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Posts Tagged ‘ritual’

1.    Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)

Ritual can have many, many purposes and functions, depending on how widely you define ritual. Limiting it to sacred/religious ritual, the list is still pretty long – from 30 second morning devotionals said in the elevator on the way to the 9th floor to extended group magical workings and high day rites, there are as many different purposes as there are rituals, really. Each ritual will fill a function in the lives of the humans that perform it (otherwise, why perform the ritual?). That said, I think generally ritual serves as a place to connect – to connect humans to each other, and to connect humans to the sacred forces that inhabit this world (Corrigan “Intentions”).

If we look at ADF Core Order ritual, for a high day or other high occasion, we’re still primarily looking at those two purposes. The group mind and group energy serves to connect us to each other, to strengthen our friendships and bonds, and to be the backbone of our religious communities (Brooks, “Goals”). The offerings made and blessings received serve to connect us to the spirits around us, Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Deities, and to create a baseline relationship for us to use in those contexts (Brooks, “Goals”). When we stand at the sacred center, especially in a group with a united mind and purpose, we have the opportunity to fulfil both functions of ritual in a profound way.

Other rituals will fit into different places along those spectrums, where a solo ritual done to a Patron is almost entirely about connection to that one sacred spirit, but a community ritual to welcome a newborn (or other rite of passage) is almost entirely about connection as a group and community (Corrigan “Intentions”).

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention a third function of ADF Core Order ritual specifically, which is the recreation and restrengthening of order in the cosmos (Dangler). Our rituals mirror the creation and ordering of the cosmos, and in doing so serve as a way to strengthen that order. While there is a place for chaos in the cosmos as well (for order without chaos will die, just as chaos without order will never accomplish anything), our rituals are primarily orderly and serve to reinforce that order.

 

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I fleshed out my morning devotional this week to be something like a miniature core order. I have used a prayer that Rev. Mike Dangler shared on Facebook (it’s actually a song, but I am using it without music for now), as well as some of the bits from Ceisiwr Serith’s A Simplified Version of ADF Ritual. This ritual is clearly designed to be done at my home altar, but I have a copy of it saved on my phone for use at work. I am working on getting a tiny hallows (mint-tin altar setup) that I can use for these situations. I am not sure how I’d do the offerings when I’m not at my altar, but ideally I’ll be dragging my butt out of bed 5 minutes earlier in order to do this ritual before I leave the house. That happened most mornings this week.

It only takes about 3 minutes, which is perfect for me for a morning ritual.

Here is the current format:

(Three breaths to center self)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The flame lights the way! (Light candle)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The well flows within! (Fill/touch well)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The tree spans the world! (Bless tree)

Let us pray with a good fire! (Light incense)

I make offering to the gods.
May their power be with me this day. (Make offering)

I make offering to the ancestors.
May their wisdom be with me this day. (Make offering)

I make offering to the nature spirits.
May their blessing be with me this day. (Make offering)

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.

(Three breaths to center self)
(Extinguish candle)

I feel like it’s still unfinished at this point in time. I’m not sure what I need to add, but it feels like there needs to be one more closing statement, perhaps something to mirror the Fire/Well/Tree imagery from the opening. It certainly works as a mini-ritual though, and I like all the various parts.

I need to be careful and remember that this practice has to be built over time. I can easily see myself letting this morning ritual get longer and longer, until it’s no longer really something I can fit into my weekday mornings. Which defeats the purpose of having a regular devotional practice. It has to be doable/attainable to become habit. It’s really easy for me to throw myself into 40 new practices all at once, and then burn out and stop doing all of them. I’m trying with this to start slowly, with just a morning devotional/ritual, and we’ll see where I feel like I can add other bits of ritual practice into my day/week.

I should also mention that I do a regular devotional practice to my female ancestors, particularly when I clean the kitchen (which happens every few days). It feels right to honor them then, at my “hearth” (stove), so I light a candle or some incense and say a small impromptu prayer. Perhaps eventually I’ll write up a set prayer for this specific practice.

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This week Yngvi and I finally got to meet up with three members of the local protogrove. They were all very friendly, and I think we’ll get on just fine. They are okay with us continuing our study group as is, and at least one of them would like to join up with us, since she wants to work on her DP.

Also the local Grove Organizer and I have the same birthday (March 2) and two other people (Yngvi and another lady) also have March birthdays, so we’re thinking of doing a Druid Birthday Bash of some sort, to celebrate.

My “radar” is still in good working order – I walked into the coffee shop and immediately picked out the people I was going to be chatting with (as did Yngvi, who I made do the first introductions, because I am kinda shy). Dunno what led me to go “those ladies. Those are the ladies from the PG”, but I did – and apparently they picked me out as soon as I walked in as well. Hooray for good intuition and “radar”.

I don’t know yet if we’ll be joining them for rituals regularly or not. They do rituals on the official “day” of the high day (so Beltane is always on May 1), which means weeknight rituals, and that’s tough for me. They aren’t far away, so it may work, but I’ll have to rearrange my whole weekly schedule to make it fit, and depending on the week, it may just not be possible. Plus, the study group will still be having high day rituals as we work our way through the different hearth cultures, and that may conflict with the PG rituals. My primary loyalty right now is to the study group, and since I’m leading that, I can have the rituals at our regular meeting time, so the high day is on the closest Friday to the actual official “day”. (We did Imbolc on Jan 31, for example.)

The PG is primarily Irish Celtic (they call themselves the Houston Celtic Druids in some online forums), but they weren’t phased by Yngvi and my Germanic/Scandinavian/Anglo-Saxon hearths. In fact, they seemed interested and curious, which I took to be a good sign. As well, my dreams about herons and cranes have continued – and I found out yesterday that one of the locals is a member of the Order of the Crane in ADF. I am not sure I’ll bring it up with her until I know her a little bit better, but it was interesting to hear that she’s involved there.

All in all it was a good first meeting. Yngvi and I will continue to lead the study group, now possibly with some new members from the PG, and we’ll see where things go as that progresses. Now that I have some faces and personalities to put with names, I’m more comfortable going to a ritual at someone’s private home, so that hurdle is out of the way as well.

ADF serves both communities and solitary pagans. I’ve spent most of my ADF time as a solitary, but that seems to be rapidly changing. It brings up a lot of my fears about being “out” as a pagan (I really don’t want a potential employer to be able to google me and find out my religion, among other things), but for now I can still fly under the radar, since leading a study group doesn’t require my name to be on any of the websites anywhere. I know I am somewhat gun-shy of joining up with a new pagan group, especially with how quickly my involvement in previous groups ended, but hopefully this will be good for me and my spiritual development.

I’m also taking suggestions for a name for our study group. Right now we’re calling ourselves the “Clear Lake Druidic Study Group”, which works, but isn’t very creative. There are four of us so far, but we may be growing. We’re primarily split between the Norse/AS and the Hellenic hearth cultures so far, but that may change as the newer folks start doing their own rituals at home and creating a devotional practice. Any suggestions are welcome!

 

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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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The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.) I am not including the oath rite or the oath text itself here on the blog, as they feel rather personal. I may change my mind at a later date. These will be included in my DP submission, as they are part of the requirement. What follows is merely the ritual write up that I did following the performance of my Dedicant Oath.

I completed this ritual on Friday, September 20, 2013, just under a year after I joined ADF and started this Dedicant Path. The ritual was done as a solitary, and though originally planned to be an outdoor ritual, rain moved it inside to my usual altar space. The ritual honored the Three Kindreds in general (as Ancestors (Alfar and Disir), Landvaettir/Land Sprits, and Aesir and Vanir) as well as specifically honoring Ing Frey/Freyr, who has become close to me through this last year of work. While I do not know if he will become (or has become) my Patron, working with him has brought depth to my path, and I wanted His presence specifically at this rite.

For offerings, I brought the following:

  • Silver for the well
  • Incense for the fire
  • Whiskey for Heimdallr, the Gatekeeper
  • A bottle of good, local beer for the Ancestors
  • A blend of homegrown herbs for the Land Spirits (basil, thyme, rosemary)
  • Whiskey for the Aesir and Vanir
  • A bottle of Aranciata Soda – an Italian orange juice soda similar to Orangina – for Freyr and for my final sacrifice, as well as for the cup of blessings.

I used a combination of written rituals to create my Oath rite, including Ian Corrigan’s Solitary Blessing Rite and the sample DP Oath Rite from Our Own Druidry, as well as adding in my own poetry in a few places and giving it more of a Norse flavor throughout. The oath text itself is a combination of other published oaths, the sample oath, and some of my own writing. I was actually very pleased with the original sample oath text, so I kept a lot of it the same.

The ritual itself was very powerful, especially because I was already familiar with a lot of the text, and did a lot of preparation so I would know how the rhythm of the various parts went as speech.

I felt the two powers very strongly when I began this ritual, and my gate-opening was stronger as a result. Between good poetry and a good connection to the Two Powers, I think this was my best gate-opening to date. Overall the whole ritual was infused with a level of power and gravity that I haven’t felt in ritual before, and it was really very powerful and meaningful. It was almost as if someone had given my voice new depth when I spoke my oath – or like I was speaking into a large cavern, where my voice had an echo effect, even though I was standing at the same altar that I always use. I didn’t feel any strong emotion, other than a sort of tingling excitement once I finished my oath and moved into the omen and blessing portion of the ritual. It felt ‘right’ to have taken the oath today, and the text felt right as well.

For the omen, I used runes. I asked the question “Answer me now, O spirits, what blessing do you offer me, in return for my oath and offerings?” and drew the following three runes:

  • Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work – Each is given their proper due in full measure, good or ill. The golden crop, sown in the past, has come to fruition and is now the full harvest; the results of earlier efforts are realized. Natural cycles will always spin, and the year will always turn again, but for now all is well. The order of the cosmos is maintained, and everyone reaps the benefits of hard work and has a chance to build a new harvest for next year.
  • Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity – The “order of the cosmos” is maintained through reciprocity – the giving and receiving of wealth. This is movable wealth – like cows or coins – wealth that you can and should share as part of the greater whole. It is a sign of hope and plenty, and of income, but in the present or very near future.
  • Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance – Protection in an active sense – the best defense is a good offense. Warding off evil, a shield or guardian. Maintain a position won or earned against any who would topple you. Close yourself off if you need to, and only lash out if necessary.

I take this to be a very good omen, especially Jera, and take Fehu as meaning that now that I have completed this step in my Druid studies, I need to share the knowledge I have gained, and be willing to stand up for what I’ve done and the work I’ve completed. I also am inspired to get better at using Runes as I go forward on this Path, since I didn’t recognize Algiz when I drew it, and had to look it up.

Overall I think it was an excellent ritual – it went pretty much exactly according to plan, and I found a lot of meaning and worth in having done it. I do wish I could have had the experience of taking an Oath in front of my community, but they are all online at this point, so a solitary ritual was the best I could do. I don’t mind practicing as a solitary, but this oath feels like something that should be part of a community.

The only flub in the entire ritual happened after I was finished. I was taking the (very full) offering bowls and well outside to put them in the garden, and the cat knocked into me and got herby-beer-soda-whiskey all over himself. And the only thing I had handy to wash him off? Was the well water, which I promptly upended over his head. He didn’t seem too offended, and other than water all over the porch, no harm came from it. I got a good laugh though, and was reminded never to take myself too seriously. Even when making a serious oath, the Kindreds have a sense of humor.

I go forth from this ritual with a renewed sense of purpose. I am surprised by how powerful a ritual it was, and by how different I feel having completed my oath. I didn’t expect to have this dramatic of a response, and I feel newly reminted as a Druid and a Pagan, like an old coin that someone polished and brought into bright light. I am renewed in my goals to complete further study with ADF, and possibly to guide other Dedicants along this path. It has been an excellent ending to a year of hard work. This last essay is the only bit of the DP I had remaining to write when I performed the ritual, and I am glad to have experienced it as a sort of capstone on the course work.

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I celebrated my Autumn Equinox ritual in the early afternoon on Friday, September 20, 2013. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the CoOR. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s Autumn Equinox ritual and devotional for this rite, since I wanted a simpler observance for this High Day. I brought silver for the well, incense for the fire, and a bottle of handcrafted ginger ale for the Spirits. As well as honoring Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the Gatekeeper, I honored the Vanir as a pantheon for this High Day, since they are closely related to fertility and the harvest, which is celebrated at this time of year.

I did this ritual just prior to completing a separate ritual for my Dedicant Oath, and I was a little nervous about both. I didn’t ever really settle into a rhythm, even though the SDF ritual uses lovely poetry and text as part of the celebration. For it’s purposes, I feel like I celebrated other High Days better, and will spend more time on personal offerings when I use this ritual format in the future. Overall it was a good, if somewhat shorter than usual, celebration. I almost poured out ALL of the ginger ale in my last offering and had to remember to save a few mouthfuls for the blessing! That’s what comes of pouring offerings out of the bottle instead of out of my own cup. When I use my cup, I know how much I have to keep back for the blessing!

In the future, before celebrating this holiday, I will also take time to get my “fall” decorations up in my house. It doesn’t feel like fall outside, so having those decorations up (and in my ritual room) helps me feel the changing seasons more than the weather does. I will definitely be using the SDF Autumn Equinox devotional in my future rituals, as I really liked the poetry and imagery for this holiday. It stressed the balance of the Equinox, between light and dark, in a way that I felt was very meaningful.

For the Omen, I said “Great Kindreds, grant me true seeing that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I then drew the following three runes:

  • Isa – Ice – beautiful but dangerous – Something has the appearance of beauty, but danger lurks beneath the surface if you are careless enough to break it. Deceit may be nearby, or a time of frozen standstill. Things aren’t changing – they have the appearance of being fine, but are frozen. Clarity. Make sure your choices are correct and made with consideration and forethought.
  • Hagalaz – Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter. Destructive, uncontrolled forces of chaos disrupt the natural order – but may renew that order in the end. Disruption of the unconscious.
  • Pertho – Dice cup, vulva, joy, uncertainty – A secret thing, hidden matters, an unseen destiny. Initiation and the unknown changes it will bring. The gamble that is any new beginning. Female mysteries.

Ensure that you know the truth of the situation, what looks beautiful may be hiding danger; the time of destruction is not yet over. The outcome is unknown and will result from your actions – roll the dice carefully, you’re treading on new territory.

Another warning message in the form of a blessing, I think I know what this is referring to – things have been tough recently, in new and different ways, and it’s challenging to go through. But I think the outcome will be good if I continue to work on it and myself, becoming stronger and continuing on my path. This is a pretty personal omen though, so I won’t discuss it further.

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The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).

Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.

Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.

This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.

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One essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to each of the Three Kindred: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)

ADF splits many of its observances into threes, a number that seems to have been fairly sacred to the Indo-Europeans. There are the three worlds – the underword, the middleworld, and the upperworld – the three realms of land, sky, and sea, the three hallows of fire, well, and tree, and the three Kindred, sacred to our worship, the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Gods and Goddesses of old.

The Ancestors, sometimes called The Mighty Dead or the Mighty Ones, are associated with the underworld, with the sea, and with the realm of the well. They are sacred to burial mounds and crossroads, as well as to the sea.

To the Norse, the ancestors were a vital part of their culture, and ritually remembering them was a vital part of their family religious structure. The dead could influence the living, and bring good luck or bad, depending on whether their rituals were followed correctly. This included sacrifices of objects, food, and drink, as well as the ritual of “outsitting”, whereby one brought offerings to an ancestor’s burial mound, made the offerings, and then sat all night in meditation to commune with them and receive messages from them (this was especially common for mothers and grandmothers). These ancestors were usually buried nearby where the family would live, and were considered to protect and help ensure the survival of the family.

I generally divide my “Ancestors” group into three types:

  • Ancestors of Blood – These are my direct relatives, and those relatives that I inherited through marriage. They are my grandmothers and great grandmothers, the people to whom I am related by blood, as well as my grandmothers-in-law. I consider my inlaws to be part of my family, and so I place them here. I keep a special place in my home (the mantle of our fireplace) for pictures of my and my husband’s grandmothers who have passed away as part of my relationship to my Ancestors of Blood. I also make sure to keep up with the genealogical research that has happened on both sides of my family tree (and my married-into-family-tree), and keep that in a special place in our home.
  • Ancestors of Heart – These are the people to whom I have been close in this life, who have left their mark on me as a person, but who have passed on to the otherworld. They include teachers and mentors, and most especially my two martial arts teachers – a Shotokan Karate Sensei and my Tai Chi Sufi. Those two men did a great deal to shape who I am and how I think, and I am sad to have lost them. My relationship to them was very close, and though I am related to neither of them, I consider them as part of my Ancestors of Heart. I keep them alive by telling their stories, and by passing on their wisdom to those around me.
  • Ancestors of Hearth – These are the people who shared my faith (or something like it) in an earlier time in the world. They are likely Anglo-Saxon in descent (though some of them are Scottish), and I include my husband’s German and Danish ancestors in this group as well. This is the group of Ancestors I relate to the least at this point, because I am not sure what they would think of my modern practice, but I am trying to reach out to them.

Special among my ancestors are my Disir, my ancestral mothers, an idea I gained through my studies of the Norse. The cult of the Matronae was common throughout Western Europe, and I see no reason why it should stop there. While I call upon my Ancestors of Hearth as part of this group, I also have a special group of women called my Prairie Godmothers (who are like Faerie Godmothers only they carry wooden spoons and are very concerned with the running of households and the strength of their families) – from both my family and my husband’s family. These are the women who came to the United States and scratched out a living here, making a new life for their families. Though they were all Christian, I take great strength and inspiration from them, and I try to remember them as I build my hearth and home – even though I am a modern woman with a 40 hour a week job outside the house.

Beyond the various things mentioned above, I have a small hearth shrine in my home, set up on my stove (the place where I do all the cooking – I have a fireplace, but it is not used most of the year. I use my stove daily). I light candles there in honor of my Disir – both the ancestors of my blood, my Prairie Godmothers, and those who walked this path before me. I try to make sure the kitchen is clean before I light those candles, out of respect for them. My hearth should be in good order before I ask for their blessings.

My usual offering to the Mighty Dead is to share with them a portion of my own cup, marking it as a sacrifice – this is a drink that I purchase specifically for the occasion, and I choose to share it with them. However, they also like brownies. (And who doesn’t?!)

The second of the three Kindred are the Nature Spirits, sometimes called the Noble Ones, the Land Wights, the Land Spirits, and the Sidhe, as well as the Spirits of Place. They are associated with the middle world, the land, and (to some extent) the tree – though the tree usually has other functions in ritual, the Nature Spirits seem to fit best there, and trees are among the Nature Spirits. (Also, to the Norse, the World Tree is inhabited by several nature spirits, my favorite being Ratatosk, the squirrel). This is a fairly broad group of beings, from the elves, wights, and trolls who inhabit particular places and objects (and homes) to the larger Nature Spirits, like the spirit of Stag, or Owl, or Rabbit, as well as the smaller spirits we see around us, and the spirits of the trees themselves.

To the Norse, the world was one full of spirits, from Giants (Ettins and Jotnar) to trolls (who could be good or bad) to elves and dwarves, who each inhabited a certain type of place and required a certain level of decorum in dealing with them. Unlike the Sidhe of the Celtic lands, it was considered very bad form not to accept food or gifts from these beings, as frequently they would turn out to be of great benefit (and refusing them would usually peeve the offering spirit, which was something to be avoided at great cost). Even today in parts of Iceland, a road will be moved to go around a rock that is known to be inhabited by Elves, or extra time given to allow the Elves to find a new home before the rock is moved to allow for road construction. These naturekin frequently like small, shiny objects and offerings of milk and honey, or a portion of meals as an offering. One of the most productive books I read on this subject has been Kvedulf Gundarson’s Elves, Wights, and Trolls, which offered deep insight into the various Norse distinctions between these spirits and how to live productively among them.

My personal relationships with the Nature Spirits run more along their natural embodiments as animal spirits, especially Owl, Rabbit, and Toad – creatures I have had a fascination with since I was a very small child. I find that these animals often act as guides for me when I am working in trance states, and I frequently find that I can get wisdom from them, just based on their behavior and mannerisms. I also like to leave offerings for my local house spirits and the spirits of the land on which I live (They especially seem to like homemade chili, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. I do live in chili pepper country.) These relationships aren’t particularly deep or meaningful, but I find it important to honor those spirits who live here on this land with me, even if I don’t work with them directly.

In ritual, I tend to call the Nature Spirits as their fur and feather natures, instead of calling on tree wights or river wights, though I lump all of those under the distinctions of the Nature Spirits. These are the Noble spirits with whom we share this middle world, and their presence can add good energy to ritual observances. Also, they have the ability to affect the world in ways that we do not, being beings of different substance and gifts, and so I find it appropriate to honor them and make offerings to them. My usual offering to the Nature Spirits is the same as that to the Ancestors – a portion of my own cup, something I have purchased specifically for the purpose of sharing it as a sacrifice. They have also received both grain and honey as a sacrifice, but that was quite a challenging sacrifice to make, since I don’t have a fire to pour the honey into, and pouring it into the communal offerings bowl made a very sticky mess. As a solitary, having to clean a whole pile of sticky offering bowls was a bit off-putting, so I’ve stuck with more easily pourable sacrifices most of the time.

Third among the Kindreds (in this list, though certainly I would rank them all as having equal importance) are the Gods and Goddesses, who have perhaps the longest list of names: The Shining Ones, First Children of the Mother, The Gods of this Place, The Great Ones, The Elder Ones, Eldest and Wisest. They offer us a clear connection to the creation of the world, though they are not usually the same generation as those who created it. Most of our Gods and Goddesses are their children, but they are the First Children of the Mother Earth, whose body was formed out of one of their forbears.

They are associated with the upper world, with the sky, and with the hallows of the fire, to which offerings to them are most often burned. The Deities of our chosen hearth (or of our chosen preference, if we don’t follow a hearth) provide a lot of the backbone for the structures of ADF, especially as it follows the Wheel of the Year. While some festivals might be just as easily associated with Nature Spirits (Spring Equinox) or the Mighty Dead (Samhain), we usually attach associated Dieties of the occasion to that worship, and a lot of our thought and energy goes towards building relationships with those Deities that we chose or are chosen by.

Whether I think of the Deities as beings to be worshiped or not (which is something I go back and forth about, as the word worship for me comes with a lot of emotional baggage), certainly the words honor and love come into play. We honor these great beings, because of all the Kindreds, they have the greatest power at their disposal. Each of the Gods will have a domain where he or she is best found, Njord by the ocean, Freyr in a garden or in a plot of farmland, but they are not bound to those domains, or even bound to the domains usually associated with them. While Freyr may be a god of fertility and frith and peacemaking, there is no reason he could not also act as a protector. The Gods may have limits, but those limits are much fewer and lighter than our own as humans. While we interact daily with the Nature Spirits, and owe our very existence to our Ancestors, the Gods hold a special place in life as protectors and nurturers and challengers of what we can accomplish as humans.

It is with the Gods that I find I hold the greatest *ghosti relationship. With the Ancestors, they already have a vested interest in me. The Nature Spirits are more indifferent, but some are inclined to be friendly (and even helpful towards) humans. But with the Gods I feel that the *ghosti relationship is truly the sacred one – I offer so that they in turn may offer. There is some evidence that the Norse believed their primary relationships were with the Ancestors and Nature Spirits, only calling on the Gods for big things, but I find that I prefer to have a closer relationship to the Gods than that. Still, I find that my relationship with the Gods is most defined in formal ritual, as opposed to casual offerings or remembrances, like I do with the other Kindreds most of the time. I encounter them primarily in ritual, and I try to make that count. I also try always to make their offering directly from my own cup, because I want it to be something special that is “mine” that I am specifically offering to them as a shared offering.

I am attempting to cultivate a more personal, daily relationship to specific Gods, notably Ing-Frey, through my morning devotions and my meditation times. I would like that relationship to transcend the boundaries of a ritual setting and embark more on a patron relationship. Beyond that, I typically work with and work for the Norse Gods, though I am trying to transition to a more Anglo-Saxon hearth (which is hard, because one of the Gods I’d like to get to know is Njord, but I may just have to cross-hearth for that one).

I try to make sure that I am giving small offerings, fairly regularly, to the Gods just for the sake of giving offerings, usually of incense or of food. I think it’s important to keep up the communication, and I frequently meditate during these offerings of incense. I try to not make every encounter with the Gods (or any of the Kindreds) simply about asking for things, though I am not afraid to ask for things if the situation warrants it.

Combined, these three Kindred provide a complete spiritual picture of the types of spirits that an ADF druid can expect to work with through ADF style rites. While far from an exhaustive list of ALL the types of spirits that might be out there, the three Kindreds provide a solid grounding in Indo-European beliefs about how the world was ordered, and how they should interact with it. By basing my own practice around these three types of spirits (even if I don’t always do so in a truly Norse-derived way), I know I’m plugging into a spiritual current that is growing and developing around the world as ADF grows and creates its own spiritual egregore. As well, I know that I am honoring the primary divisions of the spirit world that my spiritual ancestors would have seen and believed in.

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I celebrated my Lammas ritual at around 5pm on Saturday, July 27. Normally I try to do my rituals when I have time alone in the house, and I had extra time this weekend where I was by myself, so I did my ritual then. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the COoR. I used the Solitary Norse Ritual template found here as the basis for my ritual, and added in special sections in honor of Freyr, as he was the god of the occasion, being that his is the sacrifice that goes with the first harvest. I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the gatekeeper. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, whiskey for Bragi and Heimdallr, a can of soda for the outdwellers, and shared a bottle of ginger beer as my primary offering. I also baked a loaf of corn bread to offer Freyr, which I then placed around the corners of my house as a blessing.

I liked this ritual template better for this ritual than I did when I used it for Ewemeolc. I still stumbled over the words some, which a practice run would have helped alleviate. I had real trouble getting the Two Powers to feel present, though I didn’t have much trouble feeling distracted – which is miraculous, as I forgot to feed the cat before my ritual, and he interrupted it. I made a cat-food offering at the same time as I offered (outside) to the outdwellers, and that worked fairly well. I used some of my own poetry to Freyr, as well as other published poems that I had collected, and used that as my primary offering and the centerpiece of the rite.

I wonder, in hindsight, if I shouldn’t have saved the loaf of bread for a magical working, after receiving the blessings. The loaf of bread was a sacrifice, but it was also used to bless my home afterwards (with chunks of the bread placed at each corner of the house).

After making my offerings, I asked the Kindreds to “give to me of your blessings” and drew the following runes:

  • Hagalaz: Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter.
  • Mannaz: Man/Mortality – The self. A sense of resignation, of orlog, or fate. The way of the world, an inescapable cycle of events. The power of humans together to attempt to make a difference, to take control of things within their power.
  • Nauthiz: Need/Lessons Learned – work without reward, oppressive forces that cannot be avoided, hardship. Lessons can be learned from this situation, but they are hard won.

Yikes. I noted that this was decidedly less of a glowing review of my ritual, made some extra offerings of incense to the fire, and closed out the ritual without much further ado.

This is the first time I’ve gotten three “doom-y” runes in a row, and the first time I’ve ever pulled hagalaz as an omen in a ritual, so I’m a little shaken up. I find Hagalaz to be particularly disturbing at this, the first harvest festival, since a late hailstorm can totally ruin a year’s worth of work.

I also noted that in this ritual I gave alcohol to the first offerings (Bragi and Heimdallr) but since I usually make my offerings to the kindreds from my own cup (because I like that symbolism) offered them a non-alcoholic beverage. I am currently on a medication that has some SERIOUS side effects if combined with alcohol, so I can’t drink. This is sad, because I really would like to offer more mead. And maybe I can skip my medication on the days I do ritual so I can share mead with my Kindreds (it’s the type of medicine that skipping a day is OK, I take it as I need it. I just had already taken some today). I wonder if that got me the really negative reaction, or if I’m in for a world of hurt for the next short while.

I’ve done a lot of pondering on this rune drawing in the week since my ritual, as well as asked for help from more experienced rune readers, and while the general consensus is that things are probably not good (either now or in the future), there are more positive ways to look at this reading, or ways to look at it that place it into context as more than just DOOM AND DESTRUCTION. For one thing, it could simply be that the destruction is of something that is standing in my way – which might be painful to let go of, but would be a positive-outcome in the end. Nauthiz can be the lessons I learn from that clearing away (or the fact that it really needs to happen), and Mannaz can simply mean that it has to do with me personally, as part of my self (which could be a direct reference to the fall being a time that I generally struggle with my bipolar disorder, and that this fall I’ll make some breakthroughs through hard inner work done). This could also reference the instability of my job right now, which would also make sense.

This type of nuance is something I’m not very good at with the runes, and so I intend to use future studies to really try to get a better read on how to use them well and wisely.

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I just got done reading about an “unscripted” but still COoR ritual over at Ozark Pagan Mamma. It really hit home for me – even though I like the poetry of highly scripted rituals that are put together well. Maybe I’ll try something like this for the Fall Equinox (I did my Lammas ritual this weekend, you’ll get the write up later this week). I think something like this could work really well as a solitary Druid, simply because I wouldn’t need a lot of the “ritual theatrics” that are mostly there to help keep a group ritual flowing together.

Of course, part of me really LIKES those ritual theatrics, but then that’s why I always do my rituals in an empty house – that way nobody but the cats has to listen to me!

Anyway, if you’re looking for a good middle ground in ritual, something that’s still following the COoR but not quite as scripted as the published ADF rituals (like the Solitary Self Blessing Rite, which I love), check out that post from Ozark Pagan Mamma. It cuts a really nice balance between having just an “observed” holiday (without a ritual) and having a full blown ritual High Day.

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