple, and reminiscent of those sung back at church. To Arawn, my melody was deeper, fuller; something felt right in singing with a manly tone when calling him. To the Kindreds, I lifted the melody a few steps, and, being that I speak close to the same words for each of my three offerings, I did my best to use the same melody for each of the Three. To Brighid I sang with the most passionate tone, which was still simple in its form (the Priest is never to interject too much, as it is the simplicity and beauty of the voice paired with the meaning behind the words that creates the proper worship experience).

After making my offerings, I thrice intoned the AWEN, recalling “Amen” from church. However, while singing the word I remained conscious that the AWEN is a force, living and moving through me and the world – not simply a statement of closing (as one might use, “So Mote It Be”).

This integration of yet another tradition from the Christian experience of worship feels right to me. There are so many effective aspects to the Episcopal liturgy, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t integrate them into my Pagan experience. This mashup of religious expression is coming from a sincere place, and I believe sincerity to be the most important ingredient in one’s religious life.

So, as I am moved, I shall sing to the Kindreds. I shall lift up my voice in praise to the Gods and Goddesses, the Ancestors who have paved the way for me, and the Spirits that surround me in this great land. I shall make a beautiful noise in their honor, and they shall hear me.

For the first part of Week 5, I was out of town. I managed to keep up my daily discipline, altering it slightly to fit a hotel environment. The Portable Altar was a much cherished tool. I managed to set aside about 30 minutes each morning to worship.

On January 28th, after making my offerings to the Kindred, giving praise and thanksgiving for their blessings, I wrote/discovered the following words. Each line was spoken during, or just before I shuffled the cards:

By the Fire

By the Water

By the Tree

In the Heavens

In the Otherworld

In the Middleworld

With the Shining Ones

With the Ancestors

With the Spirits of the Land

I believe I’ve started a new tradition for myself. I’ve used this prayer over my shuffling each day since.

My morning devotional was an anchor during my time away from home. I used this time with the Kindred to re-connect with my center, to remind myself of my creative gifts, and to recalibrate my spirit, if you will.

Week 6 was not my most meditative week, but I kept up with my devotionals. As things in my life get busy, and my mind is flooded with thoughts, meditation becomes challenging. Somehow, though, I find it easier to still my mind in service to the Kindred. Worship – prayerful action – is something I can do even when I feel unable to meditate.

There are times, however, where my mind is immediately calm; so much so that I feel a direct connection to the source of inspiration. Just yesterday, for example, I performed my devotional, made my offerings, invited the Kindred into my space, and I sat down to my table to draw an Omen. I drifted into a place of quite, dark stillness. An image appeared in my mind, as clear as a photograph, and the image spoke, I thought, to a creative project I’m working on.

I sketched the image, and then, in an attempt to get a better sense of the meaning or message behind the vision, I drew a 3 card spread. I was amazed to see that the image I drew in my journal – a picture of me in full Druid robe, standing before an altar – bore an uncanny likeness to the center card of my spread: The Hanged Man (which in this deck represents Pryderi, son of Rhiannon, and his assumption into a world between worlds). I may not have thought I was meditating, but my mind was primed and ready to receive this vision.

My daily devotional and my periodic, but often powerful meditative work, have become a central part of my life. For this reason, I feel blessed.

Week 4 of my daily meditation and devotion was Omen-centered. My creative work was consuming much of my time, and I sought guidance daily. I wrote on January 19th:

Throughout this two week period [referring to a 2 week creative project I was in the middle of], I’ve been given guidance from the Kindred. The Omens, or as I understand them, the Points of Focus, have been quite useful reminders and guiding posts throughout the work days.

Examples of the questions or statements I have posed to the Kindred and the Omens I have received are:

1/19/11

Q: What is my challenge?

A. The Tower.

Meaning: You are blessed with Awen. Fury may preceded grace, destruction may precede creation. The work of liberation, deepening and illumination progress.

1/20/11

Q. Why change decks? [A question I posed when I felt that I needed to switch from using the DruidCraft Tarot Deck to the Llewellyn Tarot Deck, a Welsh centered deck]

A. 10 of Wands, The Moon, Three of Cups.

Meaning: You are coming home. Home to the place where your intuition is a force, and where magic is born. These cards will aid you in your learning. Enjoy the experience.

Mid-week, I had an unexpected brush with an Ancestor, which I wrote about in this post. It gave me pause to consider whether or not I was moving faster than I should in my daily work. After approaching the Kindred, as well as communicating with a few ADF members, I found that there is nothing wrong with a daily practice — “slowing down” doesn’t mean changing the routine, or abandoning it altogether. It may simply mean, “lighten up”. There isn’t a need for every devotional to be performed with the intensity of a High Day ritual. After all, that’s what High Day rituals are for, right?

On January 24th, I made an intuitive decision to use the Ogham Card deck for an Omen. The card was Nuin (Ash). The book read:

Your deeds are part of a far greater, even endless, chain of events, and your own inner pathways have their reaction in the outer world.

This message was deeply connected to my meditation for that morning, and proved a very useful reminder throughout the day.

I’m not sure that the Celtic Tree Oracle would stand up to ADF’s academic standards, and I know there are some who outright dismiss the idea of a Tree Calendar (including ADF’s founder, Issac Bonewitz – read this). But, this feels like a good introduction to the Ogham, even if the historicity is questionable. At some point soon I would like to acquire, or better yet fashion my own set out of wood.

An unannounced visit from a relative can be jarring.

Especially when they’re dead.

My great-grandmother has paid a visit to my husband two times in as many days. She shows up, makes the lights flash on and off in our bedroom, and, by doing so, scares the fool out of him.

This isn’t the first time she’s visited him, either. She has shown up, reliably, just before: a.) a relative is taken to the hospital, b.) someone experiences physical trauma, or c.) we suffer through some major family drama.

She’s like a trans-dimensional red flag waver.

I don’t think she means to scare us – she wasn’t a malicious person while she was living, and it seems that her visits are always a warning of some kind. My husband believes that her most current visits are attempts to deliver a message to me that I may be moving too fast on my new spiritual path.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to do with this information. For now, I’m taking it under advisement and waiting to see if I get any clearer sense of what she means. I’m planning to continue with my morning devotional… unless that’s part of what she’s concerned about. I don’t know. It’s unclear.