Sunday, June 29, 2008

ComFest Solstice Rite

This morning was the second Midsummer ritual for the Cranes, and it went rather well! We met at their booth at our local Community Festival (ComFest). It began to pour as we were doing our pre-ritual briefing. We sent our lone-Druid SB over to the proposed location of the rite (since he had an umbrella) to see if we should opt to hold the ritual in the tent.

Amazingly, as we were deciding the best course of action would be to uphold our ghosti relationship with the ComFest official schedulers and brave the rain, it stopped. The Sun was shining during the rite! We all carried the altar materials over to the site. Mg did the Outdwellers (They got the prettiest donut and a large cup of coffee). We had a few new faces, apparently, but being new myself, it is hard to tell sometimes.

The centering went much better for me than last week. I was able to focus and center myself pretty easily--but I do my best meditations in the morning. I found myself moving into trance and had to force myself to look around. It was very refreshing!

The intoning was new and very different for me. I tend to view all music from a musicians standpoint, and I found the randomness of the notes to be rather distracting. I am currently working on an "Awen," for lack of a better word. It is more of a grove attunement that includes a centering and a vocalization designed to induce a meditative state and to cycle energy. It works for me, but I have never played it for anyone else...seems I need a guinea pig. Hmmm.... It would actually go well with Lughnassadh, because of the imagery in the words.

The opening of the gates and the welcoming of the Kindred were very powerful. There was a lot of heart put into it. I know this ritual in particular is a lot more about show, but the piety was there. The show was there, but the strength behind it was worship and devotion to the gods. MJD told the story of Sulis and Taranus for our working portion of the rite. It was very entertaining. Storytelling is a skill I have gotten pretty good at (three children) so I was happy to see someone else who speaks in the voices of his characters! Well done. We did not take omens so much as we had S use a divination tool I have not seen before--kinda like a di, with multiple sides. Our gifts from the Kindred were Community, Healing and Growth.

We ended the rite shortly thereafter as the first act on the stage behind us was beginning. The omens spoke greatly to me. I have been seeking community and healing, and I am finding both. I had a difficult (for me) conversation with S as we walked back to the tent about losing some important people in my life.

I still find it difficult to talk about (especially since some of the health problems of my ancestors are beginning to manifest themselves in me), but time brings healing and acceptance. I fear I was a bit neurotic during our conversation, but I think he understands. :) I look forward to growth. I find that new growth has a way of repairing the hurt parts of me and making them into something else more fruitful and useful. I met several other members of the grove, and everyone is so nice. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone better and becoming a bigger part of the 3CG family. My heart is full.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Solstice Ritual

I arrived just before the pre-ritual briefing. There were nine people there, and adding me rounded us out to a nice, even ten. It was a beautiful day. The sky was promising eventual rain, but our spirits were high and no amount of rain was going to keep us from the task at hand. Besides, the gods don’t care if it’s raining!

During the briefing, it became clear that this was going to be a group-effort, with everyone taking responsibility for various parts of the rite. Like the Grove member’s said, today’s ritual was apparently for the family. This is significant to me. I have not belonged to a religious group, or affiliated with, or worshiped along side of, or done much more than practice my solitary faith in several years. The idea that I was accepted on this day as family, and they meant it, was deeply moving to me.

We did the Outdweller’s Offering just off the path and processed in about twenty-five feet. Not far, but far enough to get the mood established. The attunements and songs chosen for the day helped to remind us that summer is a joyful time, a time of smiling, laughter and happiness. We could hear the children playing on the playground and the soft murmur of the other picnickers. I had a difficult time focusing during the meditations, but I did enjoy communing with the sounds of the season, and my mind was eventually set properly for the task at hand.

The opening of the gates was not as disorienting as at Beltane, since I was prepared for it, but it did fill me with reverence for meeting with the Kindred. It was comforting, like being at prayer at home. I made my first fire offering to the Kindred. After a long history of fear of fire, and two house fires in my immediate friend’s and family member’s homes—one two weeks ago in which everything was lost, I think it went well. I was not aware that pouring wine onto a fire is the equivalent of pouring water, which makes me feel silly for choosing it was my offering (or for not offering it in the right place), but since there was little chance of it going up (like Michael’s offering) it was a good choice for me. (Maybe at Lughnassadh I will try whiskey—or just pour my wine by the tree.)

Our Deity of the occasion was Belenos, the God of Heavenly Light. I think that in the future I will make a point of knowing who our Deity is before I arrive at ritual, so that I may be prepared to offer to Him (or Her) as well. Though I did not bring an offering for Him, the prayers and words lifted to Him during the Main offering were inspiring.

When we moved to the omens, I was not surprised that our offerings were not accepted. (Knight of Spears: No.) I have been having some troubles in this area, and I was almost expecting this. I misplaced the mini pinecone I found on a hike that I was planning on offering to my patron, which is not that big of a deal…unless you (I) do not make any other offerings in its stead. Several of us made additional offerings; I poured an additional quantity of wine around the fire for Persephone. Our offerings were then accepted. (Three of Spears: Yes.)
The messages the gods have for us in return indicate a time of celebration, growth and merriment. (Four of Spears: High spirits, recognition and celebration are all at hand. Now is the time to move on to a new phase of growth. Much will be gained from the upcoming experiences that will bring about a stronger sense of community and closeness to others. Forge ahead with confidence and goodwill.)

And finally, the Kindred have asked from us in return, or in this instance I prefer to think of it as our homework, is to let go of a painful past/past sorrows. (Five of Swords, Reversed: a time where the focus is too broad and details are being missed. It's important to step back and examine everything that is happening, and to recognize the little things [including the things that are holding us back.] Pay attention to detail.)

I did note that the interpretations from my deck are a little different than the ones we received during the omen. They are different decks, and omens are read as is appropriate for the Grove at the time, even if not in the strictest sense of the card’s meaning. I feel the interpretations of the omens were entirely correct, and I trust that I heard what was meant for my ears and spirit to hear. I have some terribly painful sorrows from the past, especially in matters of religion. It has been a difficult journey, but I feel that these omens are telling us that it is time to let the past be the past and move ahead into the future. I have also gathered that others present received similar internal messages.

We ended the rite beautifully, and shared a meal by the fire. It was a very nice evening, and I have made many new friends. I am beginning to really feel that I belong in this Grove.

On a personal note, I finally inquired about becoming a friend of the Grove. I am nervous about moving away from solitary practice, but I am grateful for what I have learned and for the ability to practice on my own. Here’s why:

Once I was home, I found the pine cone. It was on the counter with the dirty dishes, of all places. It did not belong to me, so I felt that I could not keep it. I held an additional full ritual the following day instead of just doing my daily devotional. I have added a Trigaranus representation to my shrine, and I am working with him as my gatekeeper. Opening the gates went very well. I seem to have found a gatekeeper that is willing to work with me. I welcomed the Kindred from my heart and not with a written work this time. I spent a little time just talking to them. For my offering, I lit the pinecone in the sand where I usually burn my cones, and it burned just like incense with no flame and a nice pine-scented smoke. It took a while to burn, and per my last conversation with Persephone, I waited patiently and even began to sing while it burned. The words they gave me in song are as follows:
Smoke and Fire and Well and Tree
I give my love to the Kindred, Three.
Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Mighty Sidhe,
Shining Ones—Accept my offering!
I have not gotten to the place where I lose track of time yet, but I think this was a step in the right direction.

I took omens, and this is what I have learned:
1. Was my offering accepted? Six of Swords (Science, Focus) and Four of Disks (Power). (These cards stuck together, so I have kept them both)—Yes.
2. Gifts the Kindred Offer in Return? Nine of Swords (Cruelty)-Needs Dignified-Adjustment (VIII-Justice) Anxiety is clouding the truth and stifling creativity, but balance, honesty and harmony are there. Use wisdom in decision making and be sure to weigh options carefully. In short, I interpret this as a sign that I need to boost my confidence. I must not be failing as badly as I think I am!
3. Further Needs the Kindred have of me? Knight of Disks—Two of Disks: Outward emulation. Move forward with effectiveness and grace with head held high. Do not be ashamed of what you do. Remember for whom you do it. But, be flexible. Pagan ritual is in no way meant to be inflexible and absent of spontaneity. Join in this spirit and have fun! (The King of Pentacles is a card that typically just represents me. I read here that this card means they need me to be me. I threw the second card because this card has been the “me” card so many times that I needed more information.)

I regret that I closed the gate before I dismissed the Kindred, which I am assuming is like slamming a door in their faces. I feel immensely guilty about that. I almost opened them back up to apologize, but I decided to make another attempt this week with an apologetic offering in addition to the main offering. I hope they are understanding of us new ones for things like this!

Summer Solstice Part II

On a personal note, I finally inquired about becoming a friend of the Grove. I am nervous about moving away from solitary practice, but I am grateful for what I have learned and for the ability to practice on my own. Here’s why:

Once I was home, I found the pine cone. It was on the counter with the dirty dishes, of all places. It did not belong to me, so I felt that I could not keep it. I held an additional full ritual the following day instead of just doing my daily devotional. I have added a Trigaranus representation to my shrine, and I am working with him as my gatekeeper. Opening the gates went very well. I seem to have found a gatekeeper that is willing to work with me. I welcomed the Kindred from my heart and not with a written work this time. I spent a little time just talking to them. For my offering, I lit the pinecone in the sand where I usually burn my cones, and it burned just like incense with no flame and a nice pine-scented smoke. It took a while to burn, and per my last conversation with Persephone, I waited patiently and even began to sing while it burned. The words they gave me in song are as follows:
Smoke and Fire and Well and Tree
I give my love to the Kindred, Three.
Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Mighty Sidhe,
Shining Ones—Accept my offering!
I have not gotten to the place where I lose track of time yet, but I think this was a step in the right direction.

I took omens, and this is what I have learned:
1. Was my offering accepted? Six of Swords (Science, Focus) and Four of Disks (Power). (These cards stuck together, so I have kept them both)—Yes.
2. Gifts the Kindred Offer in Return? Nine of Swords (Cruelty)-Needs Dignified-Adjustment (VIII-Justice) Anxiety is clouding the truth and stifling creativity, but balance, honesty and harmony are there. Use wisdom in decision making and be sure to weigh options carefully. In short, I interpret this as a sign that I need to boost my confidence. I must not be failing as badly as I think I am!
3. Further Needs the Kindred have of me? Knight of Disks—Two of Disks: Outward emulation. Move forward with effectiveness and grace with head held high. Do not be ashamed of what you do. Remember for whom you do it. But, be flexible. Pagan ritual is in no way meant to be inflexible and absent of spontaneity. Join in this spirit and have fun! (The King of Pentacles is a card that typically just represents me. I read here that this card means they need me to be me. I threw the second card because this card has been the “me” card so many times that I needed more information.)

I regret that I closed the gate before I dismissed the Kindred, which I am assuming is like slamming a door in their faces. I feel immensely guilty about that. I almost opened them back up to apologize, but I decided to make another attempt this week with an apologetic offering in addition to the main offering. I hope they are understanding of us new ones for things like this!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Solstice Recap

I arrived just before the pre-ritual briefing. There were nine people there, and adding me rounded us out to a nice, even ten. It was a beautiful day. The sky was promising eventual rain, but our spirits were high and no amount of rain was going to keep us from the task at hand. Besides, the gods don’t care if it’s raining!

During the briefing, it became clear that this was going to be a group-effort, with everyone taking responsibility for various parts of the rite. Like the Grove member’s said, today’s ritual was apparently for the family. This is significant to me. I have not belonged to a religious group, or affiliated with, or worshiped along side of, or done much more than practice my solitary faith in several years. The idea that I was accepted on this day as family, and they meant it, was deeply moving to me.

We did the Outdweller’s Offering just off the path and processed in about twenty-five feet. Not far, but far enough to get the mood established. The attunements and songs chosen for the day helped to remind us that summer is a joyful time, a time of smiling, laughter and happiness. We could hear the children playing on the playground and the soft murmur of the other picnickers. I had a difficult time focusing during the meditations, but I did enjoy communing with the sounds of the season, and my mind was eventually set properly for the task at hand.

The opening of the gates was not as disorienting as at Beltane, since I was prepared for it, but it did fill me with reverence for meeting with the Kindred. It was comforting, like being at prayer at home. I made my first fire offering to the Kindred. After a long history of fear of fire, and two house fires in my immediate friend’s and family member’s homes—one two weeks ago in which everything was lost, I think it went well. I was not aware that pouring wine onto a fire is the equivalent of pouring water, which makes me feel silly for choosing it was my offering (or for not offering it in the right place), but since there was little chance of it going up (like Michael’s offering) it was a good choice for me. (Maybe at Lughnassadh I will try whiskey—or just pour my wine by the tree.)

Our Deity of the occasion was Belenos, the God of Heavenly Light. I think that in the future I will make a point of knowing who our Deity is before I arrive at ritual, so that I may be prepared to offer to Him (or Her) as well. Though I did not bring an offering for Him, the prayers and words lifted to Him during the Main offering were inspiring.

When we moved to the omens, I was not surprised that our offerings were not accepted. (Knight of Spears: No.) I have been having some troubles in this area, and I was almost expecting this. I misplaced the mini pinecone I found on a hike that I was planning on offering to my patron, which is not that big of a deal…unless you (I) do not make any other offerings in its stead. Several of us made additional offerings; I poured an additional quantity of wine around the fire for Persephone. Our offerings were then accepted. (Three of Spears: Yes.)
The messages the gods have for us in return indicate a time of celebration, growth and merriment. (Four of Spears: High spirits, recognition and celebration are all at hand. Now is the time to move on to a new phase of growth. Much will be gained from the upcoming experiences that will bring about a stronger sense of community and closeness to others. Forge ahead with confidence and goodwill.)

And finally, the Kindred have asked from us in return, or in this instance I prefer to think of it as our homework, is to let go of a painful past/past sorrows. (Five of Swords, Reversed: a time where the focus is too broad and details are being missed. It's important to step back and examine everything that is happening, and to recognize the little things [including the things that are holding us back.] Pay attention to detail.)

I did note that the interpretations from my deck are a little different than the ones we received during the omen. They are different decks, and omens are read as is appropriate for the Grove at the time, even if not in the strictest sense of the card’s meaning. I feel the interpretations of the omens were entirely correct, and I trust that I heard what was meant for my ears and spirit to hear. I have some terribly painful sorrows from the past, especially in matters of religion. It has been a difficult journey, but I feel that these omens are telling us that it is time to let the past be the past and move ahead into the future. I have also gathered that others present received similar internal messages.

We ended the rite beautifully, and shared a meal by the fire. It was a very nice evening, and I have made many new friends. I am beginning to really feel that I belong in this Grove....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Neopagan Children

I have not been quiet about my decision to join ADF. It is changing me already. But this decision, and my subsequent divulging, has lead to some very telling questions from my friends and family. The utmost important question that I have been asked so far is, “so, what are you teaching your children?”

Being a parent, no matter your religion, is hard. There are many points to consider as your children get older involving more and more complex issues. Raising my children in a neo-pagan household has not been a difficult decision. Effective parenting, to me, has been best achieved through leading by example. There are three basic principles I am teaching my children, and everything else has seemed to fall into place. Most of this, they don’t even know they are learning, because this is how we live our lives, daily.

Firstly, I am teaching my children to respect themselves; their bodies and their minds. They eat healthy foods, in proper proportions. Snacks are included in this. I see no reason to feed my children sugar for snack time. Apple slices with peanut butter are a preferred snack at my house. They go to bed at the same time every night. Part of respecting your body is getting enough rest. They also get exercise every day—even when it is raining. There are many indoor games you can play with your children to allow them to stretch and get moving. They don’t watch hours of television or play hours of video games. They read—oftentimes just for fun! We have arts and crafts time, and we cook. We spend time as a family learning to share the responsibilities of caring for a household. They are also learning the importance of working through problems, and trying new things, even if they appear hard at first. You never know what you are capable of unless you try! Much of this falls into the categories of moderation—not an easy virtue to teach children, fertility and perseverance.

Next, I am teaching my children to respect others. They are not to participate in name-calling. There is never any excuse for physical violence. They are to remember their “pleases” and “thank yous.” They take turns, and they don’t cheat. They treat others the way they hope other people will treat them: this means trying to use their nice voices, even when they are angry. They are also learning to share and to make sure they have enough for everyone, every time we have guests at snack time. In this way, I am teaching them hospitality. I am also teaching them patience—waiting without getting mad, as an essential virtue that I quite often find lacking in the world at large.

And finally, I am teaching them to respect the Kindred. They may not know them by this name, but they will learn in time. It is quite a complex system, and many adults still have a hard time with it. They recycle, because we care about the plants and animals. They don’t litter, either. They say hello to the Nature Spirits when we are out. We have begun working with the deities, and this mainly means thanking them (by name if we can remember it!) for the blessings we receive each day. I am teaching them to be grateful for what we have. We are just beginning ancestors, since ghosts can be a scary thing to a small child. We did leave a cup of coffee for my Father next to his ashes on Father's Day. They are getting there. We take time to remember the experiences they have had, and we reflect on what the best thing to do would have been, or how they did the right thing and it all worked out. We look for things they forgot to think about the first time through and talk about how remembering those things might have helped them at the time. In this way, I am teaching them the practical side of vision. Hopefully, wisdom will come as they age.

I do not require my children to participate in any of the rites that I do. Some of them I do not bring to their attention so that I can get some “adult work” done. There are things that are fun, and there are things that are serious. Some of the things we do, they understand, and some, they will understand in time. Piety calls me to help them do. They will learn the whys and the whos and everything in between when they are ready. It takes a lot of courage to live life with good ethics. Sometimes, the easiest thing is not the right thing to do.

I am not expecting them to be perfect little "Druid Angels." I know that they are kids, and I hope they are having fun. In my house, and unfortunately nowhere else, I am allowed to mandate ethics. I am allowed to teach my children to live their lives in a way that is healthy and pleasing to themselves, to the people around them, and to the Kindred. They really are good kids, and I am proud of them. As a parent, I hope to expose them to the rewards and benefits of following this path that is so very dear to me. But in the end, I will allow my children to follow whatever path they decide is best for them—which is why I am teaching them, above all else, tolerance.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

First Oath Repeat...

Friday I repeated by First Oath. I decided it was important enough to me and to my God/desses to do it again.

I used an Oath rite I found in a book I am reading (The Fire on our Hearth: Devotional of Three Cranes Grove), and it went much better this time.

I prepped the altar and made myself relax. I did everyting much more sloooowly this time. I used Garanus to open the gates: fire, well, and tree, respectively, and one at a time. I thanked the Earth Mother, and all three Kindred, in turn. I called upon Athena and Persephone, and then the spider on my ceiling prompted me to call on Arachne as well. I was quite for a while before I began speaking. It just felt good to be there. I think that means I did it right, this time.

I made my Oath based on what was in my heart, with no script and no worries about form or poetry. I just laid it all out there and asked them to read my heart and know that I speak truth.

I thanked everyone and dismissed them. I closed the gates--and even remembered to thank the gatekeeper! All in all, I am glad I am here. This has been a valuable lesson, and I am actually looking forward to full ritual in the future. There are times in my life when I am not sure of things, and I hope that there always are. If things stop getting hard, I know I have stopped growing. I can't overcome trials and tribulations if they aren't there in the first place!

(I did not take omens. I didn't feel it was necessary. I somehow just knew it was going to be ok...)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

First Oath

Today was not a good day for ritual, apparently.

I did a rite today to take my First Oath. I sang "Awen" in the shower. I set up my shrine with well (bowl of water), fire (three candles) and tree (my wand) represented.

I attempted to open the gates using Hermes as a gatekeeper, since Persephone is my Patron. I didn't feel anything, but I don't know if you have to feel it to have to gates open (?). I called to the kindred, lit the flames and greeted the Earth Mother. I offered silver to the well and lit some incense. I read the Oath, and took omens.

Offering not accepted.

Hmm. I asked what I needed to do next. I was told that I am in too much of a hurry.

So, I meditated for a while, trying desperately to clear my mind. Eventually, I was told to read the Oath I wrote myself. So I did.

Offering Accepted? Yes. Barely.
Further needs of me? I am trying to learn too much too fast. I am not retaining, and I am missing things because of my swiftness. I must learn to slow down and realize that I have started the journey of a lifetime. It will take a lifetime (or more) to complete. I cannot finish my work in a few months. Also, just because I have less experience does not mean that the things I have to say mean less. The Oath I wrote was the one They wanted to hear because it was written by me. Oaths are personal. If I believe what I wrote, then it is good enough for them. The words don't matter. They just want me to mean them.

Additional information for me? Pay more attention to the god/esses in front of me and stop spending so much time with my books. I did remember to thank the Kindred properly and close the gates!I realize that I have thrown myself into the Dedicant Path with all that I have, but I have thrown myself at the work, and not at the God/esses. Without them, this is all futile. I am frustrated by the amount of things I do not understand. I want so badly to be ahead of where I am, but I cannot mislay the foundation or it will all crumble...again.I have learned today that holding a ritual by yourself in ADF format is harder than it looks.

I have learned that sometimes what is wanted of me is my time.Most importantly, I have learned that the God/esses have patience and will allow me to try again.Wish me luck, when I muster up the courage to do this again!