High Day Recap – Ostara

25 03 2014

I did my Ostara ritual at the moment of the vernal equinox on 20th March. It went well and I had a surprisingly good Two Powers visualisation (perhaps because I was standing up this time and so it felt more real.) As usual I used the Solitary Druid Fellowships basic ritual format with my own additions and changes. I honoured Eostre and Njord as the patrons of this ritual as Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, while this is also the beginning of much of our fishing season so Njord seemed appropriate. I honoured Heimdall as my gatekeeper and Hertha as the Earth Mother. I gave oats to the Earth Mother as an offering, silver to the well, oil to the fire and shining ones, an apple to Heimdall, seeds to the nature spirits, cider to the ancestors, oil to Njord and Eostre and bread as a final offering. I also did my Oath at this rite, giving Honey as an offering to all the kindreds.

I took two omens during the ritual. My normal Ostara one using my homemade Ogham set was Luis – protection from the gods, Hawthorn – consequences from the Ancestors and Hazel – creativity from the Nature spirits. I’m not sure what to make of the omen as it’s got both positive and negative elements. I wonder whether the Ancestors want more from me. I will have to meditate on this and seek guidance.

The rest of my celebrations included making a curried scrambled tofu dish as a vegan alternative to scrambled eggs and an attempt at naturally dyeing eggs which only really worked with tumeric. I also decorated my altar with daffodils.

Personal Religion

6 03 2014

I started off the Dedicant Path convinced that a Celtic hearth culture was the way forward for me, and specifically the Gaelic Irish one. However, over the course of the past year I have moved away from that view and towards a focus on a mixture of hearth cultures – Gaelic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Part of the reason for this was that there is limited information about the Celtic deities and worldview compared to the Norse/ Anglo-Saxon one which made it harder to connect with a Celtic hearth culture. The second reason was because it has been very difficult to work out whether my ancestors are Celtic or Anglo Saxon e.t.c and so I think it is best to look at a mix. It really made an impact on me when I read that regardless of ancestry, the culture I have grown up in (english) is culturally Anglo-Saxon. I like the way Brian Bates talks of the “Middle Earth” culture and I feel that best describes me now – a combination of aspects of each of the three hearth cultures. While I don’t have a Patron deity, I primarily honour Thor/ Thunor. I also honour a range of other deities based on which one seems to fit best with the season.

Because I live a long way away from other ADF members, I have been solitary based and have regularly used the Solitary Druid Fellowships ritual structures. Since completing the Meditation requirement in December, I haven’t really maintained any kind of regular meditation but I have tried to do a weekly devotion to honour the three Kindreds and the Earth Mother as a way to continue and develop my mental discipline practice. I find this is much easier to be disciplined at. When it comes to the Virtues, I know I have a long way to go, but over the course of exploring them in the course, I have seen the sense of them all and have changed some of my ethical principles to fit these ideals. In particular, the importance of being remembered for our deeds, the concept of Wyrd and seeking to always be hospitable have been important to me this year.

When I first started this course, I wanted to develop more of a connection to nature, to feel more spiritually fulfilled and to develop a sense of purpose in my life. I have certainly achieved the first two of these and getting out into nature has been my favourite part of the Dedicant Path. I am optimistic that as I continue this path, I will develop purpose too. I also wanted to learn much more about how ancient people’s practiced their religions and this course has allowed me to learn so much about them through the books that I have read and to apply what I have learned to my own practices. I have made offerings my primary spiritual practice. I have celebrated all eight seasonal festivals. I use ADF’s core symbolism e.g the three realms and gates in my rituals and as representations on my altar. I honour the three kindreds. I also maintain an altar, honour my ancestors and use a homemade Ogham divination set.

I feel that I have kept my oath this year and I have grown spiritually in many ways. I have developed a more scholarly approach to my Paganism and respect the importance of historical research much more now. I have developed a closer connection to and understanding of nature and seek to live my life in a more environmentally friendly way. I have explored meditation, and while I didn’t find it as useful or productive as I had hoped, I did get to experience and explore many different techniques to see what worked best for me. Having a structured path has really helped me to explore my spirituality in a deeper and more systematic way, it has challenged me and made me work on areas of practice that I would probably never have done without it and for that I am grateful. In conclusion, I feel very strongly that Druidry is the religion for me and that ADF in particular is the place I will continue to develop my spiritual path.

High Day Recap – Imbolc

1 02 2014

I did my Imbolc ritual at 3pm on 1st February. It went reasonably well although I lost one piece of my script for a minute and forgot to light one of the candles. However I felt empowered at several points during the ritual. As usual I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format although with quite a few additions. I decided that as this was a Celtic holiday, I would honour the celtic pantheon again with the Patrons being Brigid and Manannan (as it was traditionally the beginning of the fishing season too). Manannan was also my gatekeeper. I gave oats to the Earth Mother as an offering, silver to the well, oil to the fire and shining ones, an apple to manannan, seeds to the nature spirits, cider to the ancestors, soya milk to Brigid and bread as a final offering. I also prayed for a blessing over my seeds, tools and land.

I used my Ogham set for the Omen and got – Ceirt (beauty, love) from shining ones, Ruis (Transition ) for ancestors and Coll (Creativity) from the nature spirits. I am taking this as a very positive omen and blessings from the Kindred.

The rest of my celebrations included eating lots of (fake) dairy products, putting cloth out for brigid to bless last night, making a brigid bed, lighting lots of candles and putting them in the windows, leaving bread and butter on the windowsill as an offering, buying a candle making kit, and this evening I will make a spicy lentil shepherds pie.

High Day Recap – Yule

22 12 2013

I did my ritual at 5pm on the day of Yule because I wanted to time it to coincide with the actual moment of the Solstice. I stumbled a bit at the beginning….I think it was because I was nervous at the fact that my partner was there (though not taking part) so I was self conscious doing it alone but “in public.” As usual, I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format with some editing of my own. I am trying out switching my hearth culture from Celtic to Norse so I decided to honour Sunna as its the time of the sun’s rebirth, and Odin, the leader of the Wild Hunt as my deities of the occasion. I also changed gatekeepers to Heimdall. The offerings I used were oil for the shining ones, fire and each patron, seeds for the nature spirits, home made cider for the ancestors, silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, oats for the earth mother, an apple for Heimdall as gatekeeper and bread as a final offering. As part of the final affirmation, I lit yule candle to honour the Sun. I didn’t feel anything special happen but I do seem to feel more contented/ fulfilled/ at peace afterwards so I think a switch of Pantheon is the right way forward.

I used the Ogham set for the Omen and asked the Kindred “Grant me true seeing this season that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I pulled three Ogham – Saill/ Willow – Intuition, Nion/ Ash – Wisdom and Ur/ Heather – Dreams or Feelings. I am interpreting this as a positive omen and that the Kindreds are offering me blessings in these areas or saying I need to pay attention to inside feelings/ intuition and dreams to gain wisdom?

The rest of my celebrations included a party with friends, some porridge left out for the house wight and eating a Yule feast.

Nature Awareness 8th Dec 2013 and Mental Discipline Updates

8 12 2013

So I haven’t been out to my normal place in Nature since the last post on the topic back in October. I decided at Samhain that the weather is becoming too cold now and I have seen most of the yearly cycle – everything is dying off. I also think I’m going to switch the spot I go to from the nature conservation area to a local park behind my house. This is partly because its closer so I’ll be more likely to go, but more importantly it isn’t restrictive in terms of offerings. I couldn’t give offerings at the nature conservation area because it would attract rats and they would eat the baby chicks e.t.c which I definitely don’t want to happen, however I can easily give offerings in the park (albeit there’s more people around) and hopefully this will mean I can develop a closer relationship with the nature spirits.

I am also changing my mental discipline plans. I have tried to follow a meditation regime but I have failed to feel like I’m making any progress or enjoying it. I have done the required 5 months and I will still do some meditation now and again using a Buddhist loving kindness meditation or Stoic meditation but a disciplined daily regime feels beyond me. I think I have done enough to have a reasonable understanding of the Two Powers meditation and I have explored many other types of meditation but I would like to change to a more devotional practice using the Solitary Druid Fellowships evening devotion (with some small amendments). I won’t have a set time each day I’ll be doing it as I have found that too difficult to keep to when my life doesn’t have a set routine, so I will do it whenever I can and hopefully every day. I am also switching my focus more to a Norse Pantheon as I seem to be connecting better with it.

Mental Discipline

Week 28 (26th October – 1st November)

31st October – I did a Two Powers meditation for 10 minutes in front of the altar as part of my Samhain ritual. It went well although I felt tense still and kept slumping. The visualisations are not getting any easier.

Week 29 (2nd November – 8th November)

2nd November – I went to a Buddhist retreat this weekend. This involved a lot more meditation than I was used to. It started with a 3 hour workshop on meditation which consisted of a short talk, 45 minutes sitting meditation, 45 minutes walking meditation and finally another 45 minutes sitting meditation. I really enjoyed the walking meditation and learned how to do it properly. Later that day we had another 1 hour meditation session.

3rd November – The day began with an hour meditation at 5am in the morning and another one at 7pm in the evening. Meditation for these long periods was difficult mainly because I kept needing to move around due to pain. I still keep slumping and the monk suggested I might need to take up alternatives like Tai Chi to help me deal with my posture issues. Overall I felt the weekend helped me to really progress my meditation skills.

Week 30 (9th Nov – 15th Nov )

No meditation this week.

Week 31 (16th Nov – 22nd Nov)

No meditation this week.

Week 32 (23rd Nov – 29th Nov)

25th November – It was the beginning of Stoic Week so I did the Stoic Meditations which consist of a focusing on breathing for a short time, then contemplating the vastness of the universe and my place in it. Following that one plans their day and visualises situations where it might not go according to plan and how its best to deal with those. I felt this type of meditation where my mind is engaged in planning seems to be easier.

26th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

27th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

28th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

Week 33 (30th Nov – 6th Dec)

2nd December – I did 10 minutes Stoic Meditation. I also did a Stoic circle of compassion meditation mixed with a Buddhist loving kindness meditation. I visualised a light of love surrounding my body then extending it out to encompass different groups of people until the whole world was encompassed. I also said silently “May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be loved” at each stage. I found the visualisation hard but I did feel it was beneficial.

3rd December – The last of the Stoic Week meditations today. I also did a 15 minute guided meditation which was focused on contemplating my place in the universe by imagining myself floating up from my body. It was again difficult to do the visualisation and the words were spoken too fast which made things difficult. I need to do some practice on it.

4th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

6th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

Outline of new daily devotion

(Light Candle & Incense)

Say: “I come before the sacred fire, sacred well and the sacred tree to give thanks for the blessings in my life.”

(Breathe deep 9 times)

Say: “I give thanks to the Earth Mother, Nerthus, for the support and sustenance she gives to my life. Hail Earth Mother!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Ancestors for making my life possible and for the guidance and blessings they give me.” Hail Ancestors!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Nature Spirits who watch over my land and home for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Spirits of Nature!”

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Gods and Goddesses, especially ….(changes each day)……… for the magic they bring to this world and for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Shining Ones!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to all the Kindred for their presence in my life, and for the blessings they have given me. Hail Holy Ones!”

(Give offering)

Say: “Mighty Kindred of the nine worlds, I give thanks to you today and ask that you accept my offerings. In return I ask for your blessings and protection upon my family, friends and upon my home. Guide me in the path I must walk and may I feel your presence ever with me.

So may it be.”

(Bow then blow out candle)

High Day Recap – Samhain

5 11 2013

I did my ritual on Samhain evening at home alone. It started off quite badly as I was only using candlelight and I couldn’t see the words of the ritual that I had written. I had to add extra candle light which mucked up the flow. Eventually I sorted it and things went relatively smoothly from then on. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format with some changes. As Morrighan is associated with death, Donn is lord of the dead and Cailleach Bheur has roots in both Ireland and Scotland relating to winter, I thought it was appropriate to honour them as patron and write prayers to them. The offerings I used were oil for the shining ones, fire and each patron, seeds for the nature spirits, home-made cider for the ancestors, silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, oats for the earth mother, an apple for Manannan as gatekeeper and bread as a final offering. I also chose to integrate some extra workings into my ritual including a house cleansing, warding and blessing, as well as specific actions to honour my ancestors. These extras meant the ritual took over an hour to do but helped the whole flow of the ritual. I also used the two powers meditation in the ritual. To honour my ancestors I lit a candle for each of my grandparents and a friend who had died, as well as spending a minute in silence to honour them. I didn’t feel anything special happen in the ritual and I think I need to make more effort with gestures and raising my voice to have more of an effect.

This was the first time I used the Ogham set I had made for the Omen. I asked “Grant me true seeing that I may know what blessings you have for me” after seeing it used by another ADF member in one of their rituals. The Omen was Huathe – Consequence, Fearn – Endurance and Saill – Intuition. I am interpreting this as saying that the blessings that will be the consequence of this ritual are endurance and help in developing intuition. Or it could relate to the need to have endurance and commitment/ discipline to follow a new direction of meditation and looking inward/ developing intuition which I seem to be moving towards in my life. I am interpreting this as a positive omen.

The rest of my celebrations included a party with friends, leaving out food for the ancestors, carving a pumpkin and eating a meal of spicy butternut squash soup, colcannon with vegan sausages and baked apple.

Nature Awareness Update 25th October & Mental Discipline Weeks 25 – 27

25 10 2013

We’ve had a lot of rain recently so I haven’t been able to get out much. Today I went out mid afternoon and it was cloudy but dry. There were a few blue patches in the sky and it was very windy but mild. There are a lot of leaves on the floor now and the Horse Chestnut trees have almost lost all their leaves. Many White Poplar leaves are yellow now too. There are still some blackberries around but they are very small. I noticed some a small holly plant which was probably hidden by all the growth of other plants that have now died back (although I didn’t notice it in the spring). There are also some new nettles around. I heard a few birds singing and saw seagulls and crows circling as the flew up in the wind. There was also a Magpie. Most of the insects, including the spiders are gone now but there were a few Pondskaters and a bee. In the lake there were only 7 swans – I don’t know where the other two have gone.

Mental Discipline

5th October – 11th October

6th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went well but visualisation still needs improving.
9th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped so my back hurt and visualisation was very difficult. I prayed to the kindred giving them an offering of incense as well as lighting a candle and praying to Brighid.

12th October – 18th October

17th October – I did 10 minutes of the  Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped a lot again as I don’t think I was sitting correctly and found visualisation difficult.  I gave an offering of incense to the kindred and lit a candle to honour Brighid. I’ve decided to try some Buddhist style meditation again rather than Two Powers for a while.

19th October – 25th October

25th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in my nature spot. The time went fast and I felt calm. I enjoyed the wind blowing around me and against me as I sat there still. I changed my routine a little from chanting 1 up to 10 alone to doing that and then counting back down from 10 – 1. I did slouch a lot which i think was because I wasn’t sitting right and my paper I write notes on flew away half way through so I had to sort that out and begin again. My breath slowed when I was meditating but I sometimes felt more tense when it did. I have done some research on mantra meditation and might try some of that this week too.

For more exciting news – I am going to stay at a Buddhist Monastery next weekend so should hopefully be able to reboot my meditation practice and sort out issues I have.

Third Book Report – Indo European Studies

12 10 2013

Mallory, J.P. In Search of the IndoEuropeans. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1989.

This book considers the history and roots of the Indo-European languages. It is a search for the original homeland and peoples from which this family of languages, now spoken by over half the world, came. The central thesis of the book is that the first Indo-Europeans lived in the Ponti-Caspian region in south Ukraine between 4500 and 2500BCE. From there they spread out east into Iran and India and west into the Balkans and North-Central Europe. The author looks at the linguistic and archaeological evidence available to him in the late 1980’s to come to a fascinating conclusion that the world was completely changed by the actions of this pastoral nomadic community through their ingenuity in using the horse and wheel.

Chapter one begins by looking at the key figures and history of Indo European studies since the 18th century, explaining the linguistic similarities between many different languages and the theoretical models of development put forward by various scholars. The next two chapters look at the development of Indo-European cultures in Asia and Europe. He concludes that the evidence shows they were an intrusive people that mixed in with local populations. Chapter four was the most interesting chapter for me. The author looks at Proto-Indo-European culture, primarily from linguistic evidence as he believes there are major problems with just looking at archaeological evidence. The linguistic evidence suggests that they lived in a diverse environment, had an economy built primarily on stock-breeding and had invented the wheel, pottery, dairy products, ploughs, boats, weaponry and, most importantly, domesticated the horse. Their social organisation appears to have been male dominated and may have had a king or clan leader. In the next chapter, he looks at Indo European religion and focuses a lot on Dumezil’s theory of Tripartition ie that society was split into three functions – priest-kings, warriors and herder-cultivators. He especially considers how it relates to mythology. The author also considers the role animals, and particularly the horse, may have played in their religion.

The problem of where the Indo-European homeland might be is investigated in chapter six. Mallory points out the similarities with the Finno-Ugric languages and the important role this plays in helping to locate the homeland. He then looks at the internal linguistic evidence, linguistic palaeontology and archaeology to come to the conclusion that the homeland was in the Pontic-Caspian region – the Kurgan steppe and forest steppe of southern Ukraine. He also considers other theories about the location of the homeland e.g Renfrew’s theory of an origin in South east Europe but persuasively tears it apart. In Chapter seven, the author looks at the archaeology of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and finds a close match with the Eneolithic cultures of the Pontic area e.g the Yamnaya culture. Finally, he explores the Indo-European expansions in chapter eight. He starts with the expansion into Asia, followed by the Balkans and then South West Europe. He looks at the arguments for expansion into the Caucasus but concludes that there is not enough evidence. He argues persuasively for the Asian and Balkan migrations but, after reviewing the evidence for different expansions into central and northern Europe via the Corded Ware culture, he finds that there is no enough evidence to satisfactorily prove it at this time. He finishes by looking at how languages expand and suggests that it was primarily through the migration of small groups into different areas as well as changing social and environmental factors that proved most advantageous to the spread of the Indo-European language.

I learned a lot about the book, including how well established the Indo-European theory is despite the fact that it still has big holes. I enjoyed finding out more about Dumezil’s theory of Tripartition in more detail as well as what the culture of the Proto-Indo-Europeans was like. I was disappointed to discover that there was no archaeological links between the Pontic-Caspian area and Central & Northern Europe as it calls into question the links between the Proto-Indo-Europeans and my own country – the United Kingdom. However, this does show that the author was being honest and not trying to twist the evidence to fit his own theories. Consequently he has sparked an interest in me to research more recent scholarship to see if any advances have been made in this area. I liked the fact that he always pointed out assumptions or where there was a lack of evidence or debate within the linguistic and archaeological communities. My biggest criticism has to be the lack of large scale maps and in different time periods so that I could orient myself and understand how the smaller maps related to the larger world.

Overall this was a much more interesting book than I thought it would be, even if I found it hard going at times. I learned a lot and am inspired to research the topic further. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone interested in ancient cultures or ancestry. However, I’m not sure that it will influence my own practice other than to emphasise the importance of the tripartite system to a Druidic worldview.

Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Piety

6 10 2013

ADF defines Piety as “Correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of the agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) The state or quality of being pious, especially:

    a) Religious devotion and reverence to God.

    b) Devotion and reverence to parents and family: filial piety.

2) A devout act, thought or statement.

In my opinion, Piety is about more than just correct action. It is wide ranging covering action, thought and words not only towards gods and spirits but also towards other human beings like family. When I think about Piety, the first word that comes to mind is Reverence (acknowledging that which is greater than oneself). Doing the correct thing is not enough, but neither do I think that belief is a necessary component. Instead Piety is about Reverence and its corresponding actions – devotion. An action can be pious without belief but I don’t think that it can be pious without reverence. In the end it is about respect and relationship – acknowledging our relationship with the cosmos and acting on that understanding. Piety is how we build relationship.

When I think of a Pious person, I picture a praying monk, someone devoted to his or her spiritual beliefs, who takes them seriously and acts on them. I picture someone who is humble, polite and reverent towards ultimate reality, whether it’s the gods, spirits, ancestors or simply the universe itself. Humility is the first step to Piety, Courteousness is the second, Reverence is the third and lastly comes Devotion – correct thoughts, words or deeds to maintain our agreements, traditions and duties. In ancient Indo-European cultures it was believed that one had duties towards the Kindred that one must keep in order to maintain order in the universe and stop chaos taking over and destroying society.

A virtue is both a quality and a behaviour and therefore I would agree that Piety is a virtue. It is a virtue we must show not only towards what we consider divine but also towards our families and by extension our ancestors. Familial piety e.g obeying parents and looking after them in old age is just as important in my view as piety towards gods or the universe and it is the root of ancestor veneration. By following the religious practices and ideals of our ancestors, we are showing piety towards them. ADF also values Piety towards the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits – which requires living in a sustainable way. Some say Piety is about public display but I think it is much more about our personal lives, maintaining our own daily spiritual practices, and while its important not to be ashamed of our Druidry, simply doing things for public show is hypocritical and wrong. What really counts is what is in the heart.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000

Nature Awareness Update 4th October & Mental Discipline Week 23 + 24

4 10 2013

I went out to the spot in nature early this afternoon. The sky was cloudy although there were a few blue spots. It was very warm and windy. There are still lots of blackberries out but most flowers have died off now. The floor was covered with leaves, and many leaves on the trees have turned yellow (except the horse chestnuts which turn orange or brown), however there are still many green leaves on the trees. The horse chestnut has some large buds appearing on it and the few chestnuts that are left have turned brown. There are still lots of spider webs around and I also saw a few bees and the red dragon fly again. Pond weed is covering the small pond now and is also in the larger pond however there were still quite a few pond skaters in there. There were very few birds in the nature reserve, however on the lake there were seagulls, a heron, 8 swans, 5 coots, some ducks and 6 moorhens. There were also three different types of mushrooms on the grass nearby. It seemed a lot quieter today with a clear sense that things are winding down. There is a lot less activity than there was a month ago. Next week I want to try an experiment by opening myself up to messages from  the Earth Mother and local spirits.

Mental Discipline

21st September – 27th September

21st September – I did 20 minutes meditation at my normal place in nature. I got interrupted twice and my mind kept wandering. i was also distracted by the birds singing. My legs are still a problem as I’m not sure what to do with them when I’m there. But I found my sense of hearing improved and I became more aware of what was going on around me. I felt calm afterwards. Overall I didn’t think it was too good of a session.

25th September – I did the two powers meditation for 10 minutes at home in front of my altar. It went well and the visualisation was a little easier. I also lit a candle and prayed to Brigid.

28th September – 4th October

4th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in the nature spot. My mind kept wandering a lot but I seem to have solved my leg issue by simply keeping my feet flat on the floor. I also seem to breathe faster when my mind wanders and slower once I return to focusing on my breath again. I felt quite calm after.