A small delay

Nov 23, 2015
I'm holding back a week on the DP schedule. Two reasons - one, it'll give me a chance to get caught up on my reading. (I meant to do my reading last week, really I did!) And two, the schedule suffers from the unfortunate but unavoidable fact that the High Days aren't evenly spaced throughout the year. This way, I'll get an extra week of reading in and my homework will line up nicely for Yule.

Expect to see my reaction to my first Indo-European studies text here next week! (And oh, do I have Opinions.)

An Hour In Nature (Cold Winter Coming)

Nov 15, 2015
So I'm working through the ADF Dedicant's Path with the assistance of a handy guidebook called The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year (delightfully included in ADF membership), which lays out all the work you have to do for the DP week by week, with homework. Since I am notorious for starting big and finishing not at all, I figured this was probably the best way to handle things. I rushed the first couple of weeks to do my first ritual at Samhain, and now I'm settling in for the long haul. The guide strongly suggests keeping a journal for all the steps along the way, and indeed some parts of the journal are required as part of the formal documentation of the work; you may consider this my dedicant's journal.

The homework for week four was to spend an hour in nature. After all, we are druids, we are neo-pagans, and nature is important to us. The guidebook acknowledges that many people do start at Samhain and therefore in many parts of the world it's getting cold outside. The only concession it makes is to warn you not to pick a spot that's likely to be difficult to get to in the snow. So out I went, into the late autumn weather, to see what I could commune with.

At first I'd planned to go out to one of the many forest preserves in Chicagoland, but after doing some of the reading I decided instead to stick to my own backyard, for several reasons. One is that if I'm going to make this a regular practice, I'm much more likely to avoid going out all the way to a forest preserve than I am to avoid stepping out my door and hanging out with a tree for a while. But another is more philosophical.

We tend, in the developed world, to think of nature as "out there," somewhere separate from our homes and daily lives. But it isn't. Nature is, in fact, everything everywhere all around us. Humans are nature, and human-made things are nature. The seasons turn in cities and in the countries alike - weather changes, the sun rises and sets earlier or later depending on the time of year, the moon spins through her cycle no matter where you stand on the planet. Now granted, there's a difference in the kind of nature from my houseplant to the linden trees in the yard to the prairie preserves five miles away to the Grand Canyon halfway across the country, but it's all nature. I didn't want to emphasize the difference but the closeness - so I went out in the yard.

I went first to the tree in the corner of the property, out of sight of most of the other apartments in my building, where I leave my offerings after ritual. I'd been there not five minutes when a fat grey squirrel ran under the fence and stopped shock still within a foot of me. Then she climbed to the top of the fence and started making angry squirrel noises, presumably warning all the other squirrels (there are a lot of them) that some human had come invading their territory. So I moved. I don't want to be rude, after all.

There's another small cluster of trees up by the side door to the building - four almost in a square, and another one nearby, with a stump right next to it. I settled into the square, partially sheltered from the wind, and wondered what kind of trees they were. Well, thanks to the glory of the modern age, I can find out, right? About half an hour with Google and the Arbor Day tree identifier informed me that they are probably linden trees, which are nice shady ornamentals, useful soft wood that is good for carving, and produce medicinal flowers which make a lovely tea. I'd like a more confident identification before I go consuming anything, but I must say that I'm intrigued by the thought of linden-flower tea. I'll have to keep that in mind come spring.

Near the end of my hour, I did a grounding and centering meditation. moving my awareness throughout my body before pushing it down into the ground and through the grass, into the earth to meet the Mother. I'm fairly certain the chills I got from that are different from the ones I was getting from the wind. It wasn't the kind of day I'd have picked for this work on my own - but I'm glad I did it, nonetheless, and I'll do it again.

(And since I'm a druid, some elementary astrological observations seem pertinent: the moon is a narrow waxing crescent, and sunset was at about 4:30 in the afternoon.)

Samhain 2015

Nov 9, 2015
Samhain 2015 altar

I performed my first ADF-style Samhain ritual on the morning of November 1st. I usually prefer to do it on Halloween night, but I'd been at work all day (in a corset, no less) and I wanted to be fresh for the first ritual I'd done in six months.

I set up my altar on a table facing the window that usually isn't used for anything, using my houseplant (a legacy from my grandmother's funeral) as the Tree, a single red taper for the Flame, and my small copper cauldron as the Well. I also set aside another bowl for offerings. I sat, which I usually don't do, in one of my dining chairs; it worked much better than I expected. For the text of the ritual, I used the ritual in the Crane Breviary & Guide Book sample provided on the ADF website. It wasn't ideal for my purposes - I have some intellectual doubts about Cernunnos which interfere with my spiritual connections, and some of the terminology isn't natural for me - but one of the reasons I joined ADF in the first place was to have resources like this to work from instead of making up my own religion from scratch every time I tried to do anything. So in the interests of getting a ritual accomplished without tearing my own hair out (or becoming so frustrated with the customization process that I didn't get it done at all), I went ahead with what was there, with two small adjustments: I called Manannan as Gatekeeper, and I added my First Oath in the Working segment.

Next time, I want more poetry.

I may have done my First Oath before, in the spring when I first joined ADF and was ambitious enough to start the Dedicant's Path right away, before my depression took over and I had to start again. I honestly can't remember. I figured that if I couldn't remember, it wouldn't hurt anything to start over. Based on the advice in The Dedicant's Path Through the Wheel of the Year and [that one article on the website], I set it to rhythm and chanted it, which rang better in my ears and in my soul than just speaking the words. I'd like to incorporate a chant of my First Oath into a regular practice - but I'll need a regular practice for that to work.

So I offered sacrifices of oil and silver coins to Cernunnos, despite my reservations, and thought them well accepted; I offered sacrifices of whiskey and apples to the Ancestors, which went over very well. I wrote a letter to my grandmother, who passed in 2006, and who I was very close with when she was alive. I miss her advice and her practicality, and it was good to be able to tell her so, and to be heard. I drew the omens from my Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck. I'd love to use ogam for my omens, and I think eventually I will, but for the time being I know the Tarot well enough to read it without references. I'll learn the ogam in time. From the Ancestors, I drew the Six of Wands, victory and recognition. From the Fair Folk, the Knight of Pentacles, financial stability. And from the Gods, The Sun, joy. And above and beyond the omens themselves, I liked the nice way they fit into the patterns of the Tarot, from concrete to abstract, in a way I think fits the three categories of spirits well.
at the end of ritual

I'm still struggling with how I feel in ritual. I keep wanting it to be more than it is, to sweep me away and feel incredible and profound. It felt real, this time, but not profound. (It may just be that I'm not familiar enough yet with the ADF Order of Ritual to combine script and visualization effectively.) I could see the Gates opening in my mind's eye, and closing again at the end of the ritual, but I could not tell you how things were different when they were open. I felt the presence of the Ancestors, but not so much of the spirits or the gods (although I admit there was something from Manannan that I don't yet understand). But. The physical sensations were extremely powerful. The smell of oil and whiskey and apples and grain was profound and satisfying. My hands remembered how to make offerings, where to rest during ritual, how to hold the dip pen I always used to use in my ritual writings. I felt settled and peaceful when I was done, moreso than I have done in a long time, and I know the ritual that I did was the right thing to do.