In Idaho

I’m currently visiting my family in Idaho. Just a few minutes down the road from my aunt’s house is a huge public free range field for cattle, filled with golden grasses and sagebrush and shy cattle. I stepped out into the field into a clump of sagebrush, crushed and smelled a leaf of it in my fingers, and looked out onto the valley in which I was born.

Then I shouted my morning devotional prayer. I called it out into the wind, out across the fields, knowing that none but the Kindreds and the cattle could hear me.

Usually my morning devotional prayer is said in a quiet or normal voice in the morning, the first words I speak through a scratchy throat, not too loud so I don’t wake my fiancé or disturb the neighbors. I say it to an indoor prayer, hoping the heater or A/C won’t turn on and disturb the candles.

I had no candles in Idaho. I had no symbols for the Well, Tree & Fire other than the landscape around me. When it came time in my devotional to “bathe my face” from water from the well, I had to pantomime it. And yet I have never felt so alive, so connected after my devotional. It was a most exhilarating and liberating experience!

Pictures of the cattle on the private land on the other side of the road:

 

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A Sonnet for the Fool

I used to keep a blog for poetry, but I think instead of restarting that I’m going to merge that with my spirituality blog. Poetry and music are very powerful spiritual influences for me, so it seems silly to separate them.

I cross-posted this on my Tarot blog (which had a long hiatus), but I wanted the poem here, too.

This card and its description remind me of a poem (a sonnet in iambic pentameter) that I wrote way back in my senior year of high school:

I stand upon the rough edge of the peak,
The rock cuts into my bare feet, fragile.
Above, through lowly clouds, I wish to seek
A thing that, when I see, will make me smile.

The ocean roars, and now my trembling knees
Do threaten to undo themselves, and I
Will fall into the merciless, foul seas,
And that much further I’ll be from the sky.

But what will happen when I leap in faith?
Will wings of angels catch me ere I fall,
Or will the chains of earth be as a wraith
And curse me to a never-ending brawl?

I can’t resist the urge to leap, to try,
So powerfully I hear the call to fly.

The Hobbit: Opening Ritual for Filming

About seven minutes into this first “behind the scenes” video for the filming of The Hobbit, there is a fascinating opening ceremony and ritual in Maori. Thought some fellow Pagans might also find it interesting:

First Oath

(adapted from the First Oath in ADF’s “Our Own Druidry”)

I come before the ancestors,
the land spirits, and the gods
to declare myself a Pagan.
I am a seeker of the Old Ways,
a worshipper of the Elder Gods.

With this sacred oath
I set my foot upon the path, the Druid’s Way,
for I seek a relationship with the Kindreds
and I am cultivating the the practice of living fully.

I vow to seek virtue in my life,
to do right by my kin, my friends, my community, and myself.
I vow to make my spirituality real
by keeping the rites and workings that call to me.

I vow to deepen my understanding of the Old Ways
through study and practice
to fill myself with the truth of the Elder Path.

These things I vow to myself
in the presence of the ancestors,
in the presence of the land spirits,
in the presence of the gods and goddesses,
and my Exalted Brighid.

So be it!

Home Shrine

I put together this home shrine originally in my previous apartment, and a similar but simpler version was erected when I moved here in fall of 2009. Once I started looking into ADF last year, I adapted it a bit (prominence going to the Three Powers of Fire, Well, and Tree) but found that many parts remained (the candle stands and holders, the amethyst tree that used to be to the side, the use of shells, my wand from high school explorations of Wicca, and the stone slab I found on a beach the summer before going to college.)

The Area

The shrine itself is on the edge of our library area. One wall and corner of our living room is lined with bookshelves, and a reading chair is in the corner (just to the left of this photo). On the right of my shrine is my guitar and stand, and that’s where I pull up to practice. I consider music an integral part of my own spirituality, so I like having my altar right next to my guitar.

The main part of the shrine is the altar on the round table. I keep things that I need nearby but not really on the altar itself on a lower shelf of the round table and on the little short white bookshelves next to it.

The Main Altar

The altar has two candle stands for illumination on the back (as I do daily morning devotion/prayer/meditation by candlelight. Then there is a wand that I made from a tree in my yard while in high school. This is when I realized that I was a Pagan and explored Wicca. I loved spending summer days under this tree. The copper wound around one end came from my high school chemistry classroom. One day I found it twirled around the leg of the desk, so I played with it for a while, kept it for a while, then put it on my wand on a whim.

The stone beneath the tree is from the first Atlantic coast beach trip I took with a family friend. I washed it and kept it on display through college, and after college finally integrated it into my shrine. The tree is made of amethyst, wire, and ceramic (for the tree trunk). I feel in love with this sort of decoration at my fiancé’s grandparents house, and a few years ago I found it at a yard sale and snatched it as soon as I saw it. When I joined ADF and started the Dedicant’s Program last year, I added slips of papers with the Nine Virtues to the branches of the tree (just put in there, no glue or anything). This helps me keep the Nine Virtues in mind and reflect on them.

My main “fire” symbol candle is in a glass lotus holder that my fiancé or I found at a yard sale. The well symbol is a shell that was in my family’s bathroom for years growing up, because my mom kept jars or baskets of shells as bathroom decorations. I liked this one and took it with me to college. It holds some water in it, and I fill it each time I do any sort of prayer or ritual, and empty it at the end into the houseplant next to the altar.

On the bottom shelf I keep a glass goblet that my fiancé found for me at a yard sale (he really loves yard sales, hence all the stuff from them). He didn’t know what I would use it for, but thought it was really pretty and bought it for me. I also have an offering bowl, given in a set of four by a pair of good friends. Little did they know I had been eyeing this exact style of dishes for a while before they bought it for us!

The Side Bookshelf

This side bookshelf has been very useful. My altar has limited space, which I like because it doesn’t allow anything but the necessary, but there are a few tools and things I like to keep close. On top I keep a houseplant (which gets any water for my shell/well after rituals), an oil burner, and a Tibetan chime. The chime was given to my fiancé and I by his grandparents. It makes a gorgeous reverberating sound that lasts a while, which is great for centering before and after rituals, meditation, etc. I also keep a candle snuffer (I hope that’s what it’s called) that my fiancé found — you guessed it — at a yard sale. I use it exclusively to snuff out altar candles.

The shell on the surface is a very recent addition to keep silver beads that I offer during rituals. I’ll bring them all occasionally to a river, but this shell can keep them between trips. The two cut and polished stones are just decorative.

Underneath this in the bookcase I keep the beads and the scented oils that I will use for offerings, matches for altar candles, and tarot and oracle card books and decks. They are within reach for divination practice or for interpreting the Kindreds’ blessings in rituals.

Plans & Improvements

The main improvements that I would like to have in the near future are symbols or images for deities that I become closest to. I know Brighid and Lugh and Ogma and Manannan Mac Lir need some images, plus any other deities of any hearth that speak to me (though I have decided to work primarily with the Irish hearth.) Ideally I would like to make three mixed-media collages to frame, one for each of the Three Kindreds, to hang near my altar. I would also like to incorporate more seasonal decorations. Perhaps different colors of candles for my illumination candles in the back? Or daily little collected pieces of nature, like dried leaves in the fall, melted snow and twigs in the winter, flowers and fresh leaves in the spring and summer? I haven’t quiet decided yet.

Another idea I had recently is to get a round tray for the main altar so that I could easily take it out on our balcony or right outside for some rituals. So now we’re keeping out eye out for round trays at this year’s yard sale season.