Sunday, February 3, 2013

Imbolc Ritual

I actually got to start a ritual before 10 pm! I had every intention of doing my Imbolc observance last night, on the actual High Day. It was not to be. Hubby is sick, and Small Child took a late nap, and didn't go to bed until nearly 10 pm.

On Friday, I was finally able to write up a ritual script. Once again, I used Teo Bishop's liturgy with additions from a few other places, including a beautiful poem by Sophia Catherine from the Solitary Druid Fellowship's crowd-sourced poetry post. I also borrowed from a few other places, but the bulk of the ritual was from Teo Bishop.  I like the repetition he's built into the liturgy, but I'm still not feeling it. 

I normally do my rituals in the bathroom, but since Hubby is sick, he's been laid up in the bed playing Assassin's Creed. The sounds of people dying wouldn't have contributed to the right ambiance for my observance, so I tried to set up my altar on the kitchen table. However, the printer ran out of ink as I tried to print my script, so I moved the table in front of the computer (which is ran through the TV screen) so I could read my script. The blue-white glow did not complement the candlelight.

I tried to use A Daily Morning Bathroom Devotional and Meditation by Star of GriffinOak, but had a really hard time visualizing. I've done this meditation several times, although it has been a few months. No luck tonight. The house was really quiet, so I could hear every little thing, like the field mouse who has taken up residence in my home, and Hubby trimming his nails...

Samhain was a very moving ritual for me. I really felt like I...connected isn't the right word, but something along those lines. With both Yule and Imbolc, I have been unable to "see" the Kindreds, except for the Ancestors, for any length of time. Is it because I feel rushed, trying to get everything together late at night? Is the new ritual script just not resonating with me? Maybe I've been doing rituals on my agnostic days - I consider myself a hard polytheist, but I still have days where I just don't know. I have a hard time turning my brain off - I feel like I'm being pulled in several directions at once, all the time. I've got to figure out how to turn it off. It's not fair to invite the Kindred into my home, and not be fully present while they are here.

I bought a tarot deck and a book to teach me how to use it yesterday at a local metaphysical shop, but didn't have a chance to read through the book and figure out how to use it. So I used my ogham index cards again. 
          Ancestors: nGeadal (Reed), harmony, health
          Nature Spirits: Eabhadh (Aspen), endurance
          Shining Ones: Ruis (Elder), transition


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

Tonight I performed my second ADF ritual in celebration of the Winter Solstice.

My ritual script was cobbled together from 4 different sources: The Solitary Druid Fellowship's Yule ritual formed the core, with bits and pieces from a Yule ritual a friend sent me, her daily devotions, and The Wooing of Etain. I was still tweaking it at 4:30 today.

I wasn't able to start the ritual until almost 10pm - Small Child had to be rocked, sang to, tucked in; all of the various offerings had to be gathered. My original plan had been to perform the ritual outside, with a nice fire. It's dadgum cold outside, and I wouldn't have been able to see my ritual script. So once again, I performed this High Day rite in my bathroom floor.

I had rewritten the ritual several times and read it a couple more times to familiarize myself with it. It didn't help; my memory sucks. I still wound up reading the script for the whole ritual.

During the Samhain ritual, I was much better able to visualize each of the Kindreds and the flow of energy (for lack of a better word). Perhaps I was too flustered with the new ritual template I was using. Perhaps I was distracted by my page-long to-do list. I tried very hard to be completely "present" during the rite.

Once I had all of my offerings and hallows in place, I turned off the light and did a short visualization of the sun shining into the passage at Newgrange. I actually visited the site in person several years ago, so it was easier.

To the Earth Mother, I offered cornmeal, some sprinkled on a flat rock I found in the yard.

To the well, I offered a small sterling sliver cauldron charm I bought at the local Pagan shop. I used the same clay bowl from Samhain as my well

To the fire (three candles), I offered cedar oil from the same local shop. Unfortunately, I got my hand too close to the candle flame, burned it, and dropped the whole bottle of oil. My bathroom smells very tree-y right now.

To the tree, a jewelry tree from World Market, I offered fresh water. The base of the jewelry tree is like a really shallow bowl, so I just poured it there, at the base of the tree.

I invited Manannan Mac Lir to be my Gatekeeper, and offered him an apple and a bottle of hard cider.

To the Shining Ones, I offered Jameson, and placed it before the Fire. To the Ancestors, I offered beer, and placed it before the Well. To the Nature Spirits, I offered dried dates, and placed it before the Tree.

I visualized the Kindreds the same way as at Samhain - the Shining Ones shone, my Nanny represented the Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits faces were ringed with flower petals.

Since Newgrange is situated so that the Winter Solstice sunrise illuminates the interior, and Oengus Mac Oc was master of Bru na Boinne, I invited he and his parents, the Dagda and Boann, as the Deities of the Occasion.

To the Dadga, I offered oats and whiskey; to Boann I offered wine (homemade by my Pawpaw) and an apple; and to Oengus, I offered quinoa and whiskey. I saw the Dagda much the same as some drawings I've seen - a larger fellow, with a  too-short tunic, big club, red beard and hair. Boann was tall and slender, with a green medieval-style dress, flowing red hair, and looked quite queenly. She and the Dagda stood together on a green plain. Oengus, a boy of about 9 or 10 (as that is his age in The Wooing of Etain) joined them.

One of the rituals I cobbled from listed a ritual story in the Personal Praise section of the COoR. It seemed like a good idea. I read aloud a re-telling of the first part of The Wooing of Etain, prefaced with this bit I wrote up:
At dawn on the Winter Solstice, the light of the rising sun streams into an opening in the great mound of Newgrange at Bru na Boinne. From pitch-black darkness, the first light of the dawn enters the mound, illuminating the ceiling and walls carved with intricate spirals. We have come through the longest night of the year; the sun returns! The child of light returns!

Myth tells me that this was the home of Oengus Mac Oc, but it was not always so. This then, is how Oengus came to possess the great mound at Bru na Boinne:
Then I read aloud the portion of The Wooing of Etain that detailed the conception of Oengus and how he came to Bru na Boinne. I re-wrote it, keeping the main points, but doing away with the thees and thous and other archaic language. I have a hard enough time reading modern English aloud.

I don't have a proper ogham set, so I once again used my index cards to draw the omens. The SDF ritual template called for the following questions:

   1. How were my offerings received? (Drew "Ur", Heather - dreams, feelings)
   2. How shall the Kindred respond?  (Drew "Saille", Willow - intuition)
   3. What more would you have me learn?  (Drew "Nion", Ash - wisdom)

I received "Saille" as an omen on Samhain. I'm going to have to think about these omens; the first one makes no sense. Will I find out in a dream whether the offerings were okay? Or should I find some intuition and go with my gut as to whether it was okay? And I'm thinking I should probably start on my Nine Virtues essays, beginning with Wisdom.

Overall, I think my first ritual at Samhain went better than this one. Hopefully the next one will go better.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Outlining - A Necessary Pagan Skill

I started reading In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth by J. P. Mallory a month or so ago. It is a dry book, with lots of black-and-white maps. So many maps. I suck at geography.

I got several chapters in and realized that nothing was sticking.

Nothing.

Luckily for me, my fifth grade teacher was an outline fiend. Every single chapter in our Social Studies books had to have an outline in our dedicated outline notebooks. I remembered the gist of outlining, but couldn't remember the lettering/numbering format. Was it A. then 1. then a)? Where did the little Roman numerals come in? Google-fu turned up Directions for Outlining a Textbook Chapter.


I started the book over, with my not-really-dedicated notebook and outlined the first chapter and started on the second. It's working pretty well, except I have to overcome my urge to write down way more information than is necessary.


Outlining the chapters should make it easier to write up my book review for the DP. I really hope so, because while this book has some really interesting information, I don't think it will make it onto my annual reading list with the Anne of Green Gables and Sword of Truth series.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Samhain High Day Recap

     I was out of town the weekends before and after the High Day, so I performed my very first ritual in observance of Samhain on 11 November. It won't count towards the Dedicants Program because it was outside the one week on either side of the High Day requirement, but that's okay. I will just pick up the Samhain  requirement at the end rather than the beginning.

      I am no liturgist. My script was copied and pasted from the DP Manual and two others I found through the ADF website. I won't post the script here, because I don't want to violate anyone's copyright.

     My altar is kept in my bathroom, on a shelf above the vanity. I try to do a morning devotional when I get out of the shower, but I've fallen off that wagon again. For this rite, I spread a clean sheet on the bathroom floor and arranged my Hallows: a metal jewelry tree shaped like a tree, three candles, and a lovely handmade pottery bowl my best friend gave me a few years ago. I used my normal Well, a small clay goblet, to receive the blessings in the rite. I also laid out my offerings to my right: an apple, cedar oil, a six-pack of Guinness, homemade biscuits with pumpkin butter, cornmeal and olive oil. On my left I had a bowl for liquid offerings and a platter for dry offerings. I also laid out my ritual script, Ogam index cards, a notebook, Erynn Rowan Laurie's Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom in case I needed it, and a pen and lighter.
   
     It seems like I made at least 15 trips to the kitchen, because I kept forgetting things. My husband rolled his eyes every time, like, "Really? Another trip?".
  
     I changed into a white dress that my grandmother gave me. For some reason, I felt the need to cover my hair, so I wrapped a black shawl/wrap around my head. When I finally had everything ready, I sat down in front of the Hallows and took some deep breaths, trying to clear my head and focus.

     I offered corn meal to the Earth Mother, cedar oil to the Fire, quarters to the Well, and sprinkled the Tree with water and circled the candle around it. I didn't have a dropper for the cedar oil, so I tried to use a straw to drop some onto the flame. It melted the straw. I cut off the melted part and held it much higher to offer some more. I requested Mannnan Mac Lir to be my Gatekeeper for the rite and offered an apple to him. The Beings of the Occasion were Donn, The Cailleach, and my Beloved Ancestors.

     The Ancestors and Nature Spirits were offered a bottle of Guinness each, while I offered olive oil to the Shining Ones. This all went into the bowl I had set off to the side for liquid offerings. As I invited each Kindred, I paused in between to try to visualize them. I saw my grandmother and grandfather at the head of the group of Ancestors. The Nature Spirits appeared with humanish bodies, their faces were animal-like, but not clear, and had flower petals ringing their faces. I got the impression that the one at the front of the Nature Spirits was male. The Shining Ones appeared as, well, shining. Manannan Mac Lir appeared as an older gentleman (I think my view of him was accidentally influenced by this shirt of Poseidon) with silver hair.

   Donn appeared as a black shadow with a gold torc around his neck and a cauldron carried on his hip. He had two horns (not antlers). The Cailleach was an old wise woman wearing a red Gypsy scarf over her hair. My Nanny was smiling and my Pawpaw had a mischievous smile and twinkling eyes.  As the Beings of the Occasion, I offered them a bottle of Guinness each and several homemade biscuits with pumpkin butter. I was supposed to offer to the Ancestors in thirds - to the ancient heroes, the honored Dead of the passed year, and to my Beloved Dead - but forgot and offered it all at once.

     I don't know that I connected with the Deities or Nature Spirits, but I like to think I did with my Ancestors, particularly my Nanny and Pawpaw. I felt reassured that they were doing okay wherever they are.

     To take the Omen, I  closed my eyes and scattered the Ogam index cards I had made (they have the name and ogam on the front with the association/meaning on the back) and then drew one for each Kindred. The Ancestors offered "Ruis" (Transition); the Nature Spirits offered "Luis" (Protection) and the Shining Ones offered "Saill" (Intuition).

     I forgot to prepare a final sacrifice, but I still had one more Guinness, so I offered that.

     After the rite was over, I took the offerings outside and poured them over some rocks we have stacked against a tree.

     I was incredibly nervous about doing a ritual. The only religious ritual I remember growing up was Passover, and my only participation was listening and passing the juice and unleavened bread to the person next to me. I had a picture of this Far Side cartoon where Yahweh has his finger hovering over the "Smite" button while watching a guy on his computer monitor in my head.

     Obviously this is going to have to be pared way down for my official High Day recap in my DP documentation...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Introduction






I've been an armchair Pagan for about six years now; meaning, I read a lot about Paganism but I've yet to do anything.  Considering that most Pagan religions are orthopraxic, that's a problem.
 
I was raised Jehovah's Witness and then attended a Southern Baptist church in my late teens. I've never believed in heaven or hell. I could never understand how every other culture throughout history except the Israelites (and by extension those who converted to the worship of their god) were wrong; why were their gods false but Yahweh wasn't? After trying for years to make myself be a good Christian - I even got "saved" at 17 - I started reading about other religions in my early twenties.

I read the obligatory book or two on Wicca, and then I stumbled upon The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum, and realized that there were so many more Pagan religions than Wicca (not to knock Wicca).

But the thing about most Pagan religions, is that they are orthopraxic, rather than orthodoxic like the religions I grew up with. I haven't the slightest idea how to do a ritual, let alone do one and not come off as a dingbat.

About two years ago, I ran across several posts on The Cauldron about Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and decided to look into it. I liked what I saw, so I  decided to begin their Dedicants Path training. Two years later, I still hadn't got started. After six years as an Armchair Pagan and reading about how other people practice their faiths, I've realized it's time for me to start practicing my own.

I plan to document my progress on the Dedicants Path here. It is highly doubtful that I will finish in one year, as I work full-time and have a very active child, but that's okay.