I think I may have had a breakthrough (Ostara in review)

Mar 29, 2016

I’ve been feeling a little bit like I don’t have enough of an emotional reaction to these rituals. I know that emotional dulling is a side-effect of the antidepressants that keep me functional, but I was still hoping that ritual would be able to reach through that. Well, I had an emotional reaction to my Ostara ritual, and it was well, that was a total disaster.

It probably wasn’t quite that bad. I was trying something new for the fire - I’ve always wanted a proper fire bowl for my rituals, but I’m stuck doing them inside in a no-smoking apartment, so my options were limited. I saw someone mention epsom salt and rubbing alcohol as a good indoor fire option, so I tried that (without any prior rehearsing). By halfway through the fire was almost out, and I had to light some candles just to make sure I wouldn’t lose it completely before I was done. (And it left a lingering alcohol-smell I wasn’t fond of, either.)

The offerings went all over the place, too. I wanted to do an Anglo-Saxon rite, and I found a script from Sassafrass Grove on the ADF site that I was able to modify to a solitary ritual, but there were *lots* of sacrifices in there, and silly me, I decided to go ahead with all of them, even though I was doing it all on my own and on a small table to boot. The shrine was a mess by the time I was done. I had moved the shrine to a new location - partly because I’d been planning this for a while and partly because I didn’t want that much open flame right next to the curtains - and I didn’t have a representation of the World Tree. I’d read somewhere that the druid’s body may serve as the Tree, so I thought, sure, I can do that, but my focus was shot all to hell and it was not a success. And the omens…well, one of them was the Nine of Swords, which I think says it all.

And another was the Page of Swords Reversed, which I think of as “all talk and no action.” Which was appropriate for this rite, because that’s exactly what I was doing. I went through the motions of the ritual, but I wasn’t feeling it, and I wasn’t putting any of my own energy into it. More than once I caught myself reading from the script with no memory of having spoken the words. Partly this was an issue of timing - I had plans on Sunday, the equinox proper, so I did the rite on Wednesday evening, the following full moon. But this meant doing a rite after work and before dinner, and I was already tired, cranky, and unwilling before I started. I was even more miserable when I was done.

I sat down to write up my notes afterward, still in a sour mood, and realized that I wasn’t the only one I’d disappointed with this rite. If ritual and sacrifice are about building a relationship with the gods and spirits, I’d just done the equivalent of showing up to a date and spending the whole evening looking at my phone. It wasn’t enough to admit I’d done it wrong, I had to fix things.

So I did it again. Thursday morning before work (I work the evening shift on Thursday) I downloaded the text and narration of the Simple Rite from the ADF website - they offer a basic rite that is designed to be done by a novice with a more experienced practitioner narrating guidance as you go along, and provide an audio file for the novice who doesn’t have a more experienced practitioner to help. I didn’t try to get fancy, sticking with the text of the rite as written and the basic offerings, ale, oil, and incense, that the script recommends. It still wasn't perfect - the narration gave out about two-thirds of the way through, and I had to refill the fire bowl twice, and the second time I lit the bottle of rubbing alcohol on fire. So much for the fire bowl. I prefer the scent of candles, anyway - burning wax smells like ritual to me.

And then on Friday I did it again. And on Saturday. And Sunday. In my frustration on Wednesday night, I said that I’d do it every day for a month if I had to, and if I’ve learned anything from the lore it’s that oaths sworn in a fit of pique are still binding. I’m hoping that after a week or so I can dispense with the narration (which does indeed only go as far as the first two-thirds of the ritual, but that works enough to get me into the right mindset that I can usually wrap it up pretty well on my own), and that after a month I’ll know the Core Order of Ritual well enough to be able to elaborate again for Beltane. Already I feel my relationships with the Kindreds are stronger; more practice, more sacrifice, can only help. And I’m finding a daily rite helps the day feel complete. Who knows, I might keep doing this daily after the month is over, too.

I feel like I've had a bit of a breakthrough, like I've been going through the motions and only now have seen what the point of it all is. A recurring lesson of this year has been understanding that there's nothing that really "doesn't count." I've always been a person very driven by external success - good grades, good performance reviews, good reputation. I've never gamed the system, really, but I'm very good at finding the loopholes in it, at finding ways to bend the rules that don't really hurt me. But when the rules are only between me and the gods, there's no amount of bending them that doesn't count, no loopholes that don't hurt. It's been difficult, but it can only help in the long run.

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