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SwampDruid: @chronarchy just gotta find a place to plug in, I guess. Also too much “work” and not enough play, I think
chronarchy: @SwampDruid There is always too much work, and not enough play 🙂

As I’ve gotten more and more involved with my Dedicant Path work, I’ve let it become exactly that. Work. Which, of course, it is – important work, and good work. But coming at it with the attitude that it is “work that must be done” is a little stifling.

I’ve been working on my Vision essay (that posted yesterday) and I think that play needs to be part of my vision. It’s so easy for this to be so very very serious all the time, and while I definitely think there is a time to be serious, there is also a time for laughter and childlike wonder at the world that we are supposedly so in love with and tasked with caring for.

One of the things I’ve experienced very strongly with the presence who has been visiting me during certain meditations is a feeling of laughter. It wasn’t expected, really, and I’ve come to find it to be very comforting. It’s not a mean spirited laughter, but a kind, warm, welcoming laughter at my continually serious attempts to make contact.

I am, it seems, trying too hard.

I’m going to work more on letting go and allowing the playful side of Druidry to happen for me, whether that’s just being outside and laughing at the squirrels in my yard, or hugging trees, or talking to the myriad lizards around my house. There is so much potential for wonder and laughter, and I’m not finding much of either recently, and I think I need to refocus to include more of that.

I’m not sure exactly HOW to do that, but it’s something I want to have more of in my Druidry.

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I was thinking about my post last week, and about how I never made the first oath to start the Dedicant path, even though it was given as an assignment in the WOTY book and suggested on the website.

I’m oath-shy, I guess? I didn’t want to promise anything that I couldn’t fulfill to any Gods who might want to be listening. I take that very seriously, and at the time I didn’t think I could honestly promise anything more than to give it a try and see what happened.

I’m still not sure I’d make much more oath than that.

This week’s assignment is to start thinking about the Dedicant Oath, taken as the last step on the Dedicant Path. I know I don’t need to be ready for that step yet, but I’m really not looking forward to it right now. It’s probably the thing that will hold me up on completing the DP – all the other work is fairly methodical and finishable, but an oath? That’s much more complicated.

For one thing, it’s not just you that makes an oath – it’s a resounding sort of thing that you’re swearing to the Kindreds that you’ll uphold, and they will hold you to it. That’s pretty serious business, and I hesitate to make an oath that will be binding for the rest of my life when I really don’t know how the rest of my life will shape up. I know I can word it so that I’m only on this path as long as I want to travel it, but it still makes me altogether uneasy. I especially don’t want my words to be twisted to mean more than I intend, or to be held to a promise I didn’t intend to make, so there’s a lot of deliberation here.

Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, that it should be a little uncomfortable and challenging, something to take the step forward into being recognized as a Dedicant (though I think what I’m doing now is a pretty full practice of ADF style Druidry, I’m just not labeled as having completed a particular set of coursework yet). And maybe I’m a little bit afraid of commitment (I’ll admit to that much).

I know the Norse took oaths very seriously, and if I end up actually making an oath, I intend to do so very seriously as well. I’m just not really in a place with Druidry where I’m ready to swear anything to anyone about it, yet. Maybe I will get there and maybe not, and I really do have quite a while to make these decisions. It seems a bit early to be thinking about it, honestly, but I guess for some people this comes much more easily.

My tendency to overthink things may be kicking in here, but I feel like I should really mean it if I’m going to make an actual, serious, legitimate oath. What I want, more than anything, is to find the place that I fit into paganism (regardless of what that path is). Maybe in 6 months I’ll be more sure of how I want to address the Dedicant Oath and my eventual place in ADF.

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So this week’s assignment in the Wheel of the Year book has you revisiting a lot of the whys and wherefors of the Dedicant Path, with questions about why you got started and how you think you’re doing.

It’s gotten me thinking, since a lot of my practices have changed to be more in line with ADF since I began, but I don’t know how much I really feel like this is going to be the end path for me. I’m not going to rule it out, but after four months, I still feel strongly drawn to the Wicca tradition that I was previously part of. Thing is, I’m not sure I can go back. Not that I don’t want to, but that I’m not sure there’s a place for me there, and with a close knit coven, you can’t ask them to change their mind about something like this. (And solitary work wasn’t really working out.)

Also, I decided to do this “Druid thing” for a year, and I’m going to stick to that. I think I’ve done pretty well at keeping up with the various requirements, and I’m nearly done with several of them. I didn’t take a “First Oath” because I didn’t feel particularly prepared to make any oaths at that point, though I did promise myself that I’d give ADF a try for a year, which I guess is kind of oath-like. On that level, I’ve done pretty well so far, since I’ve made good progress on all of the essays (and am even ahead on some, like the book reports).

I’ve found what I think will be my hearth culture, after some experimentation, and I’m working on deciphering Who it is from that culture that has been visiting my meditations. (I have a pretty good gut feeling, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. So I’m going to read more and meditate more, and maybe draw some runes.) I like the idea of having a focused few Gods that I work with regularly, while still having a Pantheon to draw from if I need them.

The requirements so far haven’t been particularly hard or challenging, though some of them have made me think a bit (which is the point). Honestly, I’ve done more thinking and questioning outside of the actual DP requirements than I have for the actual essays. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, since I know that self-discovery comes from that kind of introspection and questioning, but it wasn’t what I expected. I’m feeling a little like the actual requirements are just elaborate hoop jumping, on some levels. I understand why those hoops are there, but many of them are little more than pagan busy-work. But, of course, finishing the Dedicant Path is as much about having completed a course of study, so I’m not too upset about it.

Overall, I’m pleased with the last four months of work and feeling like I’m making some progress towards the end goal. Or at least AN end goal, as I don’t really know what my eventual end goal actually is!

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shrine2-13

Just a quick update to my altar – I’ve added a new offering pitcher (the little blue one) and a new offering bowl (the ceramic one with blue glaze). These both came out of my husband’s grandmother’s house, as we were helping to clean up her things. She passed away a few years ago, so I’m happy to have some things that represent ancestors on my altar now. I haven’t figured out quite what I’ll be using them for yet. I think the offering bowl will be one for dry offerings only, since it’s not glazed inside. The little pitcher would be great for oils though, and now that I have some charcoal discs, I may be able to give oil offerings to the fire for the high day!

I do move things around when I’m actually using the altar though, and I think it’s more than time I got a little shelf to keep some of this off my working surface. I don’t even have any statues yet, but things feel pretty cluttered. It’s a little hard to move around, and I’m always afraid I’m going to end up with my arm in the fire (again).  My Tree is incredibly tall though (almost 3 feet) so I may need to shrink it a bit in order to put a shelf above the altar. Either that, or get myself two small shelves to put on either side of the Tree.

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I’ve been working on the Ancestors essay for the DP, and finding that it’s a little hard for me to work with. I really like the division of Ancestors into different types of kin – from those whom you are actually related to by blood to those you have a spiritual connection to the ancient ones who worshiped in your chosen hearth culture. Even though I’ve had favorable interactions with them in the past, I’m still not sure exactly how I want to bring the Ancestors into my spiritual practice.

Part of this hesitation is that my blood-kin are extremely devout Protestant Christians (like the rest of my family), who would have looked very unfavorably on Druidry in life. I know I should expect that they have a different viewpoint on spiritual things from wherever they are in the afterlife, but I really don’t want to make anyone angry or upset.

At the same time, my great grandmother raised 11 kids on a farm in the Great Depression, and lived to read Peter Rabbit books with me when I was small. She was, by all accounts, a force of nature, and I’d love to have her advice on homemaking and life in general.

I think my first step will be seeing if I can track down some pictures to have with the other family pictures in my house. I don’t have a lot of experience working with the Mighty Dead, but I could sure use some extra wisdom some days.

My family doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about those who have passed away, at least not at this point in time, but I think a lot of that is because my extended family is still relatively intact. My paternal grandparents are still alive, and that’s the part of my family that has the most connection (my mom’s family consisted entirely of my maternal grandmother, who passed away some years ago, so I have no cousins or aunts and uncles to talk with about her). Both sides of my family have done some research into our family history and lineage, but it’s treated very intellectually as opposed to as a way to find family ancestors. I find myself more drawn to the photographs anyway, since I feel like I can actually get a sense of them as actual people as opposed to just names in a book.

As for the other types of ancestors, I have a few people who were mentors and teachers of mine who have since passed on. I truly value the time I spent learning from them, and am very glad I had their friendship. I don’t really have anything I can connect to them easily, though, aside from stories and experiences that I had while I was learning from them. Unfortunately I have no pictures of any of them, either. I’d like to represent them somehow on my altar, but a) it’s cluttered enough already and b) I’m not sure what I would use, since they represent a pretty diverse body of people.

Connecting to the Ancients who also practiced Druidry is something I haven’t explored at all yet, other than naming them in my Samhain ritual as part of the ancestors who were welcomed and honored at that feast. This might be an area where some focused meditation could work out well, or just working to remember them in my rituals.

This particular Kindred seems to include such a wide variety of people and entities. I think that may be why I’m struggling to get my mind around how to honor all of them. I can, of course, lump them together (as will usually happen in a High Day ritual, when one offering will be poured out for the Ancestors specifically), but I think I’d like to make a space for some of them separately as well. If nothing else, I can, when pouring out offerings to the Ancestors, pour out a little to each kind of Ancestor and remember them by type, if not by name. I’d also like to explore how the Norse remembered THEIR Ancestors, since I know they were venerated in that culture. Hopefully with a little more study I can find a balance of things that resonates with me.

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There’s been a lot of talk on the Dedicants list about the Two Powers meditation, and eventually I have to write an essay about it, so I figured I’d get some of my thoughts about this particularly ADF style of meditation written down.

I was already very accustomed to the “grounding” and Earth Power part of the Two Powers meditation before I started on this path of Druidry, so getting started with the Two Powers was pretty easy for me. That first connection happened almost without thinking about it, since I was already used to the tree roots imagery for grounding and centering energy.

Connecting to the Sky Power was a little more difficult, but I found that getting outside into the sun really helped. Fortunately, we don’t have too much grey here, even in the winter, so I have been able to actually feel the sun on my face, instead of trying to visualize it. I only had to do that a few times before I could get the visualization down. I’ve always been “solar powered” (which is a good thing to be, if you live in southeast Texas), so I just had to warm up to calling down that power instead of just basking in it like a lizard. (I may have been a lizard in a past life, for as much as I like basking in the sun.)

I love using Ceisiwr Serith’s prayer as the central point of my meditation, when I get both powers fully flowing:

The Waters support and surround me.
The Land extends about me.
The Sky reaches out above me.
At the Center burns a living flame.
(A Book of Pagan Prayer, p. 36-37)

There’s something really centering and powerful about saying that once I get the two powers flowing. It helps me to get a good feel for the mingling of the powers, as opposed to just housing the two currents themselves.

Also, I am looking forward to doing this meditation as an active meditation when I’m putting in my garden, since I’ll be elbow deep in the dirt, but standing in the sun. There’s a very tangible current to the two powers in a garden (or even in a potted plant grown from seeds) – the untapped potential lives in the earth, and is drawn forth and materialized and made orderly by the sun.

Overall I really like this meditation, and I’ve come to do a mini 5 step form of it when I’ve got a few minutes and feel like I need to ground and center at work:

  • relax
  • draw up the Earth Power
  • draw down the Sky Power
  • feel the two currents mingling
  • release

It takes only a minute or two, and it’s a nice desk-visualization. Connecting to the Earth Power is a little hard from the 9th floor, but after a little practice I can usually feel the current in a few breaths. If I was consistent about it, I’d make it a part of my lunch break every day, especially since I bring my lunch, and everyone else in my multi-cubicle goes out most days, so I have the place to myself.

I took to this form of visualization and meditation relatively easily, but I think that’s just a factor of having had a good bit of experience with both visualization and grounding before I came to ADF. This was a new way to experience grounding and centering (particularly the adding in of the Sky Power), but the function is something I was pretty used to doing. I don’t know if I will continue to use it as a daily practice long term, but it does seem to work well for keeping my brain engaged when I’m starting to get distracted.

In ritual, I try to focus on it for longer than I do in my daily practice, since I think it’s a little more important to be truly and fully grounded before attempting magic (which is what opening the gates really is). Sometimes that works and sometimes not – I still get a little anxious before full ADF rituals, so pausing to do this step is something I definitely need to focus on.

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I’ve been rather at odds with myself on the question of hearth cultures. I started this druidic journey pretty firmly convinced that I was going to stay in the Celtic pantheon that I was already familiar with. Unfortunately I’ve not felt myself overly connected to that pantheon in my devotions, to the point of not really finding that I like my options for devotional rituals. It just doesn’t “feel” right. I love keeping a hearth in my kitchen, but working with Brigit just doesn’t seem like it’s working out, for example. I’m not feeling any return energy.

So I’ve started looking around at other options, wondering if maybe my lack of connection to the Divine is a result of not trying to get in touch with the right Gods. I really enjoyed the Gaulish ritual I did for Yule, but resources are very thin about Gaulish paganism, and I’ve had trouble getting anything beyond a few web articles. I couldn’t do my hearth culture study book on Gaul, since I can’t actually find any books!

I’m getting to the point, though, where I’m going to have to face up to the possibility that I’m being drawn to the Norse culture. I keep running into things that make me feel like I should be looking there, even though I’m more than a little uncomfortable with some of the Norse gods. I especially seem to be running into mentions of Odin, which makes me nervous, for while I don’t know a ton about Odin, I do know that he can be a challenging patron.

On some levels, it doesn’t make any sense. My ancestry is Scottish and Italian, with a little bit of English and French thrown in. I don’t really have any Germanic cultures in my recent ancestry, and it seems like that’s a big pull for a lot of people who end up following the Norse Gods. I also know very little about their mythology (and what little I know seems dangerous!), and I’ve tried, quite unsuccessfully, to use Runes for divination in the past.

On the other hand, when you start seeing ravens (and other birds of prey), or realizing that your clueless dolt of an uncle gave you a set of runes for your birthday when you were 10 that you just can’t make yourself get rid of, or that you keep running into High Day rituals in the Norse Culture that look wonderful and strong and beautiful, or that your closest Pagan friend is an Asatruar… Maybe I’m just not getting the hint, you know?

I also have a much stronger relationship with the land spirits, and an increasing relationship with the Ancestors, things I’ve been told are very important in Norse Paganism, so that’s a welcome idea.

But I just… it doesn’t seem right, or something? I’m really resisting the idea that I should work in a Norse culture, for some reason I can’t yet put my finger on. Maybe it’s all of Asatru’s bad press bubbling up from my subconscious, or just the fact that I’ve never felt like it should be for me. Maybe I need to remember that I’m looking at the Norse part of ADF, and not giving up on this dedicant path, and that questions are what being on the DP are all about anyway.

Given my turmoil about it, I figured I should do a reading. I didn’t figure an ogham reading was the best bet, since they’re so strongly connected with the Celtic lore, so I decided to do a tarot reading instead. Of course, I thought of doing that reading while I was at work, so I used the tarot deck I have on my smartphone (Mystic Dreamer Tarot, if anyone’s curious), and did a little lunchbreak divination.

Three Card Spread: How Should I approach my search for a Hearth Culture?

  • The Heirophant – Learned Truth, a teacher, balance of belief with practice – can indicate that you know the solution but need to put it into practice. There are two ravens on this card, bringing messages to the Hierophant.
  • The Two of Cups – Strong, passionate relationship (not necessarily romantic). Two things that come together to create a third union that is strong, beautiful, and passionate
  • The Hermit – Self Knowledge, seeking the truth within yourself. Withdraw from outside sources and review all of your knowledge, understanding, and experience.

I didn’t set this card up as a past-present-future spread, and in fact I didn’t assign meanings to the placements at all, since I want an overview more than a specific set of answers. I prefer to look at how the cards interact with each other.

In this case, I think the Heirophant and the Hermit go together:

Learned truth and self truth provide the foundation for a profound and meaningful new relationship.

Hopefully the deep and meaningful relationship will be the relationship with the Divine that I’ve been looking to establish. It fits with the Dedicant Path as well, since both learned knowledge and self knowledge are goals of the DP. I also didn’t expect the cards to have a strong Norse symbolism (which isn’t something this deck is designed for), but with the two Ravens, I get a strongly Odinic feeling from The Heirophant card – even if the man in the card has both of his eyes.

I didn’t ask a particularly pointed question, so (as expected) I didn’t get a particularly pointed answer, but I think the reading is ultimately positive. In some ways, it’s a bit of a “duh” response, not anything I didn’t already know. I’ll keep searching though, and I’ve borrowed a copy of Gods and Myths in Northern Europe to start digging through. That’ll be the learned knowledge part, at least. And if nothing else, I can’t go wrong learning about it, and I’ll continue to do meditation and devotional rituals that attempt to suss this out.

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I’ve been reading Drawing Down the Moon as the next book in my DP studies, and I recently finished with the section on Feminist Craft.

While I have never been part of that aspect of Paganism, that section of the book brought to mind how much I have valued the women mentors and friends I’ve made in Paganism, by extension the male mentors and friends I’ve had as well. Something about that section emphasized community and growth and mentorship in a way that made me really think back on and value the people I’d worked with. I’ve been lucky enough to have really good Pagan friends – never very many at one time, but a few that I could really open up to, and those people are really special to me.

I’ve also always had the luxury of having someone who acted as a mentor to me in the Paganism, and right now I’m feeling a little like that’s missing. ADF is more self directed than my previous forays into Paganism, especially given my reticence to approach my local grove. I’m still waiting on my assignment of a mentor for the DP. (I emailed the preceptor a month ago, and emailed to get an update this week, but I’ve not heard anything back at all.) While I know that an automatically assigned mentor isn’t necessarily going to be someone I can turn to immediately, I’m hoping I can build a relationship that will help guide me through this process.

I think best in conversation, and I’m very lucky to have a very good friend who has been involved in Paganism (of some flavor or another) for a long time. He’s currently closest to being Asatru, but is familiar with and has worked with ADF in the past, and he’s been a sort of sounding board for a lot of my thoughts. He puts up with my random text messages about Druidry, for which I’m very grateful. There’s really a lot of power and comfort in sitting down with someone you trust and just seeing what comes out of your brain.

I’m also building a relationship with my Regional Druid, who has been extremely helpful in letting me bounce ideas off her and giving me much-desired feedback on my Druidic musings and first steps.

The structure of ADF has been very welcoming in general, and I’ve had several people email me in welcome over the last month. Now I just need to build on those relationships and hopefully build some spiritual friendships with the various members of ADF. I find those kinds of friendships to be good for my connection to the Kindreds – having, as it were, a kindred spirit to talk with and share experiences with.

Obviously I’m not in a position right now to be a mentor or teacher for ADF – I’m still way too new. But maybe I’ll be good enough to mentor other Druids someday.

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As part of the Dedicant Path, meditation is stressed as a way to increase focus and mental control and as a way towards trance and strong visualization. These are all elements necessary for successful magic, but also have other benefits, like stress reduction and lower blood pressure and better sleep.

I’m not very good at “trance” style meditation. Ok, I’m not that good at sitting meditation either, but that one seems to be easier to do with no practice. You just need a place to sit. For trance or journeying meditation, you need somewhere to go. While I suppose I could go looking for some published guided meditations (and I do already use the Two Powers meditation as a recording), I’m working on building a Mental Grove – a place I can start from in trance journeys as a way to enhance my focus and meditation.

I figure if I do this frequently enough, I’ll have created enough of a memory that it will become automatic to go there, and I can work on journeying outside my Mental Grove as part of my other devotions. I’d eventually like to use this as part of my way to discover/reconfirm my Patrons. The God and Goddess that I worked with as a solitary, before I was doing coven work, are actually from two different Pantheons (Irish and Gallic), though related, and I know that’s generally frowned upon in ADF, plus I’d like to be more open to other Gods and Goddesses.

But that’s for later.

I started this process after I’d done a 10 minute sitting meditation, doing the Fire, Well and Sacred Tree chant that I described yesterday in my meditation journal. From there, I started building, in my mind, a grove of trees, centered on a giant, ancient oak – the sprawly, long limbed kind that we have down here in Texas. This tree is enormous and gnarled, but still very much alive, and its branches reach out and touch the ground in some places. I walk through the clearing around it and up to the big tree, and I duck under the branches.

That’s as far as I got on the first day, except that I very clearly saw a Stag there under the tree.

The next night, I did a sitting meditation again (though probably only for 5 minutes, I didn’t time that one), and then rebuilt the grove in my mind, this time going up to the tree itself. Next to the roots of the tree, welling up from some rocks, was a spring of water. Beside the water I kindled a small fire in a circle of stones. (My rational brain says NO DON’T LIGHT A FIRE UNDER A TREE, but this is an imaginary exercise, so I tell that part of my brain it’s OK, that no trees will be harmed, because it’s a magical fire. My rational brain needs to be talked to gently, or it gets a little out of control.*)

From there I sit down in front of the Fire and the Well, under the branches of the Tree, and I allow myself to look around. I saw the Stag again, and a Rabbit. That’s as far as I got the second day.

I skipped a few days after that, because life got crazy, but then last night I did the full Mental Grove ritual and allowed myself to really look around. The Stag returned, but this time there was also an Owl in the branches of the tree. I did not speak to them, but they seemed to be comfortable with my presence.

I’m looking forward to continuing this, if only because I find it extremely calming. It’s obviously not a replacement for getting outside into actual nature, but I can’t always get away from neighborhood noise. Also, in my Mental Grove, there are no mosquitoes. I’m hoping to build a strong mental memory around it, and then see what’s around outside the little Mental Grove.

I’m excited to see what I find.

*now I sound like a barking moonbat. I promise, I’m only the good kind of crazy.

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I’ve had an altar of some form or another in my home for quite some time (right now, I actually have two). ADF style rituals have specific things they need in terms of supplies and bowls, receptacles for offerings, and representations of the Fire, Well, and Tree. As such, before I did my Samhain ritual I went and did some altar styling to give myself a better workspace for ADF rituals.

This is the result (more or less):

My World Tree is pretty obvious – that’s a piece of driftwood that I found on a local beach. In front of that is my Well, a hand carved bowl from South Carolina. And then two representations of Fire in front of that – the three candle cluster and an incense burner. Those three items set up the ADF cosmos for each ritual. (I do not always leave the World Tree standing up, as it’s not super stable that way and is a bit off balance.)

There is a clear glass vase for holding liquid offerings, plus an offering bowl and a cup to drink from. The offering bowl and the cup are a matching set that I’ve had for years, and I like that they match. My offerings to the Kindreds go in a vessel that matches the vessel they give me the Blessings in.

The two taper candles are there for extra light and because I like candles. Also on the altar are some owl figurines, a Nature Spirit I’ve long had associations with (along with Toad and Rabbit), plus a little green man figurine, a big wooden acorn, a sand dollar, a holey stone that a friend brought back for me from a trip to the Middle East, and an aspen-leaf candle holder. These are all things that have spiritual significance for me, though I do eventually want to get some small shelves to get the figurines up off my working space.

The altar itself is a wooden cube bookshelf I got from (I think) Target, and I store all my Pagan and magical supplies in the closed baskets, with assorted books in the other open shelves. This sits in my craft room/spare bedroom, so it has to be dismantleable in a short time in case of guests. It pretty easily turns back into a bookshelf top with some assorted candles on it without much trouble.

Since I’ve used the altar a few times now, I’ve already made a few changes. I moved the offering bowls and offering pitcher to the right side of the Fire, so that I can pour offerings without setting my arm hair on fire (that smelled lovely, let me tell you). I also now have a set of wooden oghams, and those live on the upper left side of the altar most of the time as well, for daily drawings. I also added the two woodburned world tree symbols that I got from the Magical Druid. They sit to either side of the tall World Tree.

I do my sitting meditation on the floor in front of this altar, sitting on a big floor pillow. I often burn incense, and that creates a nice ambiance. Because it’s a bookshelf, I have to stand for rituals, so I’ve taken to putting my scripts in a small binder that I can hold with one hand. It lives in the open cube on the left hand side.

Overall I think it’s a functional altar, if not super elegant. I’d like to have a bigger working space eventually, ideally one that I could use outside, since a real fire would be nice for burning offerings. As it is, if I give spirits to the Shining Ones, they go in the same offering bowl with everything else, so I tend to give offerings of good incense to them. I’d also like a more proportional World Tree, so perhaps I’ll do some work with the driftwood one and trim it down and make a nice base for it. I think it’s a good Tree, just a little out of proportion with the rest of my space!

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