Thursday, March 13, 2014

Profane Into the Sacred: The creation of an Urban Pagan Temple

                It all started with a simple phone call.  An aquiantance I have known and worked with social on and off over the years was, according to my cell phone display, calling me.  It was a bit of a surprise, she does not often contact me.  Curious as to what it could be about, I answered.  In short she was calling because she had acquired an old machine shop she was going to turn into a dance studio.  It had a large fenced yard and was wondering if I and the pagan community would be interested in using it for rituals.  At first I was skeptical.  I have, over the years been looking for such a site.  I have seen all sorts of places and none of them worked for or another.  Still, I told her I would come by and look at it. It was after all less than a block away.  I am so glad I did.  It is about as perfect a space as any urban druid could hope fore!  Well, perfect in the practical no non-sense business kind of way.  It already has 6 foot tall fencing with three layers of bobbed wire around the time to keep out would be vandals.  It is tucked away just off a main road behind buildings.  It is easy to get to, has a bus stop not even a block away, and plenty of parking.  There is water.  It is however devoid of life.  It is an ugly dirty brown barren piece of land.  Bits of metal and plastic, glass and junk are frequent.  The earth itself is hard backed desert brown that has been infused with the droppings of oil and industrial waste.  Digging down one gets less than an inch before hiding dirt mixed with oil and hard packed by years of trucks and machinery rolling over it.  Only a pick axe or jack hammer can break it up.  This earth eats shovels for lunch.  The surrounding businesses are another machine shop type building, a lumber and stone yard, and a gas company depot.  Across the street is more of the same.  It’s an industrial area to say the least.  In short it’s a functional but ugly piece of land.  I brought some of the other leaders of the pagan community over to look at it with me.  We decided to go for it.  So it is that I have spearheaded this project.  I have gathered together those of the community willing to be founders and their vow to cover the very reasonable rent.  We are going to take this ugly profane piece of land and transform it, to the best of our abilities to something sacred and beautiful. 
                Having started working on the site, pick axe swinging, I got to thinking about those “special” and “holy” places and places like this one which just…well are profane, or perhaps profaned.  It would be nice to find one of those special magical places with trees and grass and a great view and build a temple there.  Yet when I thought about it, it occurred to me how much easier that is then what we are attempting to do here, magically speaking.  Yet it is needed so much more in this dirty, ugly industrial landscape.  To transform this little piece of land into something natural, beautiful, and a place of worship…well, what more powerful magic could there be?  This is, in many ways, the most powerful “magical” working I have ever done.   It won’t happen overnight, and I am sure there will be bumps along the way, but for now all is flowing and falling into place.  Though my muscles are sore from the pick axe work I have done the last two days to raise standing stones and place torches, my spirits are soaring.  I believe the kindred approve of this venture and are and will continue to help.  As I worked today a pure white pigeon flow low over the temple with a branch in its beak, and landed in the rafters of the lumber yard next door.  Though cliché’, I take this to be a very good omen indeed. 


Below are some photos of the site and the progress made thus far.  







Friday, February 14, 2014

More Walk, Less Talk

               I have learned something about myself and my spiritual path of late.  I am a “doer” more than I am a “thinker”.  I do Druidry and sorcery rather than think, write, or pontificate about nature, druidry and the holy kindred.  Recently I have noticed several of the other bloggers I enjoy reading, people who are far superior writers and maybe even better thinkers then I, going on and on about Anthropomorphism and the nature of the gods.  Frankly I am board of it.  Though I understand the idea that they are trying to “dig deeper” and come to some sort of better understanding, I can’t help but feel they would be much better off stepping away from their computers and spending time sitting under a tree and actually practicing.  Not saying they don’t mind you.  It just feels to me like they are spinning their wheels like a hamster in its cage.  Lots of work and energy spent, but never really leading anywhere.  I don’t see how it will make them a better person or strengthen their connection to the kindred, nature, or even bring them enlightenment.  In my way of Druidry one is better served by doing the work and experiencing the kindred and nature then by just reading and thinking about it. 
                This has come up personally in my fledgling Protogrove.  We have grown in membership significantly over the last year, however, very few of them are actually DOING the work.  They are not meditating regularly, or doing the two powers exercise.  They don’t spend time in nature or at their shrines (if they even have one).  They show up almost every week at the Dedicant’s class I teach each week and they are mostly happy to help out and participate in the high day rites.  So what then is the message?  To me it tells me they are happy to talk the talk, but when it comes to the walk…well they only want to show up and play their part at the high-day. The actual day to day work, that I feel where the real work and growth and meaning of Druidry is found is just not in them.  Personally, I am ok with that for them.  It’s their choice.  However Druidry is a religion of doing, and you get out of it what you put into it.  A few of the “new” members of the protogrove are starting to drift away.  It is not unexpected.  ADF isn’t for everyone, and though people are often enamored with the idea of being a Druid, they really can’t be bothered to place one foot in front of the other and do the work.  Make no mistake, hard work it is. 
                I am not a great writer, or an amazing thinker.  I am a doer, and I lead from the front.  I do the work of a Druid Priest and sorcerer every day.  I then write about my experiences here on this blog in the hopes it will help others and as a journal of my travels.  So you won’t find large complex philosophical ideas that are wonderfully or beautifully typed out.  You will find me doing my best to express the experiences I have and some thoughts surrounding them upon my path of Druidry.  Look not to these pages to find me, but to the river’s edge under the trees, three sticks of incense burning. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Ministry

Ministry is defined as “Work or vocation of a minister of religion”.  As I am coming toward the completion of my first circle clergy training with ADF I am beginning to envision what my work, my ministry, will look like.  Some of it is forming organically as needs of the grove become evident, such as the need to teach a class on the dedicant's path. I see my ministry with two main streams; the stream of public ritual and the stream of private practice. 
                My ministry in public ritual is to write and lead public rites for each of the eight highdays.  It is also to do other types of rituals as well such as hand-fastings, funerary rites, coming of age and transitional ceremonies, as well as personal rites of purification and blessing. When called upon I will lend my skill as a sorcerer.  This stream is perhaps the most obvious parts of my ministry. 
                The other stream of my ministry is going to be about helping people with their personal practice.  In this I see myself as a coach.  I will teach techniques, such as meditation, prayers, and rituals for personal use.  I will also encourage people to do the work of Druidry, just as a coach encourages his players to practice and train.  As part of this I also see myself performing pastoral counseling.  In this counseling I will make use of the philosophies, stories, and skills of Druidry to help people navigate the issues and crisis of their lives. 

                What you won’t see in my ministry is me telling you how to believe.  You won’t see me telling you are wrong for feeling a certain way.  I won’t make you feel small, ashamed, or try to enslave you.  My ministry is empowerment and giving a person the tools they need to feel spiritually fulfilled. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How Druidry has helped me in my own healing process

A reader of this blog asked me recently on an old post how has this spiritual path helped me to heal, and do I have suggestions.  Here is my answer. 
                First Druidry got me back in-touch with myself and got me to see who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.  It also, and this is a big one, got me back in touch with feeling at one with nature.  This was very much a balm to my tortured soul and ego.  I did this by spending time quietly in nature.  Hours of hiking some place quiet and just sitting, stilling the thoughts and emotions, just listening to the nothing and everything that is nature.  The two powers exercise got me in touch with the energies of nature and of magick. 
                Shamanic work has been and still is a key component to my healing process.  Through Shamanic techniques I have come to the realization that I was just running through the forest shooting everything I came across with arrows.  Years later I was able to face my shadow self for the first time, and then again not so long ago.  Shamanic journeys taught me that at the heart of the greatest evil could be found good intent. This was a seed to forgiving my ex. 
                Druidry has given me a system for doing daily work with the holy kindred made up of the gods, land spirits and the ancestors.  All of these beings have spoken to me at different times guiding me to be a better person.  All have brought blessings and challenges my way. 
                Paganism and Druidry have brought the most amazing friendships my way that I have ever had.  Friendships that have let me tell and retell the pain and suffering that I needed to get out.  Friendships that have loved me when I couldn’t love myself. 
                How do I know I have healed?  I know because the buttons the ex use to push so easily no longer work.  Nor do I anger as easily as I once did.  I find my days filled with joy and laughter. I wake up in the mornings excited for the day and looking forward to what may come.  Recently I have found myself growing ever more compassionate.  When I hear things that would have in the past made me feel angry and or indignant about something someone did, I now only feel empathy toward them and wonder what pain they must be in to behave such. 
                One thing is that is key, absolutely essential, and this applies to any spiritual practice that is going to bring about healing is that you have to DO IT!  I mean really do it and do it every day.  You have to live it, eat it, breathe it, sleep with it.  It has to become a part of what you do every day, of who you are. Do it when you’re board with it. Do it when it’s raining, hot, cold, stinky.  I don’t care if it’s raining bombs out…do it.  I do it when I am sick, when I am stressed, when I am mad, when I happy, when I am tired. When I am busy, I just get out of bed earlier.  It’s not enough to read a book, or watch a youtube video, or just think about doing it.  You have to actually DO THE WORK.  Any spiritual system in the world can lead one to healing, but even the most powerful one won’t do anything if you don’t DO THE WORK.  Most days I enjoy it, but some days I understand why it’s called “work”.  There are so many things out there that will try to distract you.  Kids are a huge one, work, significant others, pets, chores, TV shows.  All of these things are only distractions and obstacles if you allow them to be.  They all have solutions.  They are all just excuses why you didn’t/don’t do the work. 

Someone once emailed me and asked me, “in your words, what does it mean to be a druid?”  My response was simply this; To be a druid you must have the heart of a poet, the will of a warrior, and the mind of a scholar.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Solstice Update

My how the Protogrove has grown in the last year!  I re-read what I wrote about last year’s Winter Solstice rite.  At that time the Protogrove was made up of three members.  Since then we have gained some and lost some.  We are now up to eight active members besides myself.  We now have bylaws in place, and will soon be applying for Grove status with ADF.  We also now have weekly Dedicant’s path meetings, as well as once a month business and planning meetings.  Having more members has been a blessing for sure, but it also makes things more complicated in ways as well.  There are more personalities to deal with for one.  Not that this is a difficult thing per say, but it can complicate issues at times.  When planning for high day rites and festivals, there are more people to help, but also more people for me to constantly check in with to make sure things are getting done, and at the same time finding the balance so that one is not micro-managing.  I am also learning to trust others to get things done.  The last few years I have had to rely mostly on just me to make sure things get done.  Now I am having to rely on others and I am finding that at times it’s difficult.  I have had just so many experiences in my life when relying on others was a mistake.  So far however the group is going strong and all is rolling along nicely. 
                This year we are doing our winter solstice ritual in combination with KCPC the local eclectic pagan meetup.  We will be doing the ritual in ADF’s Core Order of Ritual.  As part of that however we will be doing the Oak king/Holly King battle, as well as our candle lighting ceremony which is becoming a Yule tradition.  In this ceremony, I light a candle from the sacred fire, then I light the candle to the person on my left saying “may my inner light spark your inner light”.  Then in turn do the same to the person on their left.  The lighting goes all around the circle then the last person will light a large three wick candle on the alter representing the whole of the community.  Then we give people the opportunity to honor those in the community who have helped in some way. 
                Another new adventure ahead of us this year is the building of a public temple for worship ceremonies of all the different pagan paths in the community.  I was approached by a friend who is converting an old machine shop into a dance studio/meeting hall.  It comes with a fenced dirt yard that she isn’t interested in using and asked me if we would like to use it for rituals.  I looked at it and it will be perfect!  I am in the process of bringing the idea to the community and gaining their financial support.
                On a more personal note, my personal practice continues on strong as ever.  I do morning offerings each day with two powers meditation and some trance work on other days.  I recently have noticed an opening and expanding of my “heart”.  I am feeling far more compassionate and empathic of late.  I am not sure what has brought this about.  It could be that Brigid is coming more into my life and spirit.  It could be a natural evolution of my inner work.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of the book I am currently reading about the art of blessing.  Whatever has caused it, I like it.  I still feel strong, just more loving, more patient.  I am also still chipping away on ADF’s clergy training program.  I am getting to the end of it now, and I have learned so much.  I have also begun serious thoughts on what my “ministry” will look like, but I feel that is worth a blog post in itself.  For now I will leave you with this prayer of thanks I wrote as part of my clergy training in my Liturgical Writing class. 
Samildanach!
Sage of every art,
Master of the high seat,
I thank you for blessing me and mine with skill.

Lugh  Lámhfhada,
The eye striker,
Champion of champions,
I thank you for protecting me and mine from the powers of chaos and oppression.

Light Bringer,
Oath Keeper,
Law speaker,
I thank you for the harvest that brings bread upon this table.

As a gift calls for a gift:
My skill is your skill,
My protection is your protection,
My harvest is your harvest,

Hail Lugh of the long arm!

Summary: I drew much of the inspiration for this prayer from Cath Maige Tuired.  When the god Lugh first makes his appearance at the gates of Tara he is asked his name and replies that it is Samildanach which means “equally skilled in all arts”; which he proves to be a master of.  Once he enters Tara he takes the seat of the sage, and later that of the king.  Here I talk about the high seat of the sage and name him master as a reflex of his mastery of all skills. 
            Lugh Lamhfhada is another well known name meaning “Lugh of the long arm” and relates to his skill with the spear.  I came up with the kenning of “eye striker” because of the story in the Cath Maige Tuired where Lugh takes out the “evil eye” of his grandfather Balor.  The Tuatha De Danan were champions, but Lugh was champion above even them evidenced by his many feats in the Cath Maige Tuired, thus the title I gave him as “champion of champions”.  The title of light bringer I came up with from the possibility that the etomology of Lugh’s name comes from the Proto Indo-European *leuk  -flashing light (Wikipedia).  Though in Victorian times people thought him a solar deity I believe this *leuk refers not to the sun but to the strike of lightning.  Add to this the epitaph of “fierce striker” and that lightning storms are said to be from Lugh and Balor fighting in folk tales; I agree with Alexi Kondratiev (1997) that the light of Lugh is the sudden blinding light of the lightning flash.  “Oath Keeper” is a reference to another possible etiology of his name which means “oath” and was a god who was often invoked when contracts and business dealings were being done (Wikipedia).  The title “law speaker” I give him because of his role in the story “The sons of Tuireann” where he up holds the laws and names an eric for his father’s murderers.  The reference to the harvest has to do with the end of the Cath Maige Tuired where Bres gives up the secrets of planting, growing and harvesting.  The ending of the prayer draws upon the idea of reciprocity.  It is designed to show how the speaker and Lugh are deeply connected through this process. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Victory!



Today I stand strong, the hero’s light shinning from my brow.  I have reached deep, “eaten bitter” and finished Nursing School.  Nothing in my life has challenged me as nursing school has.  Readers will know that I failed the last semester and had to repeat it.  This was the first time in my life I ever failed to meet my goal.  I had no one to blame but myself.  Through this process I learned a lot about me and I had to learn to deal with failure in a way I have never had to before.  I learned that given the choice between the easy road of mediocrity and the hard road of excellence, I will choose the harder road.  Today not only did I successful complete that last semester, I received the grade of an A and got excellent reviews from my clinical instructors.  I have already been offered, and accepted, a job at a local hospital.  I feel redeemed.  I feel victorious. 
                In “A hero with a thousand faces”  by Joseph Campbell, he describes the hero’s journey.  It starts at status que, then there is the call to adventure.  Along the way the hero meets a more experienced guide who helps them.  The hero faces a serious of traps, enemies, or challenges.  Then the here will face their biggest challenge.  This then changes the hero.  The hero returns to the start with something new.  A new knowledge, magic, technology, idea…something.  Also the hero is changed.  Nursing school has been my hero’s journey.  My call was the need for financial stability, and I think the call of the goddess Bridgit and Lugh, not to mention the call of my ancestors, many of whom were healers.  I had the help of many teachers and instructors, who guided me, and armed me with information and knowledge.  I faced many challenges; tests, with questions that required multiple levels of critical thinking, difficult situations with patients and their families.  I had to confront my own fears, multiple times.  At the end, just when I thought I was going to be done, I was told that I had failed to meet the requirements of level 4 clinic.  I could have walked away at the point right there, but I was given the option to keep coming to class, so I did.  I had to learn how to deal with failure.  I learned it was much like the process of dealing with the loss of a loved one, with stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance.  At the end, I was given the opportunity to either be graduated with my class, though the instructor felt I would have a “large uphill climb” when I got into the real world; or to come back and she promised me a seat in the next semester, and come out standing on top of that hill.  I had no time to think, a decision had to be made then and there.  It was a poignant moment of my life.  You see I had a lot of pressure to be done.  My wife hates her job and was only waiting for me to finish school and start a job to quite.  My kids could use the extra income to better their lives.  To be done was so tempting.  “to hell with what the teacher says, I know what I am doing, I could be done and get a job…but what if I really don’t know what I am doing…what if I hurt someone..”  These were but a few of the thoughts and pressures going through my head in that moment.  Looking back I feel this moment was perhaps a test from the gods.  Maybe it was Lugh, maybe Brigit, maybe both, maybe none, I can’t say but I know what I choose. I choose to repeat the semester.  I choose the road of excellence.
                Today I stand strong; the hero’s light shinning from my brow.  I have reached deep, “eaten bitter” and finished nursing school.  Nothing in my life has challenged me as nursing school has. Through this process I learned a lot about myself and I had to learn to deal with failure in a way I have never had to before.  I learned that given the choice between the easy road of mediocrity and the hard road of excellence, I will choose the harder road.  Today not only did I successful complete that last semester, I received the grade of an A and got excellent reviews from my clinical instructors. I have already been offered, and accepted, a job at a local hospital.  I feel redeemed.  I feel victorious. 

                

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Healing with Milk


             Earlier this summer a friend and fellow pagan contacted me via Facebook, asking me to send some “healing energy” to her father who had been admitted to the ICU.  I could have done as asked as I often do with a simple inclusion of an extra prayer for them in my morning ritual.  Instead though, I felt perhaps more was needed.  I asked for more specifics as to what was going on with her father.  She began to run the story of what was happening, and having been a nursing student in ICU for six weeks I quickly came to the conclusion that things were dire indeed. His cerebral spinal fluid was disappearing and the Doctors couldn’t figure out where. Then suddenly he suffered from in increase in cranial pressure and went into a coma and had to be put on a ventilator. Bed sores were present and several other co morbidities. My logical, clinical nursing trained mind told me that his chances of survival were the width of a thread…over a fire.  I of course did not share this with my friend, I learned long ago to be very careful about saying such things to those who love the one in such a condition.  I told her I would do what I could.  My magical mind told me that this was going to require a LOT more than just some “good vibes”.  I set to work to call upon a spirit of the court of Bridgit. 
                I scanned through Ian’s book and came up with the spirit Slainte Beir.  Though I had not worked with her before, she has, according to Ian agreed to work with the Druids of ADF, and I had done a number of workings to gain the authority of Bridgit to work with her spirits in the past.  I laid out my alter and supplies.  Cream it turns out is the spirits preferred offering, but as it turned out, I had none.  It was too late for me to go and get some, so I decided to make do with milk.  I gathered a number of other offering items for Bridgit herself as well as the Cuach Brid.  This working was to take place at my indoor shrine.  I performed the ritual using the Core order of ritual.  Once the gates were open I called upon my spirit guides for aid in this working.  I then called on Brig using the prayers in Ian’s book.  I offered to her and took an omen.  I no longer remember now what specifically I drew, but the question was if Brig had accepted the offerings and if I had her go ahead for the working.  I did.  I then got my center again, and called upon Slainte Beir.  Three times I called and gave offerings.  Unlike some lucky folk, I am not one who easily sees spirits or hears them either.  So after the calling the offerings, I sit and drum and go into a trance state, where I hope to find the spirits at the crossroads.  I was happy to say that I did.  I parlayed with her a bit and explained to her my need and the needs of the dying man.  She told me that it would require three separate sacrifices of milk, poured over a large rock, and that I would know the times when to do them.  With that the spirit left and I ended the working. 
                I wrote to my friend via Facebook, what the spirit had told me.  She agreed to do the offerings, and said it would be no trouble.  I then found out her father was to go into surgery the next morning.  I felt that would be the time for the first offering.  The surgery was to try and discover what was going on with the man’s cerebral spinal fluid.  How it want from not being enough, to be too much in a very short period of time.  They never found a good answer, but after the surgery and the offering, he began to improve.  I was a bit surprised to be honest, but pleasantly so.  From that time on he slowly began to recover and improve.  Two more surgeries and offerings of milk were given throughout his stay.  After thirty days in the ICU my friends father was discharged to a skilled nursing facility.  He had lost forty pounds of muscle and body weight and could no longer easily support himself to do activities of daily living.  I am happy to report that a few weeks after that he was discharged home.  He still is recovering his health, but is for the most part living a normal life. 
                So, what happened?  Was it the working?  Was it good health care?  As someone who has taken care of people in the ICU, some of whom died, you get a feel for how  things are going to go.  As a future nurse, hearing all that was stacked up against this middle aged man, I believe with all I am that it was the help of this spirit that brought this man back from the brink of death. 
                I have often seen how the study of different types of “hard science”; i.e. mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering, ect., will cause people to stop believing in spirits, gods, and magic.  Yet for me it has had the opposite effect.  It seems to me to only be providing proof that all that “woowoo” magic and spirits are in fact real and interacting with us. As in this experience, my hard science mind told me that he would most likely not survive, and yet he did! So something must have intervened, and that something was most likely the spirit I called upon.  So long as the hard sciences cannot in some way measure magic they will not accept it.  Honestly, I am ok with that.  I hope they never can measure it.  I hope there will always be forces in this world that can’t be understood with measurement; forces that must be felt and experienced and always leaving us a bit lost as to how it worked.  This is the re-enchanting of the world.  This is how it is done; one magical working at a time.