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Reflections, by Camil Tulcan

Reflections, by Camil Tulcan

What a week this has been.

The SDF liturgy is live, and the response has been tremendous. I don’t have any way of knowing what the perspective is from every person participating, and I kind of prefer that for the moment. It may seem that I’m coordinating some massively social endeavor, but there is still a need to preserve and make space for the solitude in my own personal practice, as well as in the practices of the SDF participants. The not knowing how everyone else thinks requires us to focus on our own experiences for the time being. I like that.

In addition to the SDF liturgy launch, I’ve done a ton of writing. The Wild Hunt piece went up on Tuesday, and today I published a piece about Yule at HuffPost Religion titled, Yule: Be The Light Of The Returning Sun.

I hope that the Yule piece inspires some discussion and dialogue. As I write in the post, I’ve really had a challenging time preparing for the High Day, even with all of the work I’m doing for SDF. I hope that the messages offered in the post, as well as in the forthcoming discussion, lead to some deeper understanding.

And, as if this flurry of writing weren’t enough to keep me busy, I’m going to be serving as the Bard in the Yule ritual for a local ADF Grove, Silver Branch Golden Horn. My friend, William Ashton, who is the Grove Organizer for the upcoming Mountain Ancestors Protogrove (more details to come), has been asked to lead this Norse observance of the Solstice, and William asked me to sing. It’s been an interesting experience to hold the space between a very solitary-centered work and a group ritual. The two have been living beside one another, and I can’t tell if they are discordant or not.

There’s also been a good bit of talk on Twitter and Facebook about how the Solitary Druid Fellowship is somewhat peculiar because its website is missing the hallmarks of Internet interactivity (i.e. the forum, the open comment thread, etc.). I’ve heard people’s thoughts, and tried to hold them up against my original intention behind this choice: I believe that there should be moments in a congregation – even a congregation that exists in the form of an unseen bond created through shared practice – when we should be silent; when we should withhold our opinions, and even our questions, or at least allow for them to live in our minds for a while before airing them to the world.

I believe this is valuable, because my experience has shown me that allowing ideas to gestate in solitude can lead to unexpected revelation.

True, online forums can invite a great deal of dialogue, and this dialogue can inspire to new ways of thinking as well. But my intention has always been for the Solitary Druid Fellowship to use the time we commit to dialogue and discussion for a very focussed and clear purpose.

At first, this purpose will be for those who use the liturgy in their practice to come to the SDF blog and share what that experience was like for them. This, I hope, will be a space where people feel safe to express what worked and what didn’t, and to try and unpack why. In time, there be more moments where it makes clear sense to open up spaces for dialogue, and I’d like to do that deliberately and with intention.

(For those who want more consistent conversation with solitaries, there is the ADF Solitaries SIG (Special Interest Group). It’s open to ADF members, and I’ve recently been nominated to be the SIG Coordinator. I’d like to see some synergy between the SIG and the Fellowship, while at the same time allowing certain spaces to remain silent, still, and free of active discussion.)

Perhaps it won’t be long before my not knowing takes a turn. I’ll start to know more about who the SDF is, what they appreciate, what they long for. I know I can’t please everyone, but I am certainly open to understanding the minds and hearts of the solitaries who wish to open up on the SDF blog.

What do you think?

Have you found that the decentralization of the SDF communication (i.e. the talk that takes place on Twitter and Facebook) to be a good way of keeping the SDF site as a clean resource (which is a term I’m just trying out)? Bishop In The Grove has clearly been a place where dialogue has thrived, but do you see there being a valuable reason to keep some spaces comment-free?

If those questions don’t get your brain churching, why don’t you pop over to my HuffPost piece and see if there are ideas there that resonate with you.

And, from my heart, may you have a blessed Solstice and a Happy Yule!

I started out this December with a nose dive into Christmas cheer. Then, I spent some time exploring what parts of the Christian holiday were still resonant with me, and what I’d happily left behind. Now, the introspection of the Dark Days has set in.

It hit me unexpectedly. One moment I was working my craft, focussing on the task at hand, and the next I was on the verge of tears. Something someone said or some passing action spurred a memory of a younger me, and in that moment I was given insight into just how much time has passed. I didn’t feel old, but I was aware that I was no longer young in the same way that I used to be.

And this didn’t just happen once. It’s as though the entire climate and ecosystem of my personal and professional life has been infused with greater meaning, deeper symbolism, and a heavier tone. There’s been no escaping it. Nothing stills my mind but the repetitious act of knitting, and even in that there are moments where great pause and reflection interrupt the rhythm of the stitches.

What I’m feeling has nothing to with Jesus being or not being the “Reason for the Season” — all of that talk seems like trivial bickering right now. Nor does this state seem to stem from anything related to a recently assumed Pagan tradition that I’ve picked up over the past few years. This feeling doesn’t seem to originate from within me at all. It’s like the entire world is working a stillness into me, and I have little control in the matter.

Perhaps the reason that some of us bicker with each other around this time of year, be that over family dramas or to debate the legitimacy or illegitimacy of one another’s traditions, is that in doing so we experience a kind of spark; an artificial fire that allows us to deny the darkness that is actually setting in all around us, and inside of us. We remain in our heads, formulated better arguments, forging more effective defenses, and all the while the darkness grows deeper. The darkness grows in spite of our best efforts to hold on to the light.

We don’t need to pay attention in order for winter to happen. We don’t create the darkness. The darkness of winter simply arrives, and it transforms us, and we are left to decide whether we will surrender to it, or resist. In the darkness of winter, we are given the opportunity to see our lives from a still position, reflecting on who we’ve become and from where we’ve traveled. We can take that opportunity, or we can argue with one another. To choose the latter is to miss what the Holy Cycle of the World is offering to us.

It may seem that I have no choice in the matter; my emotions are a full cup, with the water just about to crest. But there must be some choice to be made, and I think I made it long ago when I committed myself to a deeper level of engagement with my life, with my beliefs and with the world around me. That’s what Druidry is for me; that is my Paganism. This commitment to my life has led me to — among other things — to a more acute sensitivity to the changes of the earth.

With just a few days left before Yule, before the calling back of the light, I experience a still darkness inside my soul, and through this darkness passes the images of a younger me, a me who was filled with many hopes and aspirations, naive to the challenges I would inevitably face, and unaware of little else besides my own desires and dreams. The darkness shows me who I was, and then without judgement, shows me who I am now.

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.