Friday, January 28, 2011
Though I am not able to find the time to do meditation each day, I am still getting 4 or 5 days a week in. Earlier this week, I made time in the mornings after my shower while the rest of the house was still asleep to meditate. These were short, only about 15 minuets before I would leave for the CNA class. At the end of this week, the location of the class was shifted about 25 minuets north of me, and I had to get up and leave home earlier, thus killing my meditation time in the morning. Today I made time to meditate in the evening. This went really well. I felt the two powers line up with in my easily and I felt them strongly. I had a great sense of balance. I also want to mention that the other day I had a discussion with my wife. It was a topic that she felt strongly about and at one point she said things that would normaly have gotten me heated. This time however it just rolled over and off me like water off a ducks back. I was totaly calm, warm and loving. What might have blown into an argument, rolled seemlesly into friendly negotiation and a solution found. I attribute this to my meditations. "Between water and fire, I find my balance."
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Imbolc or "in the womb" is said to refer to the growing bellies of the Ewes who were kept by the the Celts and so important to their lively hood. It is also called Lá Fhéile Muire na gCoinneal in Irish, which translates to the feast day of Bride. These are all things any "baby pagan" can learn from a simple Internet search as well as a few other basics. Imbolc is dedicated to the goddess Brigid, fire is often involved be it a hearth fire or a bonfire. Young woman are often a major focus. These are all themes that can be found throughout the Celtic history of Imbolc. Having been pagan for many years now, and having seen a goodly number of Imbolc celebrations I have seen these ideas repeated time and again. The first flowers of the coming spring, the crown of candles in a young woman's hair, the Brigit crosses, and the corn dolly. Traditions of old made new again. Yet, what does all of this really mean? The oldest written mention of Imbolc comes from the Irish stories called the "Ulster cycle", yet no mention is given as to why it was celebrated. Why is Brigit honored instead of Angus Macogg? Perhaps knowing the answer to that question would help me understand what this feast is really all about. In a podcast, I can't recall if it was Druidcast or the Celtic mythpodshow, I heard a great Scottish version of the story of Imbolc where the winter Cailleach imprisons Brigid and enslaves her so that spring will never come. But with the aid of Angus and an old man she escapes and spring comes. The theme of this story reminded me of the story of the Oak and Holly kings battling it out to rule of over the light and dark half of the year. Even after Brigit escapes the grasp of the Cailleach, which marks Imbolc, the winter hag still throws the last few storms of the season in an attempt to recapture Brigit. I think in this part of the story lies the key meaning of Imbolc. It's the point when things have turned, when there is suddenly hope for survival and growth even though the dark cold of winter isn't yet over. Though the ground is still cold and wintry, the strangle hold of winter is done. In Jean M. Auel's book "Vally of the horses" She writes about the people celebrating when they feel the earth mother has "broken the back of winter". The old shaman in the story talks about the importance of the celebration as a way for the people to work off the sense of cabin fever. More then that I think all of these things point to the rebirth of hope. Hope that the cold will pass. Hope that the green will come again, that life will be renewed. Hope that things will get easier. Hope that the season of sickness and death will end. Imbolc is about hope in the time of cold darkness. Not the vague blind hope, but the pure sure kind of hope. The kind of hope you feel when you know with out any doubt that something good is coming. It is hope mixed with a healthy dose of anticipation. Imbolc is a reminder that cold and darkness never last forever. The light and warmth of life always comes again. So when you find yourself in the cold dark winter of the soul and can't seem to see an end, stop, take a moment, and invoke the spirit, the meaning, of Imbolc.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Sorry I have not blogged much recently. I started the CNA class this week, and it's keeping me busy and a touch off balance. I am still working out a new balance, one where I have the time for school, chores, meditation, reading, studying, working, family and writing in the blog. I am currently working on a write up for Imbolc and it's meanings. I didn't meditate everyday last week. I did still get in 4 days though.
Friday, January 14, 2011
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgement that something else is more important then fear"--Ambrose Redmoon
Courage. There are as many definitions of it as there are people in the world. Dictionary.com defines courage as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/courage) Personally I think this definition is wrong at a very crucial point. I believe that without fear there can be no courage. It is the very presence of fear that creates courage or at least the opportunity for courage. They create each other like the interplay of predator and prey create each other. Deer evolved to run fast and leap far to stay ahead of the snapping jaws of the wolf, and in turn wolves learned to be social and work together to take turns running a single deer to ground.
ADF defines courage as "The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger." I like this definition much more then the last, but again I think it misses a key element. Lets look at it a bit more closely. First it tells us that the courageous person has to have the Ability to act. This is true, though I would expand what is meant by "act". In some situations the courageous act is non-action. The definition also states they must be able to act appropriately. This also is excellent to have in the definition, however keep in mind that what is "appropriate" can change from situation to situation. The definition also states that the action taken must happen in the "face of danger." Here is where my personal belief in courage in general deviates from ADF's definition. I do not believe that "danger" or the risk of any actual harm need be there. What needs to be there is fear. Regardless if there is actual danger or not there needs to be a sense of fear. I believe that it takes greater courage for a woman who has a fear of heights to climb a latter to clean her gutters on the roof then it takes for a soldier who feels no fear what so ever and is in an armed conflict. Simply put no fear, no courage. Though the fearless act may still be courageous, it doesn't require courage per se. So my personal definition of courage goes "The ability to act appropriately in the face of fear". I also divide courage into two types. Silent courage and loud courage. Silent courage is the more every day things we do that are fearful to us. Things like sharing emotional vulnerabilities to some one. The fear of having to give bad news to a boss who is prone to flying off the handle. Loud courage are things like running into a burning building, joining the military and fighting in a war. The reason I chose the picture above is that it shows both types of courage. The deceased marine showed the loud courage and sacrificed his life. His son, is showing the silent courage of facing the reality that his beloved father is dead. The silent courage of facing the rest of his life with out his wisdom, love, and support. Courage of facing mortality and an uncertain future. I do not believe that one type of courage is inherently greater then the other either.
Perhaps the most courageous man I have ever known in my life is my Grandfather Victor Wrigley. He graduated college with a masters in physics and a 2nd lieutenant in ROTC just as America was being pulled into WWII. He went when called. Surviving that and disgusted with what he saw, he became a Lutheran Minister in the United Lutheran church in America. He built the church and the congregation with his own hands in Brooksfield Wisconsin. All went well for many years, but when he was 36 years old, he was tried by the church for "heresy" and found guilty for his beliefs. Despite it all he stuck to his beliefs. He could have hidden them, could have capitulated to avoid the trial, but no, he stuck to them, defended them with his heart. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,808113-1,00.html
Grandpa Wrigley is now 91 years old, and ya know what, he still believe as he always did. I hope that I will be as courageous in my life as my Grandfather has been in his. I am now 36 the same age as my Grandfather was when he was put on trial. Would I have the same courage? I have not been in a war, I have not grown up in the great depression. At age 36 my Grandfather was a veteran, had a masters in physics, built a church and a loving loyal congregation. It's enough to give a guy a complex! Still I have traveled to foreign countries alone, faced many opponents in the Martial arts, faced bullies and viscous dogs and had the courage to witness others pain and not turn away, but I suppose my greatest act of courage was when I pulled myself out of an abusive relationship, left behind everything I knew and had built, and moved here. At the time I didn't know how things would turn out. It was a gamble. It's not all worked out as I would have liked. I am still building a new career and struggle monthly to pay my bills. However I have found love in abundance, and it has brought me upon the druidic path and this essay.
I recently was selected for a Certified nursing program. Only 1/3 of the applicants were accepted. My regular readers will know that there was some spiritual work that went along with this. In fact it's been a long time coming. I know without a doubt that they holy kindreds had their hands in this. Based off my spirit-walk last Monday I feel that Bridgit had much to do with my acceptance into the program, and explaining some important things to me that I was blind to. So today instead of my normal meditation time, I chose to do a full rite, and give offerings to the goddess Bridgit, and all without asking for anything in return. This would be my second "formal" full right I have done since joining ADF. I have done many "practice" or "informal" full rights. I am a kinesthetic learner. The best way for me to learn the ritual is to do it. The ritual flowed well. I concentrated more on the pattern of ritual and less on the specific words. I was more relaxed and found that the right words just came to me. I chose to do this rite indoors at my shrine, so my offerings were placed in an offering bowl. I gave flour to the Earth Mother, Oil for the gods, incense for the sidh, and bread for the ancestors. I gave an offering of milk and my love and thanks for Bridgit. After I opened the gate and gave my offerings I closed my eyes and stilled my mind for a few moments. I had flash of a vision of the holy kins standing together as a group might for a photo. they were all smiling and the Dagda was lifting a Hirlas. The funny part is that I saw them all as cartoons! Regardless it left me feeling loved and that I sensed they appreciated my offerings and thanksgiving. I closed the ritual in the usual ways and all was done and done and well done.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Today I sat at my personal shrine and performed a simple ritual. I then entered into the two powers meditation. This was all I had intended to do today, but while doing the two powers I decided, not really knowing why, to do another "passing the mists" exercise. Again, in the spirit form, I walked outside to the back yard. Suddenly I stepped in what felt like deep mud and sank to my knees, but was able to quickly step out. I turned to look where I had fallen in, and from that spot arose what can only be described as an earth elemental. This one came to speak with me it would seem. It told me it was the spirit of this place. I took that to mean my back yard, though thinking about it now it could have meant a larger area. The spirit stood about 4 feet tall. It seemed friendly and I asked it a serious of questions. Such as what it could do for me, what it wanted in return, what it's rank was among other spirits here. It didn't seem to have a "rank" per say. I did get it's name, or at least it gave me a name. Giz-leth is what I got. Not sure if it means anything to anyone. Once the audience was over I returned to myself and came out of the spirit-walk.
Several hours later, I got a call from the job that I applied for a few weeks back just before new years eve. I haven't heard from them for two weeks. They had told us if we got a job they'd call us the next day. We'll I never got a call. So here I am on the phone with one of the owners and she's asking me if I can come in...TODAY! As if I have been working there for this whole time. It was weird. I told her that I couldn't. That since I hadn't heard from them, I assumed I hadn't gotten the job, and I had just been accepted into the CnA program, thus I wouldn't be able to work for them. I can't hep but think that the holy kindred had a hand in this. Perhaps they were guiding me in the right direction, that they wanted me in the CnA program and not this job. I was pretty upset when I didn't get a call back at the time. I had tried really hard not to be, I had tried to trust in the holy kindred and the fates that I wasn't supposed to get that job, but in the end I was just plane old upset. Now I have a different perspective of course. Now what I see is that the CnA class will move me closer to my over all goal of becoming a R.N., where as the Driving job would not. The CnA class won't help me make money right now, but will give me a higher paying job then the driving job would, though later down the road a bit.
In the end it's all just things that make me go Hmmmm.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Today I did the exercise in the ADF dedicant's path called passing the mists. It seems to me that this is essentially a shamanic journey. Something I am very familiar with and have done for a long time. However, this was the first time I used this technique to enter into a journey or spirit-walk as I like to call them. I started with the simple devotional and called to Lugh and Bridgit. During the mediation portion of the devotional is when I did the spirit-walk. I would say it went well. In the spirit world I walked around my property. When I reached the back yard, I was lifted up buy a great wind that shot me high high high into the air. I was looking down upon the earth and still I could make out the light of my little hearth fire. After a moment I was hurtling back toward the earth and my yard. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. Just before I hit the ground the descent slowed and I was gently placed upon my feet. I heard the sound of a wooden wheels and the the clomping of horses. I looked up from my feet to see who I believe to be Lugh in his Chariot there with me. He held a spear and radiated. He did not speak but merely looked at me as if to say "I see you". Then he give a little flick with the reigns and he was gone into the sky. I sat at my outdoor meditation spot and tucked my knees into my chest and sat a while in thought. I was thinking about an incident I created yesterday. I had acted in an unjust manner that greatly upset my wife. At the time I quickly recognized my wrong and have made amends. Still I am not content to simply let it go. I didn't understand why I had acted in such a way. So I gave it some thought and as I was doing that I felt a woman's presence all around me. A gentle feminine voice answered my pondering "You acted out of anger and frustration grown from your bad luck in business and job hunting." I asked how do I change that and the woman's voice said "to open my heart to the world, to breath in the goodness all about me, to trust in the gods." I did as instructed then. I concentrate at my chest and visualize gates at my heart opening out to the world. On a physical level, I feel a relaxing of the intercostal muscles over my left side. Spiritually, or perhaps energetically I felt a whoosh of "stuff" leave me. Anger, hurt, frustration. I felt a "cool breeze" flow in. I felt a greater sense of peace and relaxation came over my physically. Still I felt despair though. I asked the voice to help me get into the certified nursing class that I am interviewing for today. I told her that I need this. That it's what I want. I told her that I need a break. I told her that I am not sure how much longer I can stand up to all this bad luck I have had in the way of career and income. The woman's voice told me that she can not guarantee to get me in. That it is up to the interviewer's and she can not nor will not alter their free will. She said she can inspire me to say all the right things and she would be with me. I found myself just repeating over and over "help me" like it was a short prayer. The woman's voice was silent, but I caught a glimmer of the face of a beautiful and motherly woman. I am not sure how long i just sat there like that, but eventually I felt the presence leave and I was alone. I chose to end my little spirit-walk, and I walked back into my home and stood before my physical body. I stepped into it and ended the walk. I opened my physical eyes and had a small surprise though I felt very little time had passed in my spirit-walk, the fact that incense sticks were completely burned to nothing spoke otherwise. I ended the rite giving thanks. So how am I now? Well, I feel better. Lighter. I don't feel angry or frustrated. My interview is an hour away and I am a bit scared. I want to be one of the 20 picked for this. I want it bad. I want a change in my luck. I want to be a nurse and this is a major stepping stone in that direction.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Though I haven't talked about it much of late here, I am still meditating daily. I have been doing the two powers meditation primarily. I do it in conjunction with my daily devotions. I love the feeling of the two powers flowing through me. I have practiced directing it and using them to form a spiritual shield. Last night I was able to use the two powers to heal my wife's headache. I feel I have good skill with the two powers exercise and using them in magical work. It's not exactly new to me. Tomorrow I plan to start to use the rising of the mist exercises to enter into the spirit world. Stay tuned for spirit adventures here!
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wow." That was my first word when I finished "The History of Pagan Europe" by Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick. Not wow that was a fun read, but wow I sure learned a lot. Wow, I get it now. Wow, I had a lot of misconceptions. Wow those pagans who harp about the burning times are looking at the wrong things. All these thoughts and feelings summed up into one singer "wow". Jones and Pennick wrote this book as a sort of historical story, broken up into cultural groups. It starts with the Greeks, moves into the Romans, then into the Celts, the Germanic people, the Baltic lands, the Russians and Balkans, and finishes with a few words on Neo-paganism.
Here are the things I took away from this reading.
I don’t feel that I learned too much from the section on the Greeks. I did walk away with a new sense of the culture and how woman were so very repressed in Greek culture. Perhaps from listening so often to the stories of Artemis and Athena, that one comes away with the idea that the Greeks woman were near if not equal to the men in standing and freedoms. Knowing now that they were not makes the stories of these Goddesses even more spectacular and seemingly preternatural. Tumbling this stone over in the stream of my mind, I couldn't help but think of the term "Dianic Wicca" or about "Dianic Covens" What is it saying when these Hyper-feminine (and I don't mean that in a negative way) groups take their name from a goddess that stems from a culture that was so repressive to woman? Is it out of ignorance or some sort of reclaiming?
Here I learned a good deal of things I didn't know before about the religion of the Romans. I also came to understand how Christianity gained ground. Despite all the bad press Rome gets in its Imperial history (and rightly so) one good thing about them is they were very open to other pagan beliefs and deity. I found it amazing how in Roman war fare they priests would "Evoke" the protective deities of a city they were laying siege to with bribes of giving the deity a temple and better offerings at home, if it would only switch sides! In this way many new deities and their cults were brought into Rome and the Roman Empire. Interestingly it was this very religious pluralism that allowed Christianity to come to Rome. It seems for a long time no one took it seriously. They preached poverty and non-violence. Very alien concepts in Imperial Rome. It would seem most people blew them off as an eccentric cult that would pass away. We all pretty well know how that ended. Still what I learned that I didn't know is that the Christian take over did not happen in one swoop. It went back and forth between paganism and Christianity. Not just in Rome, but in all the cultures that Christianity eventually over took.
This section was a bit disappointing to me. As Irish Celt is my hearth culture of choice, I didn't learn any new information here. It did repeat much that I had learned before. I was hoping for some new information.
Germanic people and all the rest
Here also I learned a good deal that I did not know before. Of the many different Germanic tribes, how they grew and changed and influenced each other. The one thing that I definitly take away from this book and is made really clear is that the coming of Christianity came at sword point, especially for the peasantry. Convert or death was the mentality of the time. Many fought back, and as in Rome the Christian take over never went smoothly or unopposed. Many were killed and Tortured in the name of the Christian god. Jones and Pennick tell one story of the mass forced conversion of what is now Moscow. How they statue of the locals god was flogged and torn down, then the entire populace was marched at sword point to the river for a forced baptism into the Christian faith. This book did nothing to endear the Christian faith to me.
I wonder at all the neo-pagans who point to what is called "the burning times" as symbol of pagan repression, when in fact, according to current research, it really wasn't, when there is all this recorded true oppression of paganism by Christianity a few hundred years before, yet I never one almost never hears of it. Can you imagine the outcry if the Catholic Church tried the same tactics today that it used to convert people in the early C.E.? It would be considered an act of war!
What I didn't like..
There are a few things I didn't like about this book. First off, MORE MAPS! It comes with two simple maps, however, found them next to useless. I would very much like more detailed maps that showed rough tribal borders and arrows to indicate movement of tribes and the coming of Christianity. Maps for each cultural group would be good. The other aspect I found confusing was that time started over with each cultural group. This made it hard for me to understand the timing of events from group to group. Perhaps a time line in the book with major events across all cultural groups would fix this issue. Even with in cultural groups I found the authors jumping forward and backward a bit too much for me. Time may not actually be linear, but it sure makes it easier to understand history if it is presented as such.