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This post is a response to the blog post “Omens and Tarot“, posted yesterday on Grey Wren’s Flight. I encourage you to read the full post for context, and I’ve provided a brief excerpt below which summarizes what she wrote.

“I’ve been incorporating omens into my devotionals lately, partly because I’ve been wanting to take my spiritual work to the next level, and partly because I have so many beautiful tarot decks that need love. (I’m such a little kid, wanting to play with my toys.)

The short version of this post: how do you take omens during a ritual?

What’s the best way to take omens? It must vary from person to person, but how does one find a method and feel confident that it’s working? Any thoughts?”

I’m delighted to read the you’re incorporating the tarot into your daily work, especially if you already have a relationship with the cards. I also use (as one of 2 or 3 regular decks) the DruidCraft Tarot, and I know exactly the image you’re speaking of.

For me, I’ve chosen to use the cards in a slightly different way. After making my offerings, I ask of the Kindred something like:

“If my offerings are acceptable to you, please provide me a point of focus, a message of guidance, an Omen.”

Then, I work with the cards. I may lay out a single card, or a three card spread. I have an Ogham deck, and I may choose to use that over the more visual, narrative cards. I allow the spread to be guided by my intuition.

I also may change my request of the Kindred to suit my needs at that moment. Today, my request was that they provide me insight into the story, song and poem that I’m preparing for the Bardic Chair competition at Wellspring. When I sat down at my tarot table, I chose to pull one card from 3 different decks – the DruidCraft, the Llewellyn Tarot and the Ogham Deck (something I’d never done before). The message that came forth was amazing!

This may not be strict ADF or PIE orthopraxy, but to me it feels right. I don’t just want to know if my offerings were accepted or acceptable, because I don’t think that all the Kindred want from me are some oats and a bit of oil. This is a relationship, and the offerings, in large part, are symbolic of something much deeper. I make these offerings so that I might initiate contact with forces that are greater and more powerful than myself. The objects I use are – I think – mostly arbitrary. It is the sincerity with which I share these object – these symbols – and the focus and intent with which I hold them up in worship that matters most.

I believe we should make offerings that feel right to us, and make requests of the Kindred as our needs and desires dictate. If, by Their wisdom, they do not see fit to provide us with exactly what we are asking, it seems to me that we need not take that as an immediate sign that our offerings weren’t “good enough”. It could be that our requests were simply not coming from the place of true need or right desire (if I might risk sounding moralistic by using that phrase).

So, use the tarot as feels best to you. Or, seek out their Omen in the clouds…or in the pattern of your coffee grounds! Or, perhaps best of all, still your soul and listen for the sound of their voices in the sanctuary of your heart.

This May I’ll be attending my first ADF Gathering — Wellspring 2011! I’m very, very excited.

Here’s the description of the event from ADF’s website:

Sound the Horn of Gathering, and light the Fire of the Feast! The Wellspring Gathering brings together the Elders, hard-working managers and membership of A.D.F. for a long weekend of worship and magic, teaching and learning music and fellowship.

We will be having a three part Bardic competition this year to include one of each: a song, a story and finally poetry. We will have a sign-up for the competition at the registration pavilion. The winner will receive a trophy of a necklace for the year(s) they are the winner of the competition. This will be set up as a performance on the schedule of events. This will allow all interested to come during the day time to see the many different talents we have in ADF. The judges will sit in on all the performances and the finalists will repeat there performance on Saturday night at the pot luck/brewers competition.

YES, I said Brewers Competition. Any of you that have a brew to bring to the event please try and get it there before Friday noon (unless other arrangements have been made). If you will not be there and want to join email me (AJ Gooch) and we can work it out. Mead and Beer are always welcome!

The band for the Saturday night pot luck will be The Mickeys a new band for the event. They have been to Brushwood for many events. This is sure to be a great time.

Also this year there will be an altar set at the front of the hospitality area for groves and solitaries to bring an item from their altar(s) to place there for the event. This is to show our unity in ADF and to carry the energy back home. Please mark your item with name and contact information in case it is accidentally left behind. BE READY FOR SOME CHANGES THIS YEAR.

Oh how I would LOVE to win the Bardic competition! I have 3 months to prepare an original song, story & poem for the event. That should be plenty of time!

Are any of my fellow Druids, Pagans or Dedicants-In-Training considering attending? What say you – join me for a song around the fire?

 

I don’t normally share the details of my daily meditation outside of one of my weekly recaps. But today, in light of the power and poignancy of the experience I just had, I’m making an exception.

I started the devotional with the Two Powers meditation. I was a tree, the greatest tree ever to stand, and I pulled the water from the ground, through my roots, into my being. I felt the sun above me, and I felt the heat pour into me. The two powers mixed in the middle, and my tree-body tingled. I was ready to begin.

Each day when I approach my altar, I call out to Arawn, Welsh god of the Underworld, and ask him to join his magic with mine. With our magic joined, I ask for him to: take the candle flame and transform it, that it may become the Sacred Fire, the gateway to the Heavens; take the chalice of water and transform it, that it may become the Sacred Well, the gateway to the Otherworld; take the wand made of wood and transform it, that it may become the Sacred, World tree, connecting the Heavens and the Otherworld, standing as a gateway in the Middle Earth.

Once the gates are opened, I make my offerings to the Kindred. Typically, those are olive oil for the Shining Ones, oats for the Ancestors, & sugar for the Nature Spirits. Then, with a special candle lit, I offer up my heart to Brighid as a living sacrifice of my praise & thanksgiving, my respect and honor, my love and worship. I save her offering for last.

For a while now I’ve been heading straight to my tarot table after all of my offerings are made. Today, though, I did something different. I stood before my altar, still very much in the same space I’d been in during offerings, and I spoke out loud a request to the Kindred. I asked for their assistance as I shuffled the cards. I asked that they provide me guidance and direction, a clear point of focus, an Omen. Usually, I’d ask this after I sat down at my table, and I’d have to re-center before I did it. Today I never lost that center. My request came directly after offerings were made, and I think that may have had an impact on what happened next.

I shuffled the cards, just as I explained in the recap of Weeks 5 & 6, and I cut the three times. Then, it happened:

Two of Swords   |   Two of Cups   |   Two of Pentacles

Three 2’s!?

Somehow I knew after the second 2 that I would pull the third. Three 2’s. This is not ordinary. And, I’ve been pulling some of the same cards in every spread lately, which I take as a sign to me of one or more themes running constant through my life. But none of those cards weren’t present today. Today I was shown a different kind of message.

I read 2’s as cards representing choice. Interestingly, the only 2 not represented in this spread is the 2 of Wands, a suit most closely associated with Will, or making choices. There was no clear choice to be made; there was only the message given that I am moving into a climate of choice, and that I need to remain aware and alert.

I must be willing to suspend my intellect and trust my intuition (2 of Swords). I must remember that I have already chosen to be in the relationships I’m in, and now it is a matter of the heart whether or not I choose to experience the positive or negative aspects of those relationships (2 of Cups). I must maintain my balance, be clever and cunning, and – even as I stand amidst a raging storm – be light on my feet (2 of Pentacles).

This Omen was a true blessings from the Kindred. I just had to share it.

I’ve been back and forth with a few books, uncertain of how exactly to commit to a book for my DP Indo-European book report. My first one (Jaan Puhvel’s Comparative Mythology) was a bust. The second on my list (In Search of the Indo-Europeans) was also text-book-dense. History was never my forte, and my getting older hasn’t changed that much.

Now, religion and philosophy? I can dig into some religion and philosophy.

I’m taking a momentary pause from the search for the perfect IE history book (keeping my copy of A History of Pagan Europe nearby) and taking on a fascinating book, A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism.

I wouldn’t consider the book a light read, but it is certainly more fitting to my temperament. Plus, as someone whose early years were spent worshiping and developing a religious identity in a monotheistic tradition, I feel the need to address the differences between a “one God” and “many gods” system head-on.

It may be a bit out of order for the DP calendar set forth in Rev. Dangler’s Wheel of the Year, but it feels right for me now.

Ideally, this series of posts, “On Meditation and Devotion” will come weekly, and serve to summarize the daily entries I keep in my hand-written journal.

Week 1

On December 27th, 2010, I performed my first ADF style daily devotional. I read, near verbatum, the ritual that Skip Ellison shared in his book, Solitary Druid. I proceeded through the ritual, not sure if my words would be heard. I called on Arawn – the Welsh God of the Underworld, who first made his presence known to me in a dream I had last summer (an experience worth unpacking in a future blog post) – and asked for him to open the Gates. I made offerings of lavender to the Spirits of the Land, oats to the Ancestors, and olive oil to the Shining Ones.

After making offerings, I sat as my desk and, honestly, didn’t know what to do next. The book calls for meditation, and my intention, before I decided to perform a more formal devotional, was to write. But, I was unclear if writing would serve as a “meditative” act. So, I did little else during this first ritual. I closed it out according to the book, and documented my experience in my journal.

I arrived at my altar every day during this next week and did much of the same things as on the first day. Once I got off the page, I discovered that performing this ritual, especially when centered around expressing to the Kindred my praise, thanksgiving, gratitude, honor and respect, was a very natural experience for me. I know how to do this. Liturgy just makes sense to me.

Week 2

Starting on January 4th, 2011, I began exploring meditation more deliberately in my daily devotionals. There was, to be fair, a meditative spirit to the liturgy during the first week, and I worked to slow my breath, center myself and free my mind of distraction. But, during Week 2, things changed and my meditation became more focussed.

On the morning of the 4th, as described in my journal,

“I traveled…to a place where the Land, Water and Sky met. I heard my breathing, and the sound became the crashing of the ocean on the shore. Each inhalation was the pulling back of the water, and each exhale was the water slamming on the sand.”

The thought occurred to me (a thought I was having in that place and not before my altar, if that makes sense) that I should be doing some sort of ritual there. I imagined an altar, but it seemed out of place. No symbols I imagined seemed to fit, and it occurred to me that enacting the ritual I used to open the Gates may not be the one I was feeling called to perform in this new, mystical space.

I didn’t know what to do, so I raised my arms and said “Thank you. I’d like to come back.”

I brought my awareness back to my body and closed out the ritual, profoundly grateful for this experience and a little mystified as to what it meant.

I continued to visit this place throughout the week, exploring a bit further the landscape, but never straying far from where I first appeared (a cave near the point where the Land meets the Water and Sky). Once I smelled a flower, which I think may have been a calendula. Another time, a memory surfaced, along with an insight into the relevance of that memory in my current life. Each day brought a new experience; a new mystery.

Week 3

In my post, Turning Over A Good Omen, I wrote of a sign I received from the Kindred. During Week 3, starting on January 10th, 2011, I brought the tarot into my daily devotional. Read this post for a glimpse into how this change of routine brought with it a profound experience of connectedness to the Great Ones.

I did not visit the Sacred Place in my meditations this week, but I did have a revelatory experience that I believe was a precursor to incorporating the Two Powers Meditation into my daily devotional.

From my journal entry of January 14th, 2011:

“A more centered mediation/ritual this morning. The Hallows are still open as I write this. When I look through my mind’s eye, the Fire is raging, the Water deep and moving, and the Tree wide and surrounded by a mist. It occurred to me as I sat down to shuffle, after perhaps the 5th or 6th turn, that when I stand with the Flame overhead and the Waters reaching up into my feet from the earth that I am the tree which holds the Middle Earth.”

For anyone who is aware of the Two Powers Meditation, you will recognize this vision.

The following evening, while reading through Our Druidry, I decided that I was ready to explore the Two Powers Meditation for the first time. When I read through the descriptions of the Earth Power and the Sky Power, and how the energy is circulated through the body, I was flabbergasted! I saw this! This came to me! What a blessing!

Perhaps the Two Powers Meditation is the ritual I felt called to do in the place where the Land meets the Sky and the Water!

My last post, Turning Over A Good Omen, received a thoughtful and sincere comment from Grey Wren, a blogger and new friend whose DP work I’ve enjoyed reading. (Pay her site a visit. She’s delightful.) Her words are on my mind this afternoon, and I’d like to share them with you.

She wrote:

I could use a little Princess of Wands blessing in my own creative work today. It’s one of *those* days. I’ve been so wrapped up in discussing my personal struggles with the Kindred that I’ve neglected my professional struggles.

I’m writing this post from work, which may have something to do with why her words are resonating for me!

But this theme has surfaced in other places, too. In a mailing list thread that’s been steadily growing over the past week, one ADF member, Karen, joined the dozen-ish other members in who responded to the question, “What were or are your hurdles with the Dedicant Program”.

She wrote:

I’m finding my biggest hurdle is remaining constant in my studies and practices through the ebbs and flows of my mundane life.

Karen and Grey Wren are not alone. I think many of us feel this way, whether we’re working our way through a structured program, like the Dedicant Path, or building a spiritual discipline from scratch.

I pose this question to my readers, regardless of your spiritual tradition and practice (and there are a good 60 of you who are regulars to the site, so don’t be shy – speak up):

How do you integrate your spiritual practice into your ordinary life? What tips could you give someone who is struggling with this challenge?

The snow is falling outside my house. It doesn’t want to stop. It’s the light, lingering kind of snow, and it makes me feel a little bit slower than usual.

This morning, during my daily devotional, after my offerings had been made to the Kindred, I sat down to write a blog post. Sometimes writing seems like the natural form of meditative work to do. I started to write about an experience I had last night, during which I was approached by an acquaintance and asked if I would be interviewed about my religious beliefs. I politely declined, informing him that I was in the middle of a process, and that sometimes in order for a process to remain sacred, it has to be kept secret.

It may seem strange that I write on Bishop In The Grove about the desire to keep my beliefs private. This is a publicly viewable blog, after all. But, to the best of my knowledge he is unaware of the work I’m doing here.

What struck me as interesting about his request, and what sent me into a bit of a tailspin, was how he framed the proposed discussion. My beliefs were what mattered to him, not my practice. When I thought to myself, “What do I believe?” I was reminded of an earlier time in my life; a time when I could have told you exactly what I believed. I recited my beliefs quite clearly every Sunday morning.

As a child, I was indoctrinated into the Christian church, and by extension, the Christian worldview. This isn’t some deep, dark secret, nor was this morning the first time the thought had occurred to me. But, for whatever reason, today it felt like a revelation.

Indoctrination happens to the best of us. Most every child who grows up in a creedal church learns what they “believe” through the rote recitation of someone else’s words. Some grow up to continue to believe those words, to allow them to forever shape the way they see the world. And others, like me, grow up to discover that they are drawn to something different. The words become hollow. Mechanical. Devoid of any magic whatsoever.

ADF’s widely accepted beliefs, as explained by ADF’s founder, Isaac Bonewitz, make sense to me. I can accept them, at least as a starting point. But I am still a novice when it comes to talking about those beliefs as my own. In a way, they aren’t my own. They aren’t creedal, or doctrinal. They are descriptive, not prescriptive, if that makes sense. They describe the loosely held, collective beliefs of a body of people, to which I belong. They are not prescriptive of how I must believe in order to belong to that group.

I was made a Christian, and all of my “I Believe” statements were handed to me. I learned them, loved them at times, and was resistant to them at others. But, they were core to my experience of being a Christian. I was what I believed.

Now, I think I’m being called into a different process.

This is a process of discovery; a process that is all about the “doing”. In searching for a practice that is spiritually fulfilling, that, as my husband pointed out today, gets at the deep, deeper-than-Christian roots I’ve always been connected to, and in working with forces, movements of being, that are very old, (like, capital O, Old),  I will come to understand with great clarity what it is that I believe. I will be able to explain my beliefs, my worldview, to others, perhaps in a way that is universal, completely ecumenical. My beliefs will be a natural extension of my practice.

And, it will take time.

Patience is a virtue, the Christian adage goes. But, as you may know, patience isn’t on ADF’s list of virtues to study.

Perseverance is, though.

Perseverance, which I’ve not written about before, may be a current running beneath the surface of this post, and of my life as a whole. My vision may not be perfectly clear, and my path may be fog-dense at times, but the only way for any of that to change is by me continuing to do what I’m doing. Now may not be the best time to explain my beliefs, but if I persevere that time may soon come.

That's totally me in the middle.

For the better part of the past two months I’ve been developing a new workout routine. I’ve made it to the gym 6 days a week, for at least an hour per visit.

I’m there so much they should be paying me a salary.

Today I found out that I’ve reached my two month exercise goals, putting on several new pounds of muscle and dropping another 1 1/2 percentage points of body fat. The news was thrilling. I’ve put in the work, and it’s starting to show.

“What should I do to now?” I asked my trainer.

“Keep doing the work,” he said simply.

Now, for the better part of the past two weeks I’ve been developing a new spiritual routine. I’ve risen each morning and made my way into my little sanctuary of a room, lit my candles, and worked at teaching myself new words to say to new Gods. (That is, new to me.) I’m building myself a new religion; word by word, day by day.

The results of the physical work are measurable. I know my thighs are shrinking, as is my belly. I know that my shoulders are bigger, and that my chest is broadening. But the results of my spiritual work don’t come in inches or pounds. My spiritual growth doesn’t make my t-shirts fit any different. In fact, unless you’re really looking close at me you might not even see a difference at all.

But, there is a difference.

In an e-mail exchange I was fortunate enough to have with Kirk Thomas, ADF’s Archdruid, he told me that he was glad that I was doing the work.

“You know, that’s what it’s all about.”

So simple, these men in my life.

Do the work. That’s all you need to worry about. Just keep doing the work.

The results will be evident in time.

My altar is my Cathedral.

It is the place where I go each morning to worship, to pray, to meditate.

I make my altar new with each ritual I perform, infuse it with more of my essence, my intention, my magic.

There is fire on my altar.

There is water on my altar.

There is wood on my altar.

There is a place to make offerings to the Three Kindred, and there is special recognition of Brigid, my patroness.

Atop my altar is The Awen, and Brigid’s Cross.

I placed The Awen above all else because, to me, The Awen represents the Source of All Things. It is, in my understanding, the First Inspiration, the Eternal Fire, The Essence of us all.

The Brigid’s cross is a sacred symbol that I acquired during a pilgrimage I made to Ireland almost 10 years ago. I journeyed as a Christian, along with a group of other pilgrims. On this trip, I first encountered Brigid, visited her sacred well, and established my first, conscious connection to the Irish land.

I have placed a statue of Brigid on my altar. She stands, serene and prayerful, at the edge of a well. At her feet are two young sheep. Her head is framed by the rays of the sun.

I grew up in a tradition that accepted statues as useful tools for focus, but not physical embodiments, necessarily, of the Divine.

I chose to have a statue on my altar because I value the reminder of the Personhood of Brigid. She is a real, active force, and seeing a physical representation of a person helps to keep that understanding forefront in my mind during worship.

In front of Brigid, I have placed the candle, the wand, and the chalice.

I stand before this altar in the morning and make my offerings. I give thanks. I pray. I meditate. I am filled with wonder at just how close the Kindred are.

They are no more than a deep breath away.

UPDATE 1/4/11

After speaking with my  husband, the one personal who knows intimately what I can and cannot juggle, I’ve decided to remove my name from the ballot. Childlike excitement aside, this position should be filled by someone who knows that they can commit the time, and I can’t do that. I can offer my enthusiasm now, and I have the heart for it, but I’d do all of ADF a disservice if I took the position and then was unable to fulfill my duties. It would be better for me to continue, to the best of my ability, to reach out in a spirit of fellowship to other ADF members, and leave the responsibility of coordinating them to someone with a more reliable schedule.

This morning I volunteered to be nominated for the position of Coordinator of the ADF SolSIG, or Solitary Special Interest Group.

A week ago, when members of the Solitary SIG were approached about the position opening, I reluctantly passed. A part of me, the eternal seven year old, wanted to say “YES, YES! Pick me! Pick me! I can do it! Let me show you!”

But, the grownup won out.

November through January are typically lighter months for me. I do more reading, more writing; I retreat inward and experience an expansion in my esoteric studies, my spiritual life. As the Wheel turns and the air gets warmer, so speeds up the pace of my profession. I’m never really sure how busy I will be, or how much time I’ll have from February on.

The seven year old in me doesn’t think about these sorts of things. He only wants to make friends, be his best, be loved.

But then the e-mail came this morning, and I saw that there was still a need for nominees. I changed my mind. I told the Solitary SIG that I would submit my name for the ballot.

Why, if I’m trying to be a grownup, trying to take on only what I think I can handle, would I do such a thing?

Simple. I find evidence of The Kindred in the lives of my fellow human beings. Through others, I see myself, and I remember that I am connected to them, they to me, and us to the Cosmos. I love people, and I long for everyone’s spirit to expand in their lives. They deserve it, and I would like to help in whatever way I can.

So, my name is on the ballot. I don’t know if I will be chosen to serve, but if I am I hope to bring this spirit of love and fellowship to the position. I will stand in service to my fellow seekers, and to The Kindred, if it be their collective will for me to do so.

This post is a response to The Meaning of Prayer on Grey Wren’s Flight.

Kristin, I appreciate what your fiancé said – “Prayer is an offering of time and spirit” – and I’d like to add something my husband told me. He said that of all the offerings we make to the Kindred, our sincerity may be the greatest one we have to give.

When we were Catholic, or in my case, Episcopalian, and we prayed in thanks for something we had received, or to request something from God (good health, protection, blessings upon those who we loved, etc.), we were making a sacrifice, of a sort. True, we also had a theological construct to inform our understanding of sacrifice (i.e. Jesus’s transaction on the cross), but we approached our God with a sincere heart and made our requests anyway. How different was that from what we are doing now? We may offer grain or spirits, incense or fire, but fundamentally are we not simply offering a part of ourselves?

We give back because we have already received, not simply because we wish to receive more. Our offerings can have built in to them a recognition of all that has already been given to us.

In a way, your “spontaneous prayer” can do the same thing.

Rev. Skip Ellison writes these suggestions for integrating your spirituality into your daily life in his book, Solitary Druid:

  • When you see something in nature that strikes you, thank the Spirits of Nature.
  • When you remember one of your Ancestors, thank them for giving you their wisdom
  • When you feel the presence of one of the deities, thank them for being with you, and ask if there is a special lesson you should be learning from this moment.
  • Last, by opening yourself up to what is really happening around you, you will find it easier every day to understand this communion with the Mighty Kindreds.

Make the first steps to bringing prayer back into your life. It belongs to you still. It is a natural extension of your innate connection to the Mighty Kindreds.

(To Kristin, and to all those who long for the immediacy of prayer that they knew before starting their journey on the Druid Path, I encourage you to purchase a copy of A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith.)

I was thrilled when my copy of Jaan Puhvel’s Comparative Mythology showed up on my doorstep. It was a busy week for all package deliverers driving down my block. Puhvel’s book arrived, as did J.P. Mallory’s In Search of the Indo-Europeans (a title my husband was interested in), Kevan Manwaring’s The Bardic Handbook, and ADF Senior Priest, Rev. Michael Dangler’s companion to the ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year, A Journal of Things Done.

Like I said, busy week.

I’ve shelved The Bardic Handbook for now – one new learning system at a time, please. I anticipate bringing it out if I should encounter any creative dry spells. Rev. Dangler’s Journal was a terrific purchase. It’s a must have for anyone who ever excelled at workbook-style learning (a little structure and guidance can go a long way). I put it straight to use.

Now, the Puhvel book. Let me tell you about the Puhvel book.

This is not a book to read. This is a book to reference. All it took was the Introduction and about three pages of the first section to figure this out.

No disrespect to Puhvel. He’s smart. Uber smart. And I’m sure that there’s plenty of valuable information in this book. I just think my brain might break into a billion bits if I try to read it cover to cover. And I don’t really think he wrote it for me to read. I think he wrote it for academia, and I don’t know if he means for them to read it either. It’s a good text, but not really a good read.

I think I’m going reach across the bed and steal my husband’s copy of In Search of the Indo-Europeans. I’ll let him take a stab at the impenetrable tome.

Yesterday I was speaking with an old friend about Druidry, telling him about ADF and the Dedicant Path. He and I have always had a deep spiritual connection, and it felt good to catch him up on all of the inspired work I’m doing.

When I talk, especially to people I’m close with, I ramble. It is during said ramblings that I often stumble upon insights about myself, my beliefs, or my overall worldview. When the self-censoring part of my brain shuts down, the creative part opens up, and all sorts of interesting things fall out of my mouth.

Point in fact: Drubie.

I am a Drubie, as in, New Druid, or New to the Druid Path. Drubie. Fun, right?

The word is light-hearted, and when I say it out loud it reminds me that while spiritual work deserves my dedication, focus and sincerity, I have to remember not to take everything too seriously. Irreverence is good seasoning, and you wouldn’t want your food to start getting bland. Would you?

So, here’s to all you other Drubies out there! May your spiritual meals have a little kick in ’em.

For the past three days I’ve started my morning with a daily devotional. My altar, in place since before I joined ADF, is even more active and vibrant now. There are four fires burning upon it as I write this, and the fragrance of Frankincense still permeates the still, sanctified air. I’m reminded of what Church felt like at it’s best. That is what I have re-created in my little room.

My husband gave me a copy – a rather difficult one to find, I might add – of Skip Ellison’s book, Solitary Druid. The book is proving to be a very useful resource in these first few weeks of my work on the Dedicant Path. Early on in the book, in Chapter 4 (Living the Life of a Solitary Druid), Skip shares the inner workings of his daily ritual, including how he approaches the Gatekeeper, Mannanán mac Lir, how he gives respect to the Three Kindred, and how he makes offerings and requests to each of them.

I followed the ritual rather closely on the first day, making only a few substitutions. While I have respect for Mannanán mac Lir, and I acknowledge that he is a great force in the Spirit World – primordial, even – I feel called to reach out to Arawn, the Welsh God of the Otherlands. Arawn payed me visit in a dream earlier this year, an experience that shook me to my core, and I now believe that he was initiating a relationship with me. So, it is He that I call on to open the Gates. I also substituted olive oil for the whiskey Skip suggested as a favorite offering to the Shining Ones. We have none such spirits in our cabinets.

Reading a ritual off a page is awkward. The words are missing the fire of inspiration, at least that’s how it felt to me on my first and second day of my morning devotional.

Today, I made a change.

I prepared my offerings to the Kindred, as well as all of the other materials I use in the ritual (matches, fresh candles). With the book closed and my mind centered, I approached my altar. I spoke from my heart, reaching out to Arawn, transforming my candle in to a Sacred Fire, my copper chalice into a Sacred Well, and my wand into the Sacred Tree. I called on the three Kindred with more sincerity than I ever had before, speaking to them without pretense. My requests were made with kindness, and my offerings with true gratitude.

When I made my offering to Brighid, I felt immediate reciprocity; a warm energy surrounded me, and the calm feeling of creative light permeated the room.

I sat down and wrote, effortlessly.

Today’s experience was a blessing; a much needed sign that I do not walk alone on this path. There are spiritual forces at work in my life, and they are conspiring with me an abundance of good things.

The Druid path requires a different kind of faith that what I’ve known before. This new faith is a faith in the power and relevance of my own actions.

One must believe that the Kindred are conscious and aware – that could be a leap of faith for many of us. But, outside of that, one must believe strongly that the actions one takes, either in ritual, or prayer, or through some other form of worship, are sufficient in order for them to be effective. I’m not certain how one receives the definitive word from the Kindred that said actions are insufficient – I think that is the reason that divination is used in ADF ritual. But, before any evidence is given one way or the other, the Druid must approach the Kindred with sincerity. This, I’m starting to see.

Sincerity, as my husband told me yesterday morning, can be the best offering one makes to the Divine.

When I was a part of the Christian church, I was called to have faith in my beliefs. That faith was offered up as a bit of sustenance to get me through spiritual drought. I’m reminded of that drought now, but what I’m experiencing these days is less an absence of spirit and more an absence of community.

I wish there was a Druid gathering every week. I wish we celebrated every Moon cycle, and met regularly to better our liturgical skills and our knowledge of the Old Ways. I wish there was a Druid Center in every neighborhood. I wish that we didn’t meet in basements, but instead we gathered in bright places filled with beautiful representations of our Cosmos.

I wish we had an ADF Church.

I find myself drifting between the High Days, longing for something more consistent, more continuous. Eight days out of every three-sixty-five? That isn’t enough for me.

This, I suppose, is where my new understanding of faith must step in. If I long for continuity in my spiritual life, I must create continuity in my spiritual life. Faith, in this case, is the act of doing my daily, spiritual work.

It’s a different kind of sustenance, needed to get me through a different kind of drought.

The ADF Yule Ritual I attended this past weekend was the second High Holiday ritual I’ve recognized, publicly. The celebration was informal – more communal than liturgical – and it left me longing a bit for the smell of incense and the dim, candle-lit ambiance of Samhain.

Yule does not invite the same somber, solemn tone that one might find at a festival honoring those who’ve passed, but it is High Day where we recognize the annual point of greatest darkness. For me, the rebirth of the Sun is only relevant when I am encouraged to rest with the darkness; to genuinely remember and honor the darkness. There is cause for celebration because we are in the act of surviving the long, cold Winter.

There was a moment during the Yule ritual where this type of remembrance became manifest. A participant in the ritual, holding up the horn of mead, payed her respects to (and I’m paraphrasing) “a really awful year”. I heard these words, and my heart ripped open. Her darkest day was felt, and through the very act of raising the horn in a toast she was calling for the light to return, to bring renewal and rebirth to a weary soul.

I don’t wish to sound dire or morose. I’m not suggesting that Yule be akin to group therapy, or that we all must poster our ritual space with signs of our pain and suffering in order to be joyous. I’m simply seeking a balance of light and dark, and sometimes that balance falls more on the dark side.

When I was a child, and very much surrounded by and nurtured in the Christian tradition, I did not understand why there was such an urgent need for a Savior. Sin, a cornerstone of the faith, was more than my little kid mind could grasp. Now, I’m less a little kid, and sin is still problematic. The concept does not really belong in the Pagan paradigm, but I’m reminded of it as I think about this idea of acknowledging the dark as we await the coming of the Sun.

Perhaps there is a parallel.

Our darkness – the pain and suffering we experience, the regret we feel over poorly made choices – it is real. We may not see it as a result of some original mistake by our mythic “first parents” – that myth may mean nothing to us. But, all people, regardless of creed or tradition, are subject to the darkness.

We are all in need of the Sun to return.

Tonight is the Full Moon… and Yule… and a Lunar Eclipse…

All at the same time. How’s that for cosmic coincidence?

Tonight is also the night I take my first steps on a new path: the ADF Dedicant Path.

Thinking back to the preparations I’ve made over the past few weeks, it occurs to me that my first act an ADF Dedicant is called to perform – the First Oath – has already been written. I don’t think I realized that’s what it was when I was writing it. But, the words which came to me just before Samhain – words that speak to a lone seeker, standing underneath the moonlit sky, feet planted in the native soil, crying out to the night for a fire to be lit in his soul — if that isn’t an Oath, I’m not sure I know what is.

To sing this song is to remember that I am on this path, and that the Light which I seek is already burning within me. This light sustains me in the darkness, and is the source of my inspiration, the spark of wisdom gained and the promise of Divine guidance and love.

Tonight, in a little over an hour, I will walk outside, stand beneath a red moon, and declare to the unseen forces that guide my life that I honor them, I am committed to learned the Old Ways of worship and devotion to them, and I seek to live a life in service to the world using the gifts they have given me to the best of my ability.

I am a Pagan. I seek to live a virtuous, pious, studious life that connects me to the world, to my heart and mind, and to The Shining Ones, The Ancestors and the Nature Spirits.

So let it be.