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Archive for the ‘Pagan Blog Project 2014’ Category

ADF has a good sized songbook of chants and songs that are used in group rituals.

Since I haven’t ever done group ritual that I wasn’t leading myself, I am only barely familiar with a few of these chants – mostly through watching ADF rituals online. (3 Cranes Grove has three large group rituals they just posted to YouTube, if you’re interested in seeing how an ADF ritual scales up for 300 people in a large outdoor tent!)

I’m extremely self-conscious about my singing though. I have a music degree, which may actually have made me MORE self conscious – I have good pitch, but I am very very aware of the shortcomings of my (untrained) voice when compared to someone who actually knows how to sing. That said, I’m learning a few of the ADF chants, and considering adding them into our rituals as appropriate. I don’t think we need a chant for every step of the COoR, but a processional and recessional might be nice, and I’m fond of the “Blessings in the Waters” song for after the waters of life are distributed. I really like the addition of music to prayer, and I think it’s a good way to focus.

Also, I’ve found I can use some of the “catchier” ADF chants to get songs out of my head. So when I get earwormed by something obnoxious, I start singing something I’m trying to memorize, and the concentration plus a catchy tune usually helps me stop with the endless repeats of “This is the song that never ends” or whatever.

The one “chant” (That I’ll just be saying as spoken word) I know I’ll be adding to our ritual for Imbolc is this one by Ceisiwr Serith.

The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us:
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindreds bless us.
May our worship be true
May our actions be just
May our love be pure.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the holy ones.

I plan to use it to end the Two Powers meditation and bring us into the active part of the ritual. Hopefully it goes as nicely in practice as it does in my head. There’s something very cosmos-affirming about this chant/prayer, so I hope everyone else likes it as much as I do.  I actually intend to memorize it and use it as part of my daily devotions. My practice needs a bit of a reboot, and I think this will be a nice thing to add to get it feeling fresh again.

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Druids have book problems. My reading list for the Initiate’s Path is not anywhere near fully collected, and it’s already stacked up all over my desk (and the floor…) Books, books, more books. Two translations of the Poetic Edda, just to see what the translation differences are. Plus an extra book of Norse Myth retellings so I can read them as modern-language stories. A few study books on particular aspects of Germanic paganism. Add to that books about meditation, trance, magic working, running Neopagan rites, historical paganism and archaeology, language textbooks, and that’s only what I can remember offhand. Granted, I can get some of them from the library, but I am a writer-in-books.

I know, this makes some people batty, and I don’t highlight with horrible colored markers, but I like to highlight with colored pencils, and make notes with regular pencil, especially if something is particularly academic and dense. This means I make very good use of my local used bookstore. (Where my friend Yngvi works. I used to work there as well, actually).

Add to that reading beginning books on other hearth cultures to help my study group, plus reading for pleasure, and I go through a lot of books.

Some of those books (especially fiction books) I tend to stick with my Nook reader, because it’s very portable, and if I need to make notes I can, but for academic reading, even with a note-taking-capability, I tend to prefer dead-tree-books. Also it’s hard to get the kind of academic books I need for ADF as dead-tree-books.

Suffice it to say, though, that I love books. I love reading them, studying them, collecting them. My house is full of them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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It’s an expression I don’t really like, as it’s a bit twee for my tastes, and I don’t want to co-opt the QUILTBAG community’s term for living in secret (because I think that’s kind of shitty).

But it’s also the best term I have for the life I’m living as a Druid and a Neopagan, and there are definitely some similarities (in some places in the US) to being openly Neopagan, especially if you work with children.

My family is extremely Christian. My inlaws are extremely Christian. My mother-in-law is on record as saying that not being Christian is valid grounds for divorce, and though I have repeatedly explained that I can not and will not return to church, every time they visit, they go church shopping for us, and invite us to go. (I decline, but my husband usually goes).

My workplace, while fairly openminded and diverse, is probably not ready to have a Neopagan Druid in their midst (even if there are Hindu and Muslim people in the office in large numbers). I’d like to think I could explain it well enough now that I could have an intelligent discussion or three with various people, but I know my extremely Catholic coworker would be weirded out, and that I’d be a topic of inter-office gossip, at least among the other people in my position.

I live in Texas. I went to a Southern Baptist university, and have spent the majority of my life bouncing between dominations – from American Baptist to United Methodist to “converting” to Catholicism in college. I never settled in anywhere, and my break with the Catholic church was ugly, to state things mildly. I can talk the talk though – I’ve taken theology and Christian history classes, attended chapel my whole university career, and seriously studied the Bible for years.

I use that knowledge to “pass” as vaguely Christian, or at least “historically” Christian. I send out Christmas cards (that never actually say Christmas on them, and that are always nature related, and where I never mention Jesus). I go to church with my family on Easter when I can’t get out of it, because I can grit my teeth for an hour to make my mother happy.

I’m fairly conflicted about it, really. I don’t like lying, and my spirituality is becoming a bigger and bigger force in my life. It’s fairly easy to hide in a bedroom for now, but the book collection from ADF studies is growing steadily. I’m leading a study group where I’ll be meeting other Pagans, and taking on that responsibility inevitably means meeting other people. I don’t have a pagan name, which is typical for ADF, but sometimes I wish I used one for things like this. (Also, someone else outed me on the blog with my real name in the comments, which I was trying to avoid. Apparently not everyone gives two shits about people’s privacy online.)

So my general way of answering questions is to deflect. If you ask me straight up “Are you a Christian”, I will say no. But most other questions can be deflected. I can talk about ethics and values, can talk about Christian theology and history, I can talk about world religions and meditation and general spirituality. As a theist (although a polytheist), I can talk about the nature of Gods and the like. I have a World Tree and a Globe on my desk at work, and a calendar of nature and meditative sayings, plus an Old Farmer’s Almanac daily calendar. I surround myself with clues that someone who knows what to look for will see, but I don’t choose to actually talk about what any of it means.

Eventually, this will be problematic. If my husband and I have children, I suspect I will approach going to the Unitarian Universalist church for that, since it makes a lot of sense for children in my area to have a church they go to. But my family will want to know if I’m raising them Christian (or more specifically, from my inlaws, why I’m not raising them United Methodist), and will want to teach them all about Jesus. My grandfather will want to dedicate the child to Christ. My husband is fairly agnostic, but I don’t know if he would be okay with me raising Neopagan children.

Also, the farther I go in ADF, the more likely it is that my real name will become associated with the organization, either through publication or through working towards clergy certification. ADF is very clear that they are looking to create a *public* tradition of Neopagan Druidry, and a lot of members don’t have a lot of patience (or thought) for people trying to remain under the radar.

In short, this is a subject that fills me with a lot of mental indecision. There are benefits to just being open about things (though there are a lot of places where it’s none of anyone’s business, like work), but I face the possibility of real rejection from my family over it. As the oldest child, I’m expected to lead by example (something I’ve not done very well on this front, as my little brother and his wife are 3x a week churchgoers and host Bible study and Life Group at their house). I don’t face rejection well, and I still struggle a lot with “disappointing” my family. I’ve dropped hints on things like facebook that I no longer buy into a mainstream monotheist mindset, and gotten a lot of “oh well Jesus is okay with that” responses, because they’re not willing to see the change.

So for now, I stay in the “Broom Closet” (If you’re a Druid, is it a “Tree closet”?). I’ll cross those other bridges when I come to them.

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The Ancestors play an important part in my spiritual practice. Under many names – the Ancestors, the Mighty Ones, the Mighty Dead, Idesa and Alfar – they are one of ADF’s Three Kindreds and an important practice in the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

The Mighty Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. They watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk. – The Worlds and the Kindreds

Some articles and references for the Ancestors, particularly the Disir/Idesa/Matronae (Female ancestors and guardians)

Historically, the Norse/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon cultures had strong beliefs about their ancestors being a part of their family’s good fortune. These beings – which are sometimes confused with Nature Spirits after awhile, especially if they are connected to a burial mound or site – watch over their descendents and protect them in life, often interfering to bring good fortune or luck in battle. If you wanted to speak with a particular Dis, you would go out and sit all night on her burial mound, seeking her council (a practice called out-sitting).

In my personal practice, the Ancestors are a part of my daily life. I make regular offerings to a group of Idesa I call my “Prairie Godmothers” – women whose strength and courage helped bring their families to the United States, where they lived as pioneers. Every time I clean my kitchen, I light a candle to them, and make them a small offering of thanks. I want to channel their courage and inner fortitude in my own life, so I invite them in regularly.

I’ve also been called directly (through a blog-friend who does Seidhr) to work more with my dead and spend time with my ancestors. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have tried to incorporate more work with them into my practice, and to spend additional time with them when I do ritual. I’m not very good at it yet, but I am trying to make this more a focus of my practice. As part of this, I’ve been collecting family genealogy from both my and my husband’s family in a central location in our home. Keeping this information current and easy to reference helps me connect to my direct ancestors. I would like to expand this practice to more spiritual ancestors, whether they be ancients or just other figures in history who can guide me in my spiritual work. Hopefully this will help me fulfill the request to pay more attention to my dead.

I put a lot of stock and respect in the answers I got from Beth on the subject (prompted by my constantly receiving the rune Hagalaz while not seeing elements of destruction and chaos around), so I trust that this is important, both to my ancestors and the mighty dead, and to Hela herself, as the goddess of the underworld. Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated by cultivating a relationship with a Goddess of Death, but I am well aware that my being uncomfortable is either something she doesn’t much care about, or is actively seeking. It’s definitely outside my comfort zone.

I had some particularly interesting dreams about two ancestors of spirit, back when I was practicing Wicca, but I haven’t seen or sought them out again. I need to begin seeking some Anglo-Saxon and Norse ancestors, particularly women ancestors (for some reason I am very drawn to them). I don’t know much else to do beyond granting them offerings and paying attention to them, but as I develop better trance and meditative listening/journeying skills I hope I will have some better ideas of things I can do – and maybe even names or personalities I can begin to associate with them.

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A Druid Fellowship (ADF) is an international fellowship devoted to creating a public tradition of Neopagan Druidry. It’s the foundational tradition from which I work, and the general guide for my rituals and devotional practice.

Fundamentally, ADF takes its cues from the ancient Indo-European cultures – the Celts, Norse, Greek, Baltic, Roman, Indo-Iranian, and Vedic cultures (among others) that make up the Indo-European language group. There are similarities across all of these ancient religions, and ADF has taken those similarities, combined them with modern Neopaganism, and created what we call Our Druidry.

It is neither a wholly modern nor a wholly ancient practice – it combines elements of both. Most ADF Druids work within a “hearth culture” – one of the ancient Indo-European cultures that lends flavor to their practice. We work with the pantheons and cultural practices of our hearth culture, but also celebrate the 8 Neopagan high days of the year (Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltaine, Litha/Summer Solstice, Lammas, Mabon/Autumn Equinox). ADF divides its cosmos into threes (most often), where the spirits we worship are divided into Gods, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits, and the center of our cosmos is the Sacred Fire, Sacred Well, and World Tree (or some variation therein – some cultures have a mountain instead of a tree, for example). We do not, in public ritual, cast circles or call elemental quarters, and we are (generally) hard polytheists, believing that the gods are individual beings with likes and dislikes.

In general, ADF is orthopraxic – which is to say, what you DO is more important than what you BELIEVE. Whether you believe the Earth Mother to be a named Goddess, a primal force, the earth itself, a greater bio-organism (like the Gaia hypothesis) or none of the above, if you are honoring the Earth Mother, you are performing a step in the ADF order of ritual.

Also, ADF generally is unconcerned with its members private practice. Druidic ritual, as defined by ADF, is primarily a way of gathering the public. The Core Order of Ritual is required for any ADF public ritual – but not even remotely required for all the private, home hearth rituals that happen all the time in ADF. My private practice is Core Order flavored, and I try to do Core Order rituals for the High Days, but if I don’t get all the steps in, that’s okay. ADF strongly encourages its members to have both a group and a private practice if possible.

I work with the Anglo-Saxon and Norse hearths within ADF (with occasional forays into Gaulish/Continental Celtic myth). I do not consider myself a reconstructionist, though I have reconstructionist tendencies – I like reading source documents and myths, and using those to base my practice, but I am also a modern Druid, with practices that would seem foreign to my A-S and Norse ancestors (like environmentalism). I try to allow my practice to be guided by the ancient cultures, but if something isn’t working, I am not afraid to branch out and try something new as well.

You can learn more about ADF on their website – http://www.adf.org

I really like this article about the Nine Central Tenets of Druidic Ritual to give you an idea of what things we find important as practitioners of Modern Druidry.

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I’ve decided to join up for the 2014 Pagan Blog Project – 52 blog posts – one each week, two for each letter of the alphabet. Well, it’ll have to be 51.5 weeks for me, since I didn’t start last week, but that’s okay. I’ll try to get two “A” posts up this week, just so I can stay on track!

Posts will ideally go up on Fridays, if I remember. I don’t expect I’ll make all 52 posts, but hopefully it’ll help me keep on track with blogging. For me blogging is a huge part of helping me think critically about my spirituality. It’s journaling, in a way, and it helps me really think about what’s going on, and what my response needs to be. I’ll be keeping it Druid flavored as often as possible.

Of course, as I’m starting this, I have the alphabet song from the book ‘Bedtime for Francis’ in my head…

A is for alligator
B is for bear
C is for crocodile, combing his hair…

Let’s see how long I can stick with this!

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