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 ]

14 – Relationships: Rites of Passage

After a long break, let’s return to 30 Days of Druidry. These next topics can be taken in multiple ways — as a listing of resources, or of workings of a group. But I’m just going to write whatever comes to mind, sharing a small part of me in these posts.

Rites of passage are important because they help us through transitions or challenging parts of our lives. Our Druidry is still young, but as we grow, more rites of passage are taking place.

In Ontario, though I am an ADF Priest, I am not legally able to be a wedding officiant. ADF does not have any legal standing in Canada, though there are other ADF folk who are licensed by other organizations like All Seasons Weddings in order to perform this service, and many other pagans who have done the same.

I’ve blessed babies (as that doesn’t require any provincial recognition), formally welcoming them into their communities with the powers of fire and water. When my own baby arrives, I presume that their initial blessings will be multiple and low-key, as their arrival will be an intimate experience. When it is time for them to be welcomed into community, that is a discussion to have with my Grove.

As a Grove, we have not performed any comings of age; there are not many children in our Grove, and all of the children also have parents who are not pagan. I believe these rites are important, as they bestow upon the child new responsibilities, though it is up to the families to decide what is best for them.

And isn’t that how it always is in paganism? Even though we have our Groves and circles, and group customs that develop therein, the smallest centres are the hearth and the individual, and those are the fires that most often direct our ways.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]

2018 Reading Challenges

It’s time to sign up for 2018 Reading Challenges! Last year I didn’t meet my goal for any of my reading challenges, but that’s only part of the fun of doing them. The other part, of course, is reading. 🙂

This year, I’ll be participating in a few, hoping to complete them, but enjoying them even if I don’t.

2018 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

The Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge is new to me this year, though it’s similar to the now-disappeared Witchy Fiction and Well-Read Pagan challenges from last year. This challenge states:

Any full length book that includes a witch as a main character or includes major witchcraft elements counts. They may be fiction or non-fiction. However, they should not be reference books which are not read cover to cover-I will leave this to your discretion.

I’d read a non-fiction reference book cover-to-cover, but that’s just me 🙂 For this challenge I’m going to aim low, so I’m signing up for the Initiate level and hoping to read 5 books for this challenge.

My coworkers and I always attempt Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, so I’ll publicly declare myself participating in this also. It’s a good way to expand and diversify your reading selection.

Finally, I’ve opted for 50 books in 2018 in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. There’s no criteria for this, so all of the above count, as well as anything else I’d like to read.

What are you planning to read in 2018?

Our Lunar Calendar

Offerings at the Cold Moon.

Many Pagans are excited for Blue Moons in both January and March of this year, and no Full Moon in February. It’s a rare occurrence, but not one that has any bearing on the lunar calendar that we use at our hearth.

I’ve briefly outlined how our calendar works elsewhere, but haven’t really gone into any details. Really, it’s no more than personal preference and a choice to follow the seasons rather than the Gregorian calendar – not that there’s anything wrong with that way, and certainly what most Pagans do.

Our lunar calendar is reckoned by the first full moon after the Winter Solstice. If this full moon falls within the Solstice Tide, there will be a blue moon in the year. Blue moons are the third full moon in a season, as determined by the solstices and equinoxes.

What this means is that our moon names don’t always line up with what the rest of the pagan world is doing. I’ve wondered if this is a flaw, because it means missing out on collective energy that could be shared with others also worshipping at the same time. For example, most people called this past January 1 full moon the “Wolf Moon”, though we won’t be using that name until the January 31 full moon – the January 1 moon is the “Cold Moon”, which most people used for the December moon. What these names and associations mean in common practice and in our own practice may differ.

Nevertheless, I think there’s some value in keeping this kind of calendar, especially because I think there is value in seeing how solar and lunar cycles intersect and change over years. The second full moon in a season is the occasion to mark the High Day with a smaller hearth celebration (as solar High Day reckoning will most often be done in community). Influences for this calendar are the Coligny and pre-Christian Germanic calendars, and it follows the Metonic cycle and can be kept with a primstav.

Why am I doing this weird moon method anyway? In short, because I was asked to do so. A question asked of me in trance led me on a multi-year exploration of calendars, timekeeping, and structured prayer, and it’s time to be serious about it. I can only know what benefit this will bring after a concerted effort to follow what’s been given to me.

Happy New Year!

Okay, so the end of Solstice Tide didn’t go as planned. Extreme cold weather, an “urgent” ultrasound (I’m fine, baby’s fine), a problem with the house, and not getting very much sleep each night made for a less-than-perfect end to Solstice Tide. But, there’s nothing to really fret about as we still sang to trees and drank cider, we still discussed our plans for this year based on our omen, and we celebrated with friends both on the night of the Boar Feast and Twelfth Night. It just wasn’t as formal as we’d planned, and that’s okay. We’re coming into 2018 in a good place.

That being said, it’s the last day of Carbmas (the secular version of Solstice Tide), and then back to our green beans and regular lives… although I’m not sure yet what that’s going to look like for me. I’ve never really been one for resolutions — we take a year-omen instead and work towards that together — but 2018 will be filled with so many unknowns that all I can really do is enter the new year with grace.

I only have four days left of work before I’m on vacation and then maternity leave for a year. I’m the kind of person who finds my own worth in what I am doing and achieving, and without my mundane work (which I do love), and without my Grove and other community work (having stepped down from every position excepting ADF Priest), I’m not sure where I’ll find myself. I’m having a hard time with that even now. Please, don’t tell me that now I can focus on being a mother, because I fear that women often lose their identities in parenthood. What I’m hoping is that I’ll re-ground myself within my hearth religion, and be able to share some of that energy with others. So, maybe I’ll write more, but I make no promises. 🙂


Solstice Tide, Day Eight

We’re both working today – and on opposite shifts – so we’re unable to do my activity of choice for this day, which is visit the birdfeeder trail at a local conservation area. I’ll have to be satisfied by watching the park squirrels through the window at work.

Honouring the nature spirits is more than an appreciation of little squirrel feet and birdsong. I believe that it is part of my responsibility to walk gently upon the Earth and live in a sustainable way, as much as I am able.

In a recent article, Rev. Melissa Hill asks us to honour the Nature Spirits by being a Hobbit. Advocating sustainability, developing skills, and buying local, Rev. Hill is an inspiration for what I’d like to do in my life. She also provides an annotated list of resources for learning some of these skills yourself.