Friday, March 27, 2009

Poseidon and Being a Bard

As many of you know, I want to be a Bard when I grow up. In fact, it consumes me much of the time. I recently discovered that many of the Deities with whom I work are at least indirectly tied to my Bardic aspirations. Though not many of them, actually none of them, are known for instilling talent, all of the Deities with whom I work on a regular basis are strengthening the qualities in me that will make me a better Bard. (You know, when I grow up.)

For example:
Eos, the Goddess of the Dawn. Now she is inspiring. I find her to be one of the most awe-inducing and poetic Goddesses. What do she and I have in common? Empathy. We make other people feel what we feel, and in turn, we share in the pains and triumphs of others. Why is this important to Bardic arts? Good music is written when a writer is inspired. Inspiration is not far removed from empathy, and in fact can oftentimes be synonymous.

Athene is easy. She represents skill of any kind, and music or writing of any kind definitely takes some amount of skill! She is best invoked when practicing and honing those pieces that are nearing completion.

Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld. She triumphs over adversity. She makes the best out of the worst situations. She finds happiness where there is sadness. Bardic arts are like that. Ever been to a funeral where a guest told anecdotal pieces about the life of the recently departed that eased and soothed the folk gathered to mourn? Recognizing the sadness is important, but helping people heal and keeping them from wallowing is important. Bardic arts can have that power.

Persephone, Goddess of the Springtime. Rebirth. Growth. Death. Repeat. All things come in cycles, each part just as important as the last. However, after a period of death, as similarly related above, rebirth is highly anticipated and celebrated upon its arrival. Celebratory pieces, especially in times of war, were favored heavily in most of the IE cultures. Embracing happiness, and bringing it to the masses is a tool that can be used to enforce Unity among the folk. When people feel the same emotion, especially when that emotion is joy, there is bonding. Triumph draws people together, but celebrating that triumph keeps people together.

Hekate. (Ok, hear me out on this one. We are moving into the more abstract Deities. It has taken me a long time to work this all out, and it didn't come together until Poseidon, to whom I will get in a moment.) Hekate is a Goddess of Crossroads. She is also a guide to recently deceased individuals, among many other attributes. In Bardic terms, Hekate reminds me that there are jobs that need to be done, however unpleasant (like leading dead people to the Underworld), but someone has to do them. Learning to play chops, memorizing scales, vocal strengthening exercises. Much of the time, these things are not fun. Playing the same piece over and over again, and messing up continually can be frustrating, but you reach a crossroads, a point where you must decide to persevere or move on to something else. Hekate is there in that decision. She will show you the way, if you ask her. I know. I've done it.

And finally, the Deity of the hour, Poseidon, Dark-haired God of the Sea. This one threw me. Poseidon is always depicted as angry. He was greatly feared by anyone who had to cross the Mediterranean. Like I stated in a previous post, I am in no way an angry person. Heck, my kids laugh at me sometimes when I am mad (which just kills me). But, reading further into the lore, I found some interesting traits emerging. He did crash boats sometimes, yes, but he also helped those whom he wanted to succeed. He entered into competitions and lost. A lot. But he kept trying. Poseidon had great control over those things in his immediate world: the dolphins, the nymphs, the very sea itself, but he struggled outside of his element (those of you who know me are nodding your heads in understanding by now).

Poseidon is here to teach me that I am not always going to win, mostly likely I will fail a lot of the time. But it's ok. It doesn't diminish me. You may try to claim ownership to the title of God of Attika, but even if Athene wins, you are still the God of the Sea, and that is something that can't be taken away from you. Even if any one of a number of other very talented ADF Bards is crowned Wellspring Bardic Chair, I am still the bard of Three Cranes Grove, and that is something that can't be taken away from me. The more abstract version? Poseidon is here to teach me confidence, perseverance and above all else, an understanding of my place in the world which will lead me to contentment and happiness. I don't think I could really ask for a better gift.

I think I am understanding more about the nature of the Gods and the ways they interact with us. I know I have much more to learn, even if this theory is true, but I also know that regardless of my failings, there are others bigger, stronger and better equipped who are willing to help me when I am struggling and stand by me when I am not. In closing I will leave you with a modified version of a statement I like to make, in honor of Poseidon and his place in my life:

"Don't piss off your Sea God (Bard). You can either cross the sea with glory, or sink in pieces."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Equinox: Athesphoria

Well, I did it. I DIC-ed my first ADF rite with the Cranes. This was also our first EVER Hellenic rite. When I was first approached about doing a Hellenic rite, I was assuming it would be more of a "them humoring me" kind of affair. What actually happened has blown me away. Back story: I was a solitary for a long time, surrounded by people who never took my faith seriously. I am used to being humored when it comes to things like dumping a portion of really good wine on the ground or the recycling Nazi-ism that is rampant in my home. I have very good people in my life, but they just don't understand. Not my Gods, not my high days, not my devotion. But they love me, so they humor me.

Spring Equinox planning began very shortly after Imbolc. I had already been working on the rite I was dong as a solitary, so when I was asked to do the High Day, I merely had to adapt for a group (harder than it sounds to go that way than to go from group to solitary!). From the beginning, everyone has been supportive of my efforts and done a lot to make this rite a success. When the girls decided to make ritual gowns, I was excited. I have never been one to wear any type of ritual clothing, though I have donned a few cloaks in my time when its cold, purely out of function. I was floored when things in my life once again went topsy-turvy and the girls made my dress for me. No, seriously. I showed up twice for fitting purposes, and never sewed a stitch. The dress? Absolutely beautiful. (There are some picture floating around, so I will see what I can snitch from someone who was at the rite. My camera was broken the night before the rite.)

So, after much personal drama and a mere hour of sleep, I showed up at the park, ready to go. The final count was 54 participants for this rite. 54! That's a lot of people to stand up in front of and profess your love to a Goddess! We had a few treasured guests from out of town who came all the way in and participated with offerings and songs, altar decorations and basic Hellenic flair. (Thanks for coming! It was awesome to have you among the rest of my beloved Kin for the day!)

The rite itself went fairly well. I will try not to over-analyze and go negative like I usually do when critiquing myself. I made a few mistakes, one fairly big one, but just kept going so no one would ever know. Hopefully, those who noticed didn't think that I meant for it to be that way, but realized that I was compensating for a bad ritual move! The praise composed by the other members was all very moving. I could tell how much thought and preparation went into the writing of their pieces.

What next? Well, the completion of this high day is the final piece to my Dedicant Program material. Once I insert my write-up of the rite, I am ready to submit. (Really? Can it be time already? Whew!) So many things about this rite have humbled my spirit and filled my heart with love. Watching everyone band together to make this a success was inspiring and encouraged me to do my best. Seeing all those happy faces when I got there and being able to perform the rite outside filled my spirit with joy. Most of all, calling on my patron and watching 54 people sing her praises and make her offerings was almost more than I could handle. I really felt that providing a place for the people to make offerings to Persephone was an offering in and of itself...and if I weren't Hellene, this probably would never ahve happened. I realize that, and it is humbling. I stood up there and watched everyone make offerings, listened to two people sing songs to her and did my very best not to cry. I am trying to feel pride for what I have done, but I had so much help and really had such a small part in the whole thing that I barely feel able to take credit for the success of this rite. All in all, it was amazing.

In conclusion, I have decided that it was time for our Grove to honor the Hellenic gods. We have done a great job of honoring all the members of the IE cultures so far, and this has been long due. I am hoping someone will write a Vedic or Baltic Rite that we can do as a Grove. What better way to learn and to grow than to be exposed to different ways of doing things? As long as we always pray with a good fire...

PS) We are never, ever doing Earth Mother, Blossom Lifter again, so don't ask.
PSS) I have to admit, I do like being spanked by a Norsewoman in a chiton... ;)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dedicant Oath Recap

As I’ve said before, there have been two instances in my life in which I have made a vow, only one of those was public, until now. When I got married in 2001, I vowed to honor, love, cherish and be devoted to my husband. At that time, I finally understood the phrase: “this is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Tonight, I gave my final Dedicant Oath. Before the Druid Moon tonight, I felt that this oath, or Oath, was a formality of the way I live my life.

I was so wrong.

I still cannot describe to you all that I am experiencing right now, but I can tell you this: all of my spiritual life, all that I have poured into it, and all that I ever hoped to get out of it has been leading me up to this. This, all of this, is what I was meant to do. And now that it is done, I have no idea what to do next. The world is my oyster, so to speak.

Backing up a bit, we honored the Earth Mother today as our DotO for this Druid Moon. Four of us, including me, were inducted into the Grove as full members. My sisters were all around me today. They all took off a piece of jewelry for me to wear, and Anna even threw her cloak on me. My heart was full before we even began!

We were asked some questions before we entered into the sacred space. Once we were all upstairs, Mike did a guided two powers themed meditation. I don’t remember much of the words he used because I tranced out for a minute. I really needed that.

We honored the Earth Mother, and inducted the new members, including me. Yay! I am now an official part of the family. It’s good to be home with my brothers and sisters.

Before I actually gave my oath, I made some offerings to a few of the Kindred who were there for me, leading me, guiding me, and shaping me along my Dedicant journey. My journey really began several years ago when Athene first called me (you know, back when I “caught the pagan.” Be careful Laughter is a side effect!).

I gave thanks to Hestia, for always being there, even in the most mundane of tasks, to remind me that all little jobs are necessary. There is great strength in being the head of a household, and that strength can be passed along to those around you as you care for them. (Offered herbal mix)

I lit candles and thanked all three Kindred in turn for their guidance and assistance.

I gave thank to Apollo and the Muses for inspiration in music and words. I have grown and changed a lot through the music I have been given, and I am grateful for this outlet in my life. Many hard times were weathered with song. (Offered wine)

I gave thanks to Athene, whose initial work prepared me for what was to come. She taught me, first and foremost to control my emotions better. She gave me the patience to wait and gather information before making decisions. (Offered real pearl ring I got when I was 16 in Myrtle Beach)

And then I thanked Persephone, who taught me the merits of perseverance and acceptance. When life gets hard, when you are faced with an unexpected hardship, you have two choices: either you can wallow in the pits of Hades, or you can become the Queen of the Underworld. Persephone taught me how to overcome and rise above, to make the best out of any given situation, no matter the difficulty. (Offered Pomegranate necklace from Jerusalem)

I placed my hand on the sickle, but before I began to speak, Mike pressed my hand into the blade. Not in a painful way, but with enough force to let me know that I was doing something important. I could feel the blade against my hand for several minutes after it was gone. My flesh still remembers that feeling as I write this.

I took my Oath with Styx as witness. Just invoking her is a very powerful experience. When she is called forth, she comes and stands beside you immediately, listening intently to your every breath and intention as you speak. I fear I cannot even tell you the words I spoke. It was just me and my Kindred, a blade against my palm, and my entire life flashing before my eyes. I remember what I meant: that I shall follow the Elder paths, honor the Kindred with offerings from heart, hands and creative spirit, and steep myself in the knowledge and lore of the gods and those who have gone before me. I also intended to say that I plan on treading lightly and honoring the Earth Mother, though I think the first half of this rite, which was dedicated to the Earth Mother, said it all for me.

Nature Spirits offer Sowilo, Victory/The Sun.
Ancestors offer Othala, Ancestral Property/Inheritance. Spiritual heritage.
Shining Ones offer Ehwaz, Horse/transportation. Also harmony/teamwork.
I have entered into a partnership with the Kindred, a binding life-long contract, and they are pleased. My future is bright, and I will not be moving forward from here alone. I have no need to ask whether or not my Oath was accepted. It was. And this is only the beginning.

I am glad I decided not to do this in a solitary rite. I understand better now the reasons they say witnessing an oath binds your Wyrdd together, because I absolutely felt more connected to those around me after it was over. Overall, I would say my Oath went rather well, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with whom to share this experience (with the exception of adding Tanrinia and Seamus, who were sorely missed. I’ll have to tie my Wyrdd to them another day). ;) Thank you, everyone who was present for this, for making this one of the best experiences of my life.

And I found my note cards while I was cleaning up…right where I left them..