Wednesday, January 28, 2015

nine days of devotion: days 3-5

Continuing with the nine days of devotion...
Day 3: Bridghid as Initiatrix.  I struggled with this concept a good bit as for me it just doesn't fit the lore surrounding Bridghid.  It seems to have come from Wicca who would often do initiations and dedications at this time of year.  Still, Bridghid's aspect as mid-wife does also lend itself to the idea of initiatrix.  Much as I wrote about on day 1 ties into this idea of initiatrix as well.  Brighid can certainly initiate one into many things.  Magic, poetry, song, story, crafting, and many other things.  Personally I believe that she has initiated me into the use of Ogham as a tool for creating magic.  I have used it both in a written form such as sigil magic and as type of oral magic similar to what the Norse call Galdor.  I have had many successful uses of this ranging from protection for my money, to entering into trance, to invoking the spirits of the dead to entering into trance and going on spirit walks.
Day 4: Bridghid as blacksmith.  Here we have the first of her main and most well know attributes.  The hammer, the anvil, the red hot metal.  With skill and strength the goddess bangs away  Those who have worked with the goddess know that we all have to spend some time "on the anvil."  It's those times when we are undergoing a usually unpleasant experience that is going to shape us.  Perhaps it's just a human thing, but I find the hard times easier to deal with when I believe that it is the goddess's hand shaping me upon the anvil.  I know it may be unpleasant in the moment, but when it's done I'll be transformed from a shapeless lump of iron, into a work of art or some special tool.  Struggling through nursing school was definitely time on the anvil for me.  I am not the same person now that I was when I started the program.  Even the water-witch has commented on the changes.  Sometimes the shaping is subtle.  Such as the moment when I realize that my mother is never going to beat her addiction and it's more than likely going to kill her and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It was as a single soft blow made with a light hammer that set me free. 

Day 5: Bridghid the poet.   It is said in the old lore that Bridghid was a patron of poets and bards.  I believe this connection comes from the idea that Bridghid is a fire goddess and in Celtic culture poetic inspiration was equated to "the fire in the head", thus it must come from Bridghid.  So more to the point she is a goddess that inspires.  Inspiration is something I feel has been missing from my life of late.  That firing spark is there, but it does not burn as brightly as it once did. Perhaps it can be attributed to the stress of my new career?  Perhaps it's simply a side effect of working nights and the bouts of depression I have had to deal with as a side effect of changing my sleep patterns.  I asked myself what I can do to increase my inspiration, or give it a channel to flow through.  I didn't come up with any satisfactory answers.  I hope that a more consistent work schedule and getting involved again with the pagan community will help.  I am also beginning to get more involved with ADF as an organization.  Lastly I am getting back to my daily meditation.  All of these I hope will help stoke the fires in my head. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

nine days of Brighid devotion: days 1 and 2

                Imbolc  will soon be upon us dear friends.  As you can imagine this highday is of particular importance to me.  It always has been, but this year especially since I am focusing my spiritual work with Brighid this y ear.  Sassafras grove back east does nine days of devotionals to the goddess Brighid leading up to Imbolc.  Each day they focus on a different quality or aspect associated with our modern concepts of Brighid.  They are kind enough to share their ideas and meditations with ADF and I have been working along with them.  Today would be day three. 

Day 1: Brighid as midwife:  Traditionally this was a literal concept, that Brighid was the midwife to Mary and was invoked during times of childbirth by midwives assisting at births.  Though this may very well be a purly Christian mythos, I certainly can see the connections as a pagan if Brighid is the goddess of flame and hearth, and the hearth is the center of the home, then she is also a goddess of the home and family and by that a goddess to invoke to aid in the birth as it was going to be in the home, near the hearth and a new member of that hearth fire.  As a man in my own spiritual life I have to use this facet of the goddess as a metaphor.  In what way has she been a midwife in my life this past year?  As midwife Brighid has helped me to birth a new career as an RN at a local hospital.  Getting through my schooling was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and long time readers may recall that struggle.  As midwife Brighid is currently helping me bring into the world my new self as a Druid Priest in ADF.  I see her at work with a woman who is just beginning her first steps along a pagan path. 
Day 2: Brighid as foster-mother:  Fostering was a common and powerful social glue used in Celtic culture.  It tied families together, created alliances and secured trade, peace, and family lineages.  Today we no longer carry on fostering as our Celtic ancestors did, though we do have a system.  As an aspect of the goddess  this again ties back to her being the goddess of the hearth flame, the center of the family unit traditionally, and thus the goddess of hearth, home, and family.  Simply put Brighid is the foster mother of us all.  She is here to teach, guide, cajole, scold, congratulate and support.  In her we have the opportunity to find the mother we didn't have in this world.  In my personal life, goddess is teaching me about healing, compassion, balance, finances, mentoring, and time management, depression, and addiction to name a few.  Much of this "education" has not been pleasant to learn or easily gained.  In the end it's wisdom that I am getting, and wisdom is hard won.  If Odin was willing to lose an eye for it, I  am sure I can withstand a little ego bruising. 
Stay tuned for Day 3-9!

Blessings of the Kindred on you all. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Forgiveness on the forest path

                Recently an ADF member asked a question that  I have often asked myself. Where in our modern druid spirituality does the concept of forgiveness lie?  Is it a virtue?  What did the ancestors and ancient myths have to say?  I am sure many a modern pagan has wrestled with this issue.  It's a drum beat the Christian based over culture beats again and again and again.  So where do we, as modern pagans stand? From what do we draw on? 
                The ancient myths and stories are surprisingly silent on the topic of forgiveness.  In point of fact, in many of them revenge, harsh and cold, is prominent.  We do see stories of an "Eric" or "Wergild" being paid.  That is an exchange of payment to compensate some wrong doing done to another.  The price being based on the value of the victim.  This however speaks more to the idea of justice then it does to forgiveness, so it's not much help.  No in the old stories forgiveness simply isn't there. 
                It seems to me that the concept of forgiveness is very much a child of the Abrahamic traditions.  However that does not mean it should be thrown out the window. One of the main concepts of ADF druidry is that of nurturing relationships.  Relationships with the holy kindred, with the cosmos, nature, each other and ourselves. Thusly forgiveness, it seems to me, is a necessity for the continued healthy *Ghosti of these relationships.  Forgiveness is an important tool to spiritual, emotional, and mental health.  To be clear I want to point out that I am not talking about forgetting.  That is simplistic and foolhardy.  Knowing, believing that forgiveness has intrinsic value, I sat down and began to think about what forgiveness really is?  What is it made up of?  Like a stone in a river I turned it around over and over, taking away the extra and polishing the core of the concept.  What I have come away with is that forgiveness is nothing more than a letting go of anger.  That's it.  It's that simple and yet so hard to do at times.
                It is the natural state of things that we feel emotion.  A complex web of cognitive and subconscious thought, hormones, ego and culture.   Ideally emotions should flow freely like a river or creek.  Sometimes the water is shallow, like the river I grew up on in the summers.  So shallow in places you could walk from one shore to the other never getting more then thigh deep.  Other times the water is deep and fast and dangerous overflowing the banks and seemingly washing us away from time and place.  Always flowing, always coming, that is emotion.  Having someone hurt and anger us is an inevitable part of being in relationship, any kind of relationship.  it's going to happen from time to time.  However when we hold onto the hurt and anger is when we start to have problems.  It's akin to trying to dam up the river.  The anger and hurt build and build and build.  We then are forced to release small amounts of that emotion in some form to keep it from over whelming us and overflowing the banks of the river and the dam.  These dammed and stagnant waters are resentment.  If we don't do something those waters become putrid, tainting the relationship .  The ideal of course is to not build any dam at all.  To simply let the emotions flow, but being channeled into a healthy and constructive outlet appropriate to the situation at hand. When we do build dams, as we all do from time to time, it will be best to tear them down.  That is to let go of the anger and resentment, to forgive.  Only then when we have let go can we get in right relationship with whatever or whoever caused us to feel hurt. 
                Forgiveness is a subtle thing, at times a difficult thing. Even after forty years on this planet, I still struggle with it at times. So how do we let go?  how do we forgive? That is an excellent question, but like so many of the most important questions of life, there is no one easy answer.  It's a learning.  It's something we must all figure out for ourselves.  It seems to me that it is very much a personal process.  Magical workings may be of help.  Perhaps writing, or singing, physical activity and exercise.  For some it may be they can take the dam down quickly, for others it may take longer, and it may depend on just how long or how "high" the dam has been in place and built.  Some hurts may take us years and years to let go of.  Perhaps some we never will, though we should all try, for the beauty of a natural flowing river cannot be understated. 
                So is forgiveness a virtue?  Since I see forgiveness as nothing more than a fancy word for letting go of anger, I say no.  It is a skill and a tool for better health and a happier life for sure.  Letting go is Wisdom and that is a virtue.  Letting go shows moderation and that is a virtue.  Letting go takes vision and perseverance and those are also virtues.  Most of all letting go takes courage and that is most definitely a virtue. 
                The ancient stories don't model forgiveness well it seems to me.  Perhaps it was the time, or they just didn't understand the value of it.  Whatever the reason, forgiveness is a good thing...a healthy thing.  It's part of our modern culture and I hope it stays.  I hope that we all get very good at it.  Not for the benefit of those who hurt us, but for the good of ourselves and for the good of our relationships.

May the kindred bless your journey. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chasing away the lonliness birds

I haven't had the heart to write in a long time.  Just as I was beginning my new career as a R.N. The protogrove lost most of its membership.  Just at that time when I needed more support and help with, most everyone walked away.  They all had different reasons.  That and the added stress of a new nursing career and working twelve our night shifts for the first time in my life, well I lost my spiritual footing for a bit.  Instead of doing the work of druidry, I turned to video games.  It was innocent enough at first.  I would stay up all night before my first night of work for the week playing them.  Ah but in the late dark hourse, the "loneliness" birds began to quietly flock in.  Soon I was playing the game during all my free time, seeking to escape the lonely feelings and the stressful feelings.  Yet it only made me more lonely, more stressed.  Without realizing it I slipped into a depressive cycle that only feed into itself.  Thus I did not write, I did not meditate, I did not give offerings.  I let slip my relationship with the gods, spirits, and ancestors.  I forgot to tend the fires of relationship with the kindred, the family, friends, and myself.  I *ghosti was broken.  I felt alone like I have never felt before.  Soul deep loneliness.  Misery.  I suddenly saw myself as Gollum when Bilbo first discovered him alone in the bottom darkness of a giant mountain.  Alone with only my "precious".  Then I remembered.  I remembered when I was happy.  I remembered what I was doing  with my life at that time.  I remembered what it felt like, and some of the "loneliness birds" flew away.   I then took up my crane bag, sat down in front of my alter and I re-established the fires of my relationship with the gods, spirits, and ancestors, and especially with Bridghid.  I asked for their help in ending this depression.  I gave offerings and rededicated myself to the work of druidry.   Then some more of the "loneliness birds" flew away.  When I was done, I got up and set to rearranging the garage and cleaning it out.  It was 2am before I stopped for the time being.  When I went to sleep, I slept better than I had in months and some more of the "loneliness birds" flew away. 
                A few days later and things began to happen.  I was asked to give a talk at a state collage to give a talk to a anthropology class about modern druidry.  I have set my schedule to allow me to return to the weekly pagan meetup group starting in Feb.  As for the protogrove?  I leave that up to the kindred, though currently I am not going to actively seek to rekindle it.  Perhaps if the right people come....

For now it is proper for me to focus on my inner work.  To regain my right relationship with the cosmos, to set my feet firmly again upon the path of peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Devotion to the anvil, the flame, and the well...for the time being.

There certainly is a trend within the Neo-Pagan movement these days for people to devote themselves to one particular patron deity.  Some see this as a good thing, a return to the "old days" when there were priests devoted to a particular god or goddess.  Others disagree and feel it can be dangerous and that it lacks balance.  As for myself, I have decided that it really comes down to each to their own, and I also suggest a third path.  That we are not limited to devoting ourselves to just one deity, nor are we required to honor all deities.  I feel that the best path, at least for me, is one of balance.  That each deity in a pantheon has lessons to teach, and that the seeker of spiritual truth must devote time and energy to each in turn.  I am finding in my journey upon this pagan path that deities seem to flow into my life and out again.  When I first stepped back on the pagan path in 2005, it was Cernunnos who was seemingly the main divine influence of my life, though there were others as well.  My time with him taught me many things about sex, nature, hunting, joy, and festivals.  Taught me things about myself that I would not have learned any other way.  In time he seemed to slip out of my life and I found myself learning from Lugh for several years now.  I have studied his stories and even heard him speak to me once.  I have learned about leadership and skill. I have learned about achieving excellence.  Again I have learned about myself and who I am.  I thought that I would be working with Lugh forever.  I thought that this was going to be my patron till the end of time.  Yet he too seems to have slipped into the background, and now I find myself standing before Brighid hearing her call.  So it is that I have chosen to dedicate myself to working with her, studying her myths, and learning what I can from her about myself and the cosmos around me...for a year and a day.  At that time I will reevaluate if I want to and need to continue the partnership or if I will move onto studying and working with another deity.  
          So what have I noticed so far?  Well for one I find myself being more easily moved emotionally then I have ever been in the past.  I find myself being more compassionate and patient with those around me.  I also have started to have inspirations for poems come to me, and strongly enough to bring me to tears.  None of those poems have made it out of my head yet, but I suspect they may soon. I also plan to seek formal admittance to ADF's special interest group devoted to Brighid, perhaps I will do some flame keeping of my own.  
         No longer do I assume that though Brighid is the immediate divine "go to" in my life, that she will always be there.  I will not make grandiose claims that she has "claimed" me as her own or any such thing.  Only that she is here now, and has many many lessons to teach me about the anvil, the flame, and the well.   

She giveth...she taketh away

I am sad to report that the temple project has had to come to an end.  We have lost the support of the partner of the location we were using, and can not afford the rent on our own.  I am not as upset as many here suspected I would be.  I always knew that this was a probably and possible outcome.  I also knew that I had to try...that we had to try.  I hope that my attempt has inspired other's in the community to what we might accomplish some day.

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.