Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Writing For Our Druidry, Part II

The following is the account of the work that lead me to write one of the most requested songs I've written:

I had been doing “musical devotionals” three times a week prior to writing “The Fire in My Heart.” It was late January, moving toward Brighid’s time as main Goddess of my Shrine. I had just finished writing the song “So Lean on Me” that I later performed as a part of the Wellspring Bardic Chair competition, and I had noticed that during the times when I did my offerings to the Ancient Wise and to Brighid before I practiced, not only was my overall performance better, but I was also commonly reaching for pen and paper to try to catch the inspiration flowing through me. It occurred to me that if these were the results of spontaneously “channeling Awen” then the results of actually invoking the Awen could be even greater.

The first several times I performed a devotional with the intent to write, things were a little rough. Performance mode and composing mode really were two separate mindsets, and although I could write in performance mode when I realized there were new pieces forming in my mind, starting from the other side of that coin was a bit more difficult. I decided to ease myself into it more, and I created a devotional structure as follows:

Offering to Brighid: invocation, incense and sing Holy Water, Sacred Flame.
Offering to the Ancient Wise: invocation, coffee and sing Hymn to the Ancient Wise
Sit down and write
Thank the Ancient Wise
Thank Brighid

The songs at the beginning of the devotional were there to get the “bardic juices” flowing, so to speak, since this was the way that I had been doing it thus far, and it worked much better. I worked in this format almost daily for two weeks before I wanted to change it. The amount of ritual work did not suffice for my devotional desires. During this time, however, I had come up with a new song for the Waters portion of the Core Order. My devotionals evolved to this:

Honor the Earth Mother
Honor all three Kindred, including Ancient Wise
Honor Brighid
Perform as an offering
Thank the Beings

This was much better! A little back story here will reveal that during the course of my Dedicant Path, I can begun doing Core Order devotionals as part of my regular practice, and the similarities here were comfortable. Over the course of the next several weeks, I wrote a new poem to Brighid and had begun to toy with some similar works for other deities, which all turned out to be more liturgy than bardic work. I eventually interchanged the writing with the guitar or piano to use this format for writing music, too, and the results were good. I wrote the music that would eventually become a Sacred Center/Three Kindred song.

The poem I humbly submit to you came to me one day at random right before Trillium Festival in April of 2010. By this time, I was starting to seriously worry about the poem portion of the Wellspring Bardic Chair. My story and my song had been done for months, but I hadn’t even started writing a poem yet (says the woman who had written four other poems just that month). I specifically asked for aid in writing a poem for ADF, but instead of asking Brighid, which I normally do, I asked in general of all Three Kindreds, much like asking for a blessing in the Return Flow. I wanted it to describe to other people what it felt like for me to be a Druid, the joy and peace the path brings me and how deeply a part of who I am this work has become. I recalled my Dedicant Oath, in which I oathed to use my music to serve the folk (funny what comes out of your mouth when you lose your cue cards and have to do things off the cuff), and I was caught by the line “footsteps of those gone before.” I started writing. The text that came out is almost exactly as it is now, with some minor changes for cadence and diversity in word choice.

The first verse holds references to all three Kindreds and expresses the joy that comes with the knowledge of walking this life with a world full of Spirits. The second verse internalizes the path and illustrates the reward that comes when one simply taps into what is already there. And the third verse is about the *ghosti relationship we have with the Kindreds.

But it didn’t stop there! This piece went quickly from pen and paper to voice and song, and from there, this piece has spread out across ADF as more and more folks are using it in their Groves and personal devotional practices. This piece, this song is truly a gift to ADF from the Kindreds, and I am honored to have had a part in bringing it to life.

I still perform devotionals with the intention to write on Wednesday with Brighid and/or Saturday with Ogmios. Lit Practicum 1 has me doing all sorts of things, but as a Bard, writing and performing in ritual space will always be a cornerstone of my practice. This work has taught me the value of performance and composition, how the two are related, how they are different and how important it is to be able to do both WITH the Kindreds, not just FOR them. How else does a Bard receive blessings in return if not through pen and voice?

The Fire in my Heart

As I walk in the footsteps of Those Gone Before,
I’m surrounded with love by my Gods.
My spirit flies high with the Noblest Guides,
And the fire burns bright in my heart.

For I am a Walker of Ancient Ways,
A dreamer of times gone before I was born.
I journey to lands where the trees come to dance
Round the fire that burns in my heart.

I stand ‘neath the tree rooted deep in the Earth.
I’m crowned with the stars in the sky.
I’m filled with the powers below and above,
And the fire burns bright in my heart.

The waters of life course their way through my veins.
Blessings abound in my soul, in my blood.
The mark of the Kindred is left by my touch,
And the fire burns bright in my heart.

The Ancestors offer me knowledge and truth.
The Noble Ones serve as my guides.
The Shining Ones’ wisdom and grace fan the flames
Of the fire that burns in my heart.

I lift up my voice, singing praise to their names
With my offerings poured out in thanks in the soil.
I raise up my hands; I invite them to dance
Round the fire that burns in my heart.

I raise up my hands and cry, “Kindred! Come dance
Round the fire that burns in my heart!”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Writing For Our Druidry, Part I

I had the privilege to meet our Founder, Rev. Isaac Bonewits, in person in 2009 when he and I were both competing for the first Wellspring Bardic Chair. The poem and song that I wrote got his attention, because they were modern-sounding but still embraced the ideas that were important to folks in ADF. The poem was an inspirational piece entitled "Awen Rains Down." The song was one I wrote for my grove entitled "Teutates" for the God of the Tribe that we honor every Fall Equinox at our anniversary rite.

When I wrote "Awen Rains Down" in 2008, I had been in a rather lonely place due to some life circumstances that were rather isolating and difficult. It started out as a simple refrain that I wanted to use to teach the folk more about Awen. I fell in love with the concept of Awen, of invoking Awen, after a conversation with a woman who had taken "Awen" as her magical name. During this difficult time, I found myself singing the Awens absent-mindedly, and I wanted to express the comfort and peace that the Kindred had given me through this time. Inspired by a quote MJD had read to me from a source I do not recall, I wanted to write. He said, “In the midst of a crisis of faith, prayer is often the first to go, but this is exactly when you need to pray the most.” This had become almost a mantra and a driving force to continue on in the devotional work I had previously found so enjoyable even though I was lacking in motivation. That day, I sat down and sang the refrain several times with the intent to create verses, and they just fell into place.

When I wrote "Teutates," I was feeling similarly about my grove. They had been a source of strength and healing to me, and I used thematic elements from our Grove poem to create a piece that expressed not only the joy of diversity but also the unity and solidarity that come with being a Crane.

After Wellspring 2009, having lost the Bardic Chair competition, I began immediately to think about the next year's competition. I needed to write three new pieces, song, poem and story, and I needed them to be better than what I had done that year. The story was no problem. I had several already done, and writing fiction has always come easily to me.

The song was almost channeled. I had tried several times to write a song, any song! but to no avail. Being the Members Advocate, I learned through the grapevine via some of ADF's more private lists asking for prayer requests that Isaac was ill. We had no idea how ill at the time, but doing some healing workings for him over the summer had definitely put him in the forefront of my mind. I had recalled the conversations we had about how the bardic arts would be a way for ADF to be a bigger part of the greater Neopagan community, and I wanted to embrace some of that.

It was late August when I began toying with the idea that later became this work. I had just returned home from the Summerland festival, and I was feeling particularly amazing. Post-festival high lasted for a week! My devotional times were highly joyful, and many of my cares had been resolved. I was looking back on the difficulties of the summer, and I was particularly grateful for my patrons, those Deities to whom I had pledged devotion and with whom I had forged a more personal relationship. I made offerings in this mindset and then sat down to write. I wasn’t sure what form the song was taking until after the first draft was down on paper. It was clearly from the vantage of a patron to the devotee, speaking on behalf of the Kindred.

There were only a few edits, two deliberately done with Isaac in mind. In the second verse, I included “*ghosti,” and in the third verse, I included “mana.” These two concepts are the very crux of what ADF intends to bring into the lives of the folk, and I wanted to show that the Kindred want us to have them, too. This song, though finalized in tune and word, is still showing me the power of music.

So Lean on Me

Before me once more, your heart in your hand
Asking for help with something you don’t understand
Listen to me, Child, I need you to know
Not all things you strive for will help you to grow
By Oath-bound assertion we keep you on your path and
We’re right here to guide you; we’ve done as you asked.

So Lean on me
Come, take my hand, and Lean on me
I’ll help you stand when
All you’ve planned is just not meant to be.
Lean on me

Your offerings poured were not made in vain
Omen-gifts given and *ghosti still remain
The strength of the bonds between you and your Gods
Will never falter just ‘cause you don’t beat the odds.
By Well and by Fire and by Sacred Tree
Wyrd-bound, you’ll be stronger just wait and see.


For how many years have we been by your side?
How many secrets heard that you’d rather hide?
I know the end you desire, and I can see the means
I’ll carry you through, you need only to lean

Look back on your past, the evidence shows
How often the mana you seek freely flows
We closed a few doors you opened in error
Exchanged mislead interests with something better
We Kindred will guide you in the Elder ways
We’ll walk along side you all of your days

Lean on me (3x)


Lean on me, lean on me