A Hearth-Centred Practice, Revisited

A long, long time ago, when this blog was just a baby, I wrote a post called A Hearth-Centred Practice, in which I explored what I want our home religious life to be. In that post, I posited that this practice would include:

–         daily worship, performed by myself on behalf of the household
–         other regular worship, perhaps weekly, performed by both of us
–         meal blessing, said by either of us when we eat at home

We only achieved one of the three on a near-daily basis, the meal prayer. Go us!

You see, it’s a lot easier to be pious in your head and on paper than it is to physically do the work each and every day. I tried, most definitely, but as we all know, life has challenges that sometimes get the best of us, and as a person who struggles with depression, sometimes life getting the best of me happens more than I would like.

Since 2009, when that post was first shared, the idea of what a hearth-centred practice looks like hasn’t changed all that much. Each of those three things named is still important to what our home practice looks like, though the “other regular worship” I would say should now be Full Moon rites, held as feasts, as opposed to a weekly household rite. There should also be seasonal celebrations held at home in addition to at the Grove, for hearth worship should be the focus of our spiritual lives.

For a time, I thought that Grove and group worship was the most important aspect of my spirituality, but I was wrong. It is our personal and home worship which should remain the most steadfast and supportive – for me at least. Your experience may differ, of course, but for me, the reliance on others to provide what I need spiritually is an error. For you, and for others, attendance at group worship may be all you need, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So with that realization, I turn back towards the hearth to find comfort in its warming glow. Our meal prayer has remained consistent for years, and even if I do not perform any other devotions that day, the meal prayer remains a pause in time to reconnect with the Earth Mother and the cycle of things.

Now, if I were to outline our hearth-centred practice, I would say that it would contain

  • daily devotions, performed on behalf of the household by myself;
  • daily meal prayers, to give thanks to the Earth;
  • regular seasonal and lunar worship feasts;
  • seasonal activities, not necessarily religious, but important for immersion;
  • attendance at a Grove to connect with the wider community.

Over time, I will share some of this with you, my readers. It is my goal to live a devoted life, as best I can, as a wife, mother, and Priest. Please come along with me.

A Morning Prayer

morningprayer

[image: A woman covered in tiny lights, backlit by the dawn.]

I will kindle the fire this morning
And centre myself among the Three Realms:
Upon the firm and bountiful Land,
Beside the wide and mysterious Sea,
Under the bright and shining sky.

I will kindle the fire this morning
In the presence of the Three Kindred:
The Nature Spirits, my neighbours on this land,
The Ancestors, for without them I would not be,
and the Shining Ones, who give order and inspiration in my life.

I will kindle the fire this morning
And carry within my heart the virtues of
Hospitality, that I may be kind and receive kindness,
Wisdom, that I may grow in knowledge and experience,
and Integrity, that my words and actions be true.

With the fire burning bright this morning,
I go out into the world
with the blessings of the holy Kindreds.

Review: Three Dark Crowns

 

Three dark queens are born in a glen… this young adult fantasy series takes place on the isle of Fennbirn, where every generation the queen gives birth to triplets, each one possessing a different powerful magic. But only one can become heir and rule the island, so on their sixteenth birthday, the young queens are unleashed upon each other in a fight to the death for the crown.

Mirabella is an elemental, able to control the winds and fire. Katharine is a poisoner, trained in crafting poisons and immune to them herself. Arsinoe, a naturalist, can command the plants and animals. Raised apart from each other in three cities of magic, the queens have not met since they were children. But as their sixteenth birthday at the Winter Solstice, and the Beltane ceremony approaches, it becomes apparent that the rise to power of the next queen is dependent on a lot more than their natural gifts, as some of their natural gifts are lacking. Mirabella is the most talented and has the support of the Temple, but Arsinoe and Katharine each have powerful friends and allies willing to risk,  themselves for the queen who shares their magic.

The cliffhanger ending of Three Dark Crowns will make you eager to keep reading. After the second book, One Dark Throne, make sure you read the prequel stories The Oracle Queen and The Young Queens, as separate ebooks or collected together in print as Queens of Fennbirn. These novellas will explain some backstory referenced in the main series, giving a depth to the mysterious world and answering some of your questions. I’m currently reading Two Dark Reigns, where the history of queens is influencing the present, and the Goddess’s power rises. Read it! You know you want to.

Finding Piety Again

The last year has brought a lot of change to my life. After my Bean was born, everything was so different. It was hard to remember the person I was before. I mourned her and cried for her, and it took quite some time to find my footing again. A mother is only as old as her baby is, so as he discovered how to be a human, I discovered how to be a parent. Some days, I had to push myself to be strong for my child. I had to be resilient, and my prayers were often formed from desperation, calling to Brighid and my Ancestors to help.

And help they did – with Brighid’s blessings I was able to produce almost enough milk for my son. The strength of my Ancestors carried me through some hard nights. And through it all, my piety was there, quietly waiting for me to find it again and bring it to the forefront – to have a clean altar with a lit flame, prayers calmly spoken. When we are challenged, sometimes we have to put aside things with the promise to pick them up later. We must prioritize in order to have a functional life. I did this with my religion, with my piety, and I’m glad to have found it again.

So, with a new baby, new house, and renewed joy, I thought I’d take it one further and have a renewed blog also. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you may see some previous posts edited and republished at a later time. I hope that everyone will find some useful content here, and that I can be of service to you with my words and small offerings.

18 – Inspirations: Music, Poetry, and Aesthetics

What is the aesthetic of a druid rite? How do we define and craft it? Each person will find their answer slightly differently, and even from rite to rite, our material things like the altar, our offerings, and even the words we say will contribute to the overall feeling. Most of all, for me, I want a rite that is well-structured, smooth flowing, clear and simple, with full participation of all in attendance. To me, that is beauty.

I think that everyone should sing. It’s a good way to share a communal experience, and many pagan chants are relatively accessible. The songs that we sing in our rites aid us in our worship and often flow through me in the days before the rite. Does this mean that each person is equal in their talent? No, and there’s a place for musical performance in ritual as well. Good musical bardry, like good storytelling, should be honoured. But when we gather in our Groves, lifting our voices in song is participatory. Don’t be afraid to join in group chants 🙂

Poetry is a tool that I employ when crafting rituals. Some of my best ritual work includes carefully crafted poetry – our charm for kindling the hearthfire at the start of rites, for example. When a piece like this is created, I feel that it is magically whole, it becomes a spell. Other poems are not like that. They are good and beautiful in other ways, however, and worthy of writing and sharing and hearing.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]

17 – Inspiration: Storytelling and Myth

Druidry is a religion of stories. We tell myths of the gods and their deeds, and share folk stories of the spirits and Good Folk. These are important lessons for us to learn how to interact with these beings, to begin to know their personalities, and to help us ground our worship in ancient ways.

As I first came to ADF and Druidry, I was also taking a Celtic culture course in university, and had to read The Táin. There was something in this tale that spoke to me, and I quickly sought out more Irish myth. It is the reading of these tales that led to my seeking direct experiences of the gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

But we also create our own stories, as individuals and as Groves. Telling the tales of how the Kindreds are present in our lives brings our worship into the present day and reinforces that we belong to a vibrant and living faith, especially when these experiences are shared with others.

The best example of this in our Grove is that of An Cailleach — that is, our particular Cailleach who reigns over the Winter on the Oak Ridges Moraine. She is like the other Cailleachan but is also local, and so where we may tell some traditional stories of Cailleach Beara, we also have our own local mythos which we draw upon in our rites. The mysteries of An Cailleach and the Summer Corn, and of the House of Stone are our stories that we will tell and re-tell. As new people join us, they hear these stories also, and become part of them.

Around the wheel-year is a circle of stories. At Bealtaine, we tell of how the Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland, and we claim our land also. At Lughnasadh, we tell of how Lugh instituted the funeral games for Tailtiu, and we mourn for her also. At Imbolc, we hear of all of the deeds of Brighid, and we receive her blessings also.

Our Bards are the keeper of these stories, and of the ancient tales. We would do well to honour those who learn and remember them, and share them at feasts and around fires. And our ritualists also, who can bring these stories to life through magical action. We, ourselves, can draw on these tales in times of need, searching for our own experiences within them. They are part of the human experience, and so are we.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]

16 – Inspirations: Prayer and Meditation

I’m not the best meditator, and it’s become worse since the pregnancy began. I can’t go very far in trance, because this physical experience grounds me constantly. My meditations have mostly been limited to five-minute Two Powers, or listening to guided meditations specifically for a healthy pregnancy.

Prayer, on the other hand, comes far easier for me. I like to write prayers and speak them, either by rote or in the moment. A good collection of rote prayers can serve a person throughout many situations, and there’s a comfort to speaking well-crafted words (whether written by yourself or by another) that have been spoken before.

For perhaps the best collections of prayers, one should look at the writings of Ceisiwr Serith, whose Book of Pagan Prayer also has an excellent chapter on composing prayers. Don’t be afraid of writing your own, or revising what you’ve written, either. Writing is an art form, and this is no different. You may also want to read his Pagan Ritual Prayer Book.

Of course, the Carmina Gadelica is also a good place to look if you want prayers that come from (Scottish) Celtic culture directly; there have also been people who have “re-paganized” some of these prayers for modern use.

Our Grove uses a standard liturgy, which has faced some criticism for the fact that our rites aren’t entirely spontaneous. But every time we perform a High Day, we connect in with our group mind, the consciousness that has been built by its members over the last fourteen years, saying the same words again and again, and in those words we find our places and rhythm.

Our home worship is much the same. We have our standard morning and evening prayers, and a short household rite that always begins the same way though its content may differ. In this way, either of us may lead the worship in the way that we have chosen, with no pressure over saying the right thing. We have agreed upon the right thing, tested it, and settled into its comfort. I do not see anything wrong with this.

Perhaps one of the most important prayers to me is our Grove’s Lorica, which I composed as a gift for our Grove on the occasion of our tenth birthday. During the depths of my burnout, I found it very difficult to pray this prayer, as its few lines reflect our cosmology, pantheon, and best wishes for each other. I don’t think many others pray it, but it isn’t their responsibility to do so. It’s mine, as a Priest, that I continue to serve my Grove even when I find it difficult.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]

Birth Altar

It’s almost time for baby to arrive, so I thought I’d share the birth altar that I’ve created to take with me to the hospital. It’s small and mostly fits in a box, as I won’t have a lot of table space for it.

There are three affirmation cards, a battery-operated candle, my prayer beads, a Brighid altar token, a crosóg, the Grove’s brat Bhríde, a pink stone to keep me grounded, a spoon in case I need extra energy (haha), and holy waters to bless the baby.

The other night, under the sliver of the new moon, I offered to my Ancestors and to Brighid for a safe and beautiful birth, purified myself in magical waters, and began to enter the headspace that will take me through this transition. There is only so much that I can do to prepare for this initiation, physically, mentally, and spiritually. All I do now is wait.

15 – Inspirations: Awen and Creativity

The terms “awen” or “imbas” aren’t often used in our community; most of us simply say inspiration. Inspiration is regularly called upon in our Grove rites, and as part of our opening liturgy after we honour the Earth Mother and the Hearth Goddess. We do not call upon inspiration directly, instead petitioning those beings who more regularly access it. We call upon these beings in our rites to aid us in sweet speech, that our sacrifices may be more pleasing to the gods and spirits:

Bards of old, and those gods and goddesses who grant us the power of imbas, allow our words to flow with honeyed sweetness. May the fires of inspiration burn within us, not only for this time, but whenever we call upon it.

I haven’t done much original writing recently; even this post series is a challenge to get through. I haven’t felt the power of inspiration in a long time. Some people live and breathe it, but for me it comes in bursts when the gods have something to say about our practices and rites. When I am writing a rite, it comes as a sort of synthesis — if I take in as much information related to a topic as I can, and then wait, it will come like a flash of light and I know, in that instance, what is the correct action to take.

Many people relate to Brighid as their source of inspiration, calling upon her as a poet. But as she is my hearth fire, the centre of all things, that is where her truest inspiration is found — the still centre of the world and the hearth, surrounded by the slow movement of seasons. And from those seasons and the turning of the wheel comes nourishment in food and music, so I try to feed my soul with those things, ensuring that I stay connected to the movement of things as much as I can, so I don’t miss the flash of power when it comes.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]