Sonnet of Wisdom

The universe is not a line of time,
But rather tapestry made from the threads
That each soul and each life in pattern bind
Through time and space, as each on her path treads.

If ye seek wise druidic intellect,
See past the lie of linear progression;
Instead see that our actions have effect
Beyond our own small triumphs or transgressions.

Each action that we make, each step we take,
Will strum the strings of truth that touch us all.
The unwise fumble blindly, make threads quake;
The wisest see these strings and seek to heal.

To hear the humming threads of truth that bind,
Observe the patterns, honor them in kind.

Wisdom

What is wisdom?

Wisdom is the act of turning inwards to listen to a quiet voice, that part of us that is always connected to the universe and its eternal truths. It is listening to intuition. It is making that connection to the source of truth. When we listen to this inner voice of intuition, we will not be led astray.

Wisdom is also seeing patterns in life and predicting an action’s outcome based on these common patterns. Those who are wise see the effects, and also the effects of these effects, and so on and so forth.

While we may encounter snippets of wisdom in our lives through quotations and philosophies, it is not from these isolated strings of words that wisdom is made. Otherwise the whole world would be wise. What is the source of such quotations and philosophies? A person who quieted all else in order to hear truth. When we hear something wise for the first time, sometimes it hits our full being like lightning, changing us forever. We have heard others’ wisdom resonate within us, and it helps us find our own wisdom. The inner voice cries out in joy, for you have listened. Other times we don’t fully recognize wisdom when we hear it, and perhaps it attaches to us like a barbed seed, waiting for the day when conditions are right — when we are ready to recognize it — so that it may take root and grow.

A person acting wisely hears her intuition and gains a wider view of the world. She is not led to react with raw, unexamined emotions. She sees the situation and its influences, and seeks an action (or inaction) that will bring the most benefit to the world, not just herself.

The tragedy in this world is that we are too often inundated with an overflow of noise, deafening our ears to our intuition, our own internal source of wisdom. We react with passion with little reflection, potentially leaving a mess in our wake. If we benefit the world this way, it is a happy accident; if we expect to benefit the world this way, we are being naive and foolish.

The world needs listeners.

Red Oak Grove’s Samhain/Calan Gaeaf

This last Saturday I attended Red Oak Grove‘s Samhain / Calan Gaeaf ritual. This was my first ritual in attendance as an official friend of the grove (first level of membership). I also brought my husband to the event, and though he hadn’t planned to attend the ritual part of it at first, right before we processed off to the ritual site he asked to come along (with our little dog Rolo in tow).

This ritual was my first group ritual after dark, lit by a torch, the ritual fire, some jack o’ lanterns around the edge, and the occasional flashlight for the ritual leaders to see what they were doing or reading. A list of those who have died since last Calan Gaeaf was read, along with a phrase or two of their contributions. We were then invited to remember aloud a loved one who has passed on, and I remembered my mother’s mother. Her memory has always weighed heavily on my mind: in childhood for the stories my mom always told, and as an adult as I’ve seen the pain my mom experienced in her grief for her mother, which has only recently really healed enough for my mom to move on and live her life more fully.

The omens were perfectly tied to the time of year and the event of Halloween, which was pretty awesome.

I really appreciated the symbolism behind literally stumbling around in the dark, and how the light (electronic or fire-based) then illuminated the way. I also have rarely appreciated the warmth of a fire pit so much as this weekend, when nights dropped to freezing temperatures and when I was bundled in what never seemed like enough layers of clothing! I think it’s rare for humans in modern society to experience such a sharp desire and need for fire. During the day, our tent was warmed by the light of the sun that was trapped and insulated within, providing quite a snuggly retreat.

On the way to the event, I listened to the DruidCast podcast episode 76, in which Kristopher Hughes discussed being a medical examiner of the dead and his own views on death and dying. The process of grief for a loved one is something I have only recently understood, experiencing the death of a pet and my husband’s grandparents as an adult. That process helped me empathize with my mother enough to understand how she could cause such pain to her loved ones while suffering in grief. I would not have been able to rekindle our relationship without this deeper understanding. Death is a part of the human experience, but the grieving process does not receive a lot of real understanding and empathy by our society (except for some sympathy, turning to pity and then frustration when someone doesn’t just “get over it”).

Solitary Druid Fellowship: Yule Ritual

I used the Winter Solstice liturgy from Solitary Druid Fellowship (a recently-added branch off of ADF). I have to say, it was really nice having a pre-made liturgy intended for solitary practice. It’s difficult being fairly new to ADF liturgy and feeling that I need to significantly adapt an existing ritual intended for groups or make my own ritual. This made it easier, and as I’ve noticed that my anxiety issues have previously interfered with doing rituals, especially with new groups of people, I needed some “easy”.

That didn’t mean I didn’t avoid the ritual until December 31st, ten days after I had intended to do the ritual … *sigh*…

But hey, I did it, and it was great. It was awesome to feel such a connection to my spiritual path. It’s honestly been a while since I’ve felt that. The best was the omen. I used the Druid Animal Oracle deck, and drew three cards for three questions:

  1. How was the offering received? = Blackbird
  2. What is the Kindreds’ response to the offering? = Hind (white deer) reversed
  3. Any other wisdom that the Kindreds would like me to learn? = Fox

After the ritual, my husband (who is supportive but not particularly inclined to participate) informed me that a herd of ten deer, does and yearlings, had passed through our yard near the end of the ritual. He took a picture for me:

Image

After he told me this, we saw two stragglers (a doe and a yearling) pass by and head the same direction, making an even twelve … and were soon thereafter followed by a stag. The synchronicity of it being the last day of the year (12 months) and the last day of Yuletide (12 days), along with a deer (albeit a white one) showing up in my omen, was powerful and heartening.

Happy end of 2012, everyone! It was not the easiest year for me, and I’m pretty happy to see it go, and to also welcome a new year with new possibilities.

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.

About Lughnasadh

Research and Lore

Lughnasadh is one of the four ADF High Days that is also one of the four main Celtic holidays, and its main association is harvest time.  It specifically marks the beginning of the harvest season when corn is beginning to ripen, and the harvests of other crops are to come.  Traditionally in Ireland, this is also the time for community gatherings or fairs pulling people from many communities, as they sell items, make purchases, see distant friends and family, and compete in games of athleticism and warrior skills.  The first games were said to have horse racing, hurling, and martial arts, though a revival of the games in the early 20th century focused on competitions more comparable to the modern Olympic games.

The holiday Lughnasadh is named for Lugh, one of the primary gods of the Irish pantheon and related to the Welsh god Llew Llaw Gyffes and the Pan-Celtic god Lugus (of which Lugh and Llew Llaw Gyffes could be considered derivations or localizations).  Lugh is the son of a god (one of the Tuatha De Danann) and a giant (daughter of Balor of the Evil Eye, a Fomorian).  He won his place in the king’s court at Tara by showing his mastery in a number of athletic feats and skills, and thereafter was a great warrior of the Tuatha De Danann; he joined their fight against the Fomorians and killed Balor.  As a warrior, Lugh is known for his cunning mind as much as his strength; he is reputed in one poem to have killed Bres, a half-Fomorian, by tricking him to drink poison, and he is reputed to be the inventor of fidchell, a strategic board game comparable to chess.  In another account, Lugh spares the life of Bres in exchange for to knowledge of when to plough, reap, and sow.

According to Irish lore (in the Book of Invasions), Lugh established the festival and its many fairs in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu, who cleared the lands for agricultural use and then died of exhaustion from these efforts.  In the stories and poems featuring Lugh we find ample evidence of Lughnasadh primary associations: the connection between Tailtiu and agriculture makes for an easy association with the agricultural harvest and the trade of such goods in a community gathering, and Lugh’s exhibition of skills and physical prowess as a warrior is clearly linked with the Lughnasadh games, which are based on athletic and warrior-type skills.

Bibliography:

“Lugh.”  Wikipedia, 5 July 2010. Web. 11 Aug 2010.

“Lughnasadh.” Wikipedia, 10 Aug 2010. Web. 11 Aug 2010.

“The Original Tailteann Games.”  Tailteann Games, n.d. Web. 11 Aug 2010.

“The Tailteann Games: An Olympic Event for the Celtic Race.” About.com: Ireland Travel, n.d. Web. 11 Aug 2010.

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise.  Celtic Gods and Heroes.  Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.  Print.

Personal Commentary

When I reflected on my non-Neo-Pagan childhood, I found that there was a community event very similar to the Lughnasadh fairs of old: county fairs, which are held in the summertime and early fall.  In the region I was raised in, county fairs included people selling homemade and handcrafted goods (pies, jams, quilts, toys, craft works, and artwork) and youth and adults competing in competition of skill (carnival games with darts and tossing balls, ribbon prizes for baked goods or handmade crafts competitions, youth competitions for showing household and farm animals, etc).  I loved these fairs tremendously as a child, and next summer I’d like to look for any near here to visit.  I hope someday to take my own children to such fairs.

I personally have found it difficult in the past to feel the connection between autumn and the figurative concept of “harvesting” in one’s life, as my life has always revolved around the academic year.  Themes of spring and autumn seemed almost ill-timed because, within the academic year, autumn is all about beginnings and planting the seeds of the year, and spring or early summer is the time of “reaping what you sow.”  This year, however, it seems more applicable to my personal life; I am currently entering my second year of teaching, and at this time I’m reaping the benefits of having a year of experience under my belt.  It is a time to show what mastery of skill and knowledge I have in this field, and put them to good use as I begin a school year.  In general in this profession, summers are a time of taking care of business, whether it be curriculum development, a much needed “breather,” or a mixture of both.  The end of summer marks the culmination of whatever has been achieved over the summer: perhaps a better-prepared start to the school year, or perhaps just a healthier and more refreshed mental state.

Yet another fundamental aspect of Lughnasadh cannot be neglected: joining together to celebrate as a community.  After a summer break, August is the time to rejoin my school community.  The summer “break” has been relaxing but isolating; I moved here only a year ago, and know few people outside of the school I work in, so I look forward to rejoining the only local place of community in which I feel established.  As I have reflected on my isolation a lot this summer, especially lately as the community-focused holiday Lughnasadh approached and passed, I am also using this time of year to connect to other local Pagans and Pagan or Druid organizations, to be a part of a spiritual community.  Though typically introverted and shy, and thus not particularly liking the process of meeting new people and beginning to establish social groups, I know this is an important process for my spiritual development as well as my life’s balance.

The most beautiful thing to me about the High Days is that, through the lore and metaphors of the cycling seasons, they hold wisdom to help us live well.  Lughnasadh this year is a personal reminder to recognize the benefit of being connected with others, being part of a community (or, as is the case in modern life, many communities).  This has been a particular life-long challenge for me, as I have often focused too heavily on the demands of my formal education and, currently, the rigorous beginning of a career in public school teaching.  Thus my personal priority for honoring the spirit of Lughnasadh is making effort to connect with others and remain connected with them, and to prioritize making time for establishing and maintaining my familial relationships, friendships, and new community ties in the coming year.  I also celebrated my first High Day in two major events: the first by attending a local Druid/Pagan group event that included a brief ritual, and the second by performing my first rite (solitary) based on the ADF Core Order Ritual format.  Much of the text in the ritual I wrote myself, albeit influenced by other ADF rituals and chants I found online.