Wednesday, December 11, 2013


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.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Return of the black stag: palaver with my shadow-self

                A number of things have appeared to me over the last few days that indicated to me that it was time to once again do a spirit-journey and face my shadow self.  I haven’t worked with my shadow self in a number of years, not since about 2009.  My internal struggles dealing with what has occurred in regards to my failing to pass 4th semester of nursing school has come to a head in the form of an intense discussion with my wife.  It has become apparent that I am not dealing with the emotional fall out of my failing as well as I would like.  The hurt, anger, and disappointment is slowly poisoning my attitude through this my relationships.  I have to admit the usual “joy” of life I feel has been notably absent the past few months.  While watching a TV show the other day where a main character took a inner journey in which he faced his own personal demons, it clicked that it was time for me to do the same.  So it was that today I made that happen. 
                I started my journey out in the usual manner.  I called out to any ancestors who would lend aid to join me and gave offering.  I called out to my guide and ally the stag, and to my patron and matron.  The journey turned out to be quite long as these things go, but then there was a lot to discuss and learn.  I entered the spirit world through the gate that I opened.  I found myself quickly falling down a tube of purplish clouds at a frightening speed.  I called out for help and stag appeared and caught me upon his back and slowed my decent at the last seconds then he gracefully leapt out the opening onto the hillside path I have come to know so well.  He took me down to the dale and the ring of stones.  It was night and very dark.  Happily the ever present fire blazed away in the center of the stone circle as usual.  The old teach however, was not there this time.  I ask where he was and stag told me he would be back in a little while, and that we should wait.  In short order I suddenly felt an ominous presence and out of the darkness into the far edge of the light of the fire. He looked as he had all those years ago;  A huge black stag with four eyes glowing red.  His antlers sharp and ragged edged.  He walked around the light and approached me.  Then he did something I have never seen him do before, he stood on hind legs and approached the last few yards in a bipedal walk.  I found it disconcerting.  His greeting was one of mockery, much as awkward bipedal walk.  And so the palaver began.  We talked of what I was feeling, about the hurt and anger.  I found myself having to show my shadow self that I had made the mistakes that lead to me failing, that it was not unjust.  This process has forced me to really accept with my heart what has happened.  That it is time to let go of the anger, hurt and disappointment.  That these feelings are keeping me from letting out the love and light I normally feel for the world.  In the course of the palaver I also was reminded that anger will not destroy anger.  Only love and acceptance will end my anger, hurt, and disappointment.  It is love and acceptance from myself to myself that is the key to releasing the anger and hurt.  Before I felt the talking was done however, the shadow-stag went down to all fours and walked away without a word or a look over his should as what was to be my last sentence with him fell from my mouth.  After watching him go, my guide, the brown stag indicated to follow him into the forest.  It was very dark, and I followed closely.  We came to a game trail and it lead to small stream.  I could barely see it, but heard it just fine.  The trail followed the stream downhill  and we came to a small pond.  It was very calm and gleamed with a sheen of silver from reflected moonlight of the full moon.  Suddenly my guide did something I had never seen him do before.  He also stood, but transformed into the torso and legs of a muscular man but retained the head of the stag.  He then walked slowly into the pond.  He beckoned me to follow.  I stripped off my clothes and waded in after him.  He told me to let myself float in the water.   I did as instructed and found that he placed his hands under me to help support me.  Here I simply found myself floating and letting go.  Letting go of…well of everything.  Stag told me to just relax, know that I am supported, to just go with the flow of the water without attachment or desire; to just be.  I did as instructed, but then wanted to know about how to reach goals.  If I just do nothing, I may never reach where I want to go.  I was told that even those who swim have to work with the currents or risk tiring themselves and drowning.  I continued to just float.  It felt so good to really let go completely and just trust that I would be all right.  The kind of trust that in the universe that I haven’t felt since before I met my ex-wife, the kind of trust a well taken care of child feels in the world.  After a period of time, I am not sure how long, it was time to go back.  At the edge of the pool, stag returned to his more natural form, and he guided me back toward the circle of stones.  However upon the way my shadow-self returned to block the path.  We spoke a bit more.  He was still rude and mocking, however instead of responding with anger and defensiveness back at him, I responded with acceptance and love.  This essentially shut him down and he quickly left back into the darkness of the woods.  However, I do know that we are far from done.  After this we walked by the stone circle toward the gateway.  Looking toward the fire, I saw the outline of the old teacher, who only waved as we walked by.  We reached the gate on the side of the hill and after a fond good bye, I stepped through and back to this side of the veil, and back into my body. 

                I will see what the next week brings to me, but have the intention to once again spirit-walk and again confront my shadow-self.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fire, Well, Sacred Tree, flow and flame and grow in me.

“The fire, the well and sacred tree; flow and flame and grow in me.”  So goes a commonly used phrase in ADF liturgy.  It is said in various ways at high day rites and by different groves, but the idea is all there.  The other day, a person publicly announced that they were leaving ADF because they found it did not focus enough on what was going on inside a person.  That it was too focused on devotionals. That they also think we spend all our time talking about “right relationship” and that they do not care about that or right action.  That ADF does not spend enough time dealing with “the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
  I have pondered over their words for several days now, and to the writer I can only say they did not integrate the concepts, they did not enfold the metaphor to their inner life.  That is, the fault is not so much with the ADF but with the person.  You see good readers it is all METAPHOR!  Every religion;   all of them.  Every single one of them is a metaphor for our spiritual experiences in life.  Hey!, Great if they think they are literal truth, but with that truth is a metaphor.  It is up to the individual to integrate that metaphor into their life, thus finding the wisdom and unlocking the secrets to a spiritual existence.  No one can do this for another.  At best we can say “look this is a metaphor for your life, now figure out what it means to YOU. Apply it to YOU as you can.”   So to the charge that ADF is not inwardly focused, let me point out just a few of the ways I see that it is.  As noted at the beginning of this post ADF ritual tell us to “Let the waters flow within us, let the fire burn within us, and to let the tree grow within us.” This is a metaphor that means that we each need to tend to all the associations of the well, fire and tree, inside us.  What are these associations you ask?  I am happy to tell you, but it’s all just metaphors.  You would be a thousand times better off going about your own inner work and coming to understand what the associations are TO YOU.  How do you do that?  YOU TURN INWARD. 
                ADF is concerned with “right relationship” and rightly so I think.  Before I go on we need to have an understanding of what is meant by “right relationship”.  It means to maintain a balanced relationship between you and the gods, the spirits of nature (thus nature itself) and the ancestors.  It also means to maintain a right relationship with yourself.  How do you maintain right relationship with yourself?  YOU TURN INWARD.  To know if you are in “right relationship” with oneself you are forced to turn inward and address what one finds, then taking actions both internally and externally to bring that relationship back to balance. 
                As part of the Dedicant’s path the novice is asked to start what is called “mental discipline”.   This is some sort of practice that forces the novice to sit down at least once a week and turn inward.  For most this is some sort of meditation, though not always.  Though the requirement is weekly, I recommend that it be done daily.  Though again not required, this practice is encouraged to go on long after the Dedicant’s path work is done.  All of this is a form of ADF having a person TURN INWARD.   
                Once past the Dedicant’s work, we have several trainings that encourage further practices of Trance work and poetry that if applied correctly will cause a person to TURN INWARD. 
So I have shown a number of ways that ADF directs the person to turn inward.  ADF gives metaphor with which to navigate the inner world, and in the courses it asks the student to find techniques that will turn them inward.  All of these are tools that help a person deal with the “..messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful act of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
The author finishes with “…I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way to good standing with the Gods.”  To this I would share what a wise druid once told me, “Whether you think you can or you can’t…your right.” 
               ADF is not at all a perfect organization, and probably not a perfect religion.  It certainly is not the religion for everyone.  People come, do, and decide to go.  That’s great.  Just do not blame the system for your missing the road signs, not internalizing the metaphors, or finishing the work of the DP.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sometimes the bear wins

                “Sometimes the bear wins” or so the saying goes.  I think for perhaps the first time in my life I have gotten the full taste of this statement.  Nursing school has been my bear for the past two years.  It has been by far the most rigorous course of study I have ever undergone.  The sheer amount of information we must learn is often overwhelming.  I have lost sleep, and felt the strain on my marriage do to its demands.  On top of all that is the pressure for me to finish so that I can get out in the work force and be gainfully employed for the first time since 2007, so that my beloved water witch can get out of the job that she does not like, but supports us for now.  Add to that the building debt incurred by the costs of school; nope, no pressure there.  Well, it didn’t happen.  I made one too many mistakes in my clinical rotation and the instructor felt I was not ready to move on. So it is that I will be forced to retake the 4th and final semester of nursing school over again.  The fallout from this decision has been a huge learning experience for me on a spiritual and emotional level.  My wife was angry.  Having to tell my father, a retired physician, was embarrassing.  Never in my life have I suffered such a defeat.  I who learned two foreign languages by the time I was 23.  Who has a 2nd degree black belt and taught others to that level.  I who have helped hundreds of people over come pain and discomfort both physical and emotional; I who built a tight night, healthy and loving pagan community where none existed before.  I of my own doing failed, and at a time when so many were counting on me.  
                I cried, I felt shame and embarrassment, I did not give up.  I did not crumble or throw in the towel. I did not blame anyone else.  I sat, in front of my altar, and I gave my daily offerings.  I walked my spirit-journey and spoke with the stag and the old teacher.  I asked “why?” a LOT.  I played out the events over and over, finding every fault and error.  What I did not do was start throwing magic and energy around wildly.  I did not summon spirits to do more than help me learn from this process and to help me get through it.  The instructor offered me the option to stop coming to class, or to continue on and finish out the semester knowing I would receive a “No Pass” regardless of my actually percentage grade.  I knew immediately what the courageous course of action was.  I continued on.  I studied and took every test.  I learned all I could, for it was made clear to me that this is the way of champions, the path of the hero. 
                All people suffer times when things do not happen as they would have wished…everyone.  However, not everyone fails.  The difference being between those who suffer a setback and then give up, and those who regroup, and continue on, changed in some way, but still trying to reach the goal.  One of the things that an instructor said to me when I was given the news of my defeat was that “things happen for a reason.”  When I was younger, high school years, I believed this strongly.  Somewhere along the way, I lost this point of view or rather I became cynical about it.  Thinking “sure it happens for a reason, people fuck up.”  Not me though.  In my spirit work it has come clear to me that part of why I suffered this setback was to be humbled a bit.  I admit, I was cocky coming into the nursing program.  I had a string of scholastic successes behind me.  I have also come to believe that I suffered, am still suffering this “setback” because I had to learn lessons about pulling it together and continuing on, about not giving up and making it a failure.  With these lessens I will be better able to guide others who might come to me for advise when I receive my ordination from ADF.  I have also been lead to believe that by being forced to repeat this last semester Lugh wants me to master as much as I can of the art and science of nursing before I hit the workforce.  Half-assed or “good enough” may be acceptable to others, but not to devotee of Lugh.  Excellence is the bar to which I excel in all that I chose to do.  This is both the reward and curse of being a “Lughvian”. 
                At the end of the semester, the head instructor sat down with me for my final review.  She was Impressed with how much she had seen me grow.  She was impressed with how well I handled the situation and took responsibility and did not blame others.  She told me then she was considering graduating me, but that if she did so, I would have an uphill battle to face on my first job.  I also knew that I had missed most of the interviews for new grads into the local hospitals.  In a matter of a few seconds all of that I have learned and come to accept swirled into the decision for me to not be passed. 
                Why not glamour your way?  Why not call upon the spirits to blind the instructors to your mistakes?  I have asked myself this same question as well.  The answer is comes down to this: sometimes you have to accomplish something by the strength of your raw ability unaided by magic.  If I had used magic and been graduated without really being competent what danger would I be placing any future patients in?  Whose death might I inadvertently cause?  No, in this situation magic simply would not do. 
                Now I await news if I will be accepted back into the fourth semester and you can bet your silver chalice that I have and am using magic to influence that decision.  I will continue to offer to Brigit and Lugh, the spirits and my ancestors for aid in learning, and guidance in action.  I have learned much from this experience, and have been humbled by it.  I however will not give up on my goals.  I am not done, and this battle is not over.  I am currently enrolled in a nursing skills lab class where I am polishing my skills and knowledge base and work toward excellence. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The next stepping stone

After 3 years of hard work, it is with both great honor and humility that I announce I have successfully completed the ADF Preliminary Clergy Training course, and have been officially accepted into the Clergy Training Program of ADF! 

Hail to the spirit stag, you who have been my guide into the wilds of the spirit world. 
Hail to my ancestors of blood and spirit, may I continue to honor you with my action
Hail to the gods I swear by, may I always be your ally in this world. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter Solstice 2012

               Winter Solstice this year was special for me in a way it has never been before.  This past year I have been fighting my way through nursing school.  Never before has school been so demanding of me, that it has required me to let go of my ability to provide open public rituals to the local pagan community.  In other words, Mabon for this year was canceled.  What’s worse is that it was canceled last minute.  I had done all the work of renting a space and writing the ritual, only to discover a few days before that I was overwhelmed with school work to even have the time to go and perform the rite.  Sadly neither of the other two grove mates where able to take over.  I hope that by this time next year that will be different.  So having time off of school between semesters and being able to put together and perform a winter solstice ritual for the local community meant a lot to me.  I discovered in the process how much I enjoy doing these.  I am not sure why I do, I just do.  I guess I enjoy the idea that ritual is “poetry in the world of actions”, and I very much like to see my “poetry” come to life.  I also get enjoyment out of hearing what people get out of it for themselves.  I love to hear the sounds of laughter and see the community come together. 

                Another thing that struck me at this rite is that we did a full on ADF core order of ritual, and we had about twenty five attendees, not counting the three of us that were druids.  I stopped and thought “wow, of all the people here, only three of us are actually druids in the protogrove! What does that say about the quality of the rituals we give?”  To me it means that we do a great job of it, and people like and appreciate what we do.  We have been doing this for a year and some now, and people don’t just keep coming back, they look forward to our next rite.  So even though they don’t seem to want to join our ranks in the protogrove, they like what we have to offer.  I am ok with that. 

                We also had a number of first timers at the Winter Solstice rite this year.  I think this is largely because of the new ownership of the local “metaphysical” shop.  The past owner, sweet and wonderful as she was, pandered more to the “New age” group and carried very little in the way of neopagan or occult wares.  Silly really when there is a pagan meetup group that meets weekly at the store.  The new owners however, quickly realized the situation and within the first two weeks of ownership loaded the store with quality items to catch any pagan’s eye, both those new to the path and those with miles under our belts.  The other thing these new owners have done is to actively promote the meetup, and our winter solstice ritual.  The old owner would always let us put up a flyer, but she never really promoted what we did.  I brought the flyer and ten copies to the new owners and in a one weeks time they had handed them all out.  A small task the old owner never once managed.  The new owners also were among those who came to the ritual.  This has really shown me just how much a difference actively engaged owners can make to a protogrove.  The net result as of today, I gained two new members to the Protogrove, and several others are considering. 

                I got a lot done magically and for the Protogrove and the community this last few weeks.  It’s been a good run so to speak.  Next Monday, I return to class and the trials of nursing school; all of which means that my posts to this blog will once again become few and far between.  I humbly ask my readers to be patient, know that I will post as I am able.  I will leave you all with some photos from our Winter Solstice Rite. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A deal's a deal

As per the agreement I made with the Cailleach that I wrote about in the last post Dealing with Winter : here is a picture of the small temporary shrine I made for her along with the pine incense I have been offering each day.  This is to continue till Imbolc.