Single Stories, With Children   2 comments

[If you’re still counting, this is Thirty Days of Druidry 27. But the count obscures the actual topic, so I’m demoting it in these last few posts.]

In a recent NY Times article (“The Danger of a Single Story,” April 19, 2016), conservative columnist David Brooks writes,

As in life generally, every policy has the vices of its virtues. Aggressive policing cuts crime but increases brutality. There is no escape from trade-offs and tragic situations. The only way forward is to elect people who are capable of holding opposing stories in their heads at the same time, and to reject those who can’t.

There, right in our faces, the challenges of a “single story”: even as he strives to diagnose the dangers of binary thinking, Brooks beautifully illustrates it: “the only way forward.”

There are, of course, nearly an infinite number of ways forward. (The larger the group you look at, the fewer the ways. So look smaller, instead. We each of us will make, are making right now, our own ways forward, different from everyone else because we’re different. This post, this blog, is my set of ways. They don’t negate yours. Both-and, not either-or.)

Right now, more than in the past, we face difficulty identifying what “forward” looks like. Oh, there’s always a raucous chorus of voices who will tell you their versions. Mostly we suspect it’s “not what we have right now.” But that’s not at all the same thing as some kind of straight-jacket on reality that drops us into one kind of cosmic “only,” a limited-time offer from the gods.

[Pause for Druid meditation on the rhododendron almost ready to bloom, on the crab apple already loud with bees.]

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Back again. Readers of this blog know I work mostly in the personal as opposed to the political. And I’ll continue to insist they’re two distinct things. Of course they frequently intersect. Don’t most things in our universe?

Partly that’s a matter of scale. We’re beginning to realize, painfully, that we can only effectively know the local and personal. I can and do pretend from time to time to have wisdom about things outside my experience. (Sometimes I even get away with it.) Prophets and Wayshowers manage to pull it off with panache, and get others to buy in.

But as soon as I can, I’m taking this discussion out of the abstract and into the individual. Name a policy and I’ll show how it erases the unique, the personal, the distinctive. Policy tends to exemplify the tyranny of abstract, one-size-fits-all thinking. Draw a line in the sand and that line starts to matter more than people do, regardless of which side of the line they’re on. Is that ever right, we ask? And our answer determines our experience. There’s no such thing as free will — because we will it so.

[Pause for second Druid meditation, on appearances and other realities. Not just one reality. Boring. Not even just two. Almost as boring. Multiple, endless. Now we’re talkin’.]

I want to hold multiple stories in my head, not just one, even though I’m not running for office or proclaiming my way forward as the ONLY, as if all other options, all other universes, are BAAAAAD. No, I want to hold multiple stories because they’re beautiful, and beautifully true, together or separately, at one time or another. Each one a drop of dew, mirroring the blades of grass nearby, but also the sky. Dreamer, you cry. At the risk of riding on Lennon’s coattails, “you say I’m a dreamer, but …” We’re not there yet. That’s one thing dreaming’s for.

Fall in love with the universe, I hear, as both command and prayer, fall in love with it, and you don’t seek policies, you seek the beating heart of each thing, to know it better, to celebrate with it in its own way, orgy or restraint, sowing or boundary. Yes, as I plant my garden and keep out the rabbits and squirrels, and sweat a little in order to live here at all, I can celebrate at the same time. No single story for me. Work and rejoice. They’re not opposites. Things together. The universe, I find, is a marrying kind of place, for worse, and for better.

 

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 26: The Chew Toys of Druidry   Leave a comment

For my birthday earlier this month, my father in law sent along a card with a cover picture of the four (five) characters from The Wizard of Oz. In the cartoon bubbles above each one are their familiar goals: a heart, some courage, a brain, a home — and Toto as a stealth fifth character gets his say, too: “Maybe a chew toy?”

Druidry has grown sufficiently into its potential that it has a green and beating heart. As for courage, many Druids do try to “walk their talk” as far as they can, at least keeping the two yoked together and pulling in the same general direction. Not all of us, and maybe not even a majority of us at any one time. But any is more than none, enough for a start, more than before. Step forward, live one’s values openly, whatever others may think of them, or quietly (still matters): against fracking, for preservation, against excess (except maybe during festivals, when mead and love-making and all-night drum circles get to play their vital parts in making Druidry just slightly less than completely respectable).

And against dogmatic certainty, if we can, allowing for enough skepticism that we swallow fewer baited hooks. Small successes: a river cleaned and reclaimed, legislation to preserve rather than consume (or at least consume and restore, replant, restock, re-establish). Is it enough, against the slide and careen of our times? We may not be able to know right now. Maybe our current pessimism is part of a useful course-correction, long in coming.

But it counts for something — all things have their weight and presence. The planet’s learning and growing too, a hive of beings that, if they soil their home, will nevertheless still die and be remade in some form, if only as atoms that were Christ and Hitler too, to work out all the consequences, bad and good together. If not me as me, some of my kin will be here in years to come. (Does it matter in one sense if I have been here before? I’m here now.)

A keen-edged kind of justice: the physical world doesn’t appear to do mercy, unless you count cosmic balance as a kind of far-seeing compassion, impersonal in its workings. The gods and spirits, I notice, do sometimes save, but not us from ourselves when we walk away from their counsel.

Brains, too, haven’t been lacking since Druidry’s earliest days, admittedly along with sometimes generous portions of looneyness. The Revival brought out themes and practices many Druid groups like OBOD still draw from, and the more purist Celtic Reconstructionists have increasingly founded their practices on what can be recovered from the past and from mostly careful and informed deduction.

As for a home, well, here we are. Living in and on it, nourished by it, drinking from it, giving back to it what we choose to give to future generations — to our future selves if you hold deeply to full-on recycling.

Which leaves the chew-toy. What things might correspond to that? The tides of current fashion and flaming opinion, sure. Scandal and media obsession, the so-called Witch Wars, the poly-, duo-, mono- and a- theist speculations that usually lead no further, sometimes, than mild clarification or further obfuscation. One or two or ten people finally turned toward practice rather than pontification. A slight deviation away from head-stuff, into things heads deal less well with, but other parts of us say home, home, I’m in native inner country here.

A seemingly casual and causal sidestep into worlds where those old questions get traded for quietly larger and equally old ones. The slant of sunlight at dawn. Dew on bare feet, now that summer’s nearing. Trill of birdsong. Instinct to breathe in the chi, prana, nwyfre, elan, vital energy alive and pulsing all around. Breathing it out as I live my life. A nudge, maybe no more, to serve in some specific way in my neighborhood: an old backyard dump to be cleaned up, a gathering to organize or attend, a seemingly chance conversation that changes the paths of the participants, infinitesimally, modestly, significantly. A move around or out-of-state. A relationship ending, a relationship beginning. A season to plant, to harvest, an injury healed, a new wrinkle, scar, perspective, discovery, wonderment.

What I chew on comes second. Remember, I say to myself, remember that sequence, that priority. My jaws don’t have to be the strongest thing about me.

Thirty Days of Druidry 25: Changes, Gods, Relationships   Leave a comment

[Talach is the Druid name of a member of the Order of the Green Companions. Because of his support for this blog and its reaching 300 posts today, this guest post is an opportunity for him to share insight on an interesting situation presented to him. We have permission from the person identified below as M. to print this email exchange, with minimal editing to protect privacy.]

Dear Talach,

National-atlas-coloradoWhen you spoke after our Beltane ritual about ritual and non-ritual realities, I felt you might understand this problem I’m struggling with and maybe help. My partner and I are both Pagans, I’m a Druid and he’s pretty definitely a solitary Witch, so he doesn’t come to our gatherings. That’s fine. Recently we’ve been talking a lot and fighting a lot about the gods. He’s had some profound experiences with the Lord and Lady and as a result of their guidance he says he wants to make some BIG changes in our life together. Move out of state, off the grid, become self-sufficient, open our relationship, begin teaching and accepting students, etc. etc. There’s a group in Colorado he’s been talking with and he’s pretty focused on them. He met a couple members at a festival last summer.

I love this man, but and it’s a MAJOR but, I haven’t got any confirmation of this even after several months of divination and meditation and ritual. We’ve had some major blow-ups during this time. Part of our fighting comes because he says I don’t work with the gods because I don’t believe in them. He’s right about that last part. I don’t believe. All honor to Brighid and Lugh and the goddess at rituals and as forms of power to work with. But I’ve never experienced them as REAL outside of rituals. I want to hold on to this person and relationship if we can make it work. But my partner wants to make these changes NOW, at the latest definitely before midsummer. Where do we go from here?

M.

Dear M.,

Thanks for your note. You’re dealing several challenges here. Your partner wants changes you’re clearly not sure about. You’re facing a deadline. And part of the decision has been made to hinge on your awareness of the gods who speak to your partner about these changes but not to you.

What’s the most important issue here? It sounds like for you it’s your relationship. Is that true for your partner, too? What’s between you and the gods, or whether life is better somewhere else than where you are, are separate things to consider. You don’t say anything about jobs or housing or other assets, which are a big factor for you yourself, here and now, not just in Colorado or other place you or he may go, alone or with a partner.

So you can ask yourself a hard question, M., and if you do, be ready for the answer: is your relationship important enough for both of you to make it the center of any decision? This is separate from the gods or any deadline. If you and your partner can’t agree on that, you need to work through that, apart from Colorado or your openness to divine guidance. If you’re still both committed to each other and you both have some flexibility, could you try out the Colorado possibility for just a few months to see how it might fit you both?

gardeningOf course you may not be able to just pick up and leave. Your partner is asking for many changes, not just one, and with a deadline. Why the rush? Why midsummer? If it’s just to get a big garden going, can you do that where you already are? Try becoming more self-sufficient now, apart from the Colorado decision. If neither of you have spent much time growing and preserving your own food, that’s also something to try out close to home first, if you can. That’s a big enough change by itself. Pots and window boxes can help you grow a fair bit even if you don’t have much or any garden space. I urge smaller steps if you can, to make any changes easier to look at and consider and work with one by one.

Blessings to you both, M.

Talach

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IMAGES: Colorado map; gardening.

Thirty Days of Druidry 24: Playing the Druid Card   1 comment

Could I be the Mage,
or might I be the Fool?
Should we learn to use our cards
like any kitchen tool?

When I search for wisdom,
when I peruse old lore,
do I seek just kicks and tricks
or something worth much more?

Is my quest a question,
things I already know,
or an “undiscovered country”
I rediscover as I grow?

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If “playing the _____ – card” means to take (unfair) advantage of some given of our identities, what might it mean to play the Druid card? Well, it certainly gains us nothing with either the gods or local land spirits.

Druid-card Holder (DCH): “Hey! I’m a Druid!”

Land Wight (LW): “Welcome. Have you listened to the land, spent time hearing what it has to teach, growing a portion of your own food on it, and feeling how each season and its energies shape the lives of all the creatures on it, including you? Have you, in four words, lived where you live?”

DCH: Well, no …

LW: Go away and do not return until you learn reverence.

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“I invoke you, goddess, for a change.”

Let me try again. If I live where I’ve lived, rather than almost anywhere else, I accept the gift of responsibility. Usually the word sounds heavy — something people try to flee rather than to welcome. But let me do my Bard word trick once more. I know I’ve often walked away from my response-ability, my ability to respond. I turn it off, drown it out, change channels, either because it’s painful or too demanding or or or. Third time’s the charm: find three or’s and I can successfully escape my ability to respond and maybe spend my whole life in someone else’s dream rather than one of my own. Success!

I often explore my own “weaknesses” because I find I learn more from them than from my strengths. (“Could that be one of their uses?! Hmm.”) We’re so accustomed to others being down on themselves that you may hear this as more of the same. No. I gain strength and insight from such cool, steady gaze. Don’t misunderstand. I’m as good at denial, deflection and depression as the next fellow. A 3-D life! A modern Western triad!

But what I want to get better at are the finely-tuned opportunities my weaknesses constantly point me toward. Lack something, and I sensitize myself to it everywhere around me. My lack magically energizes the thing to keep knocking at the door of my life. But rather than turning to my ability to respond, my responsibility, I do everything to reject the thing I said I wanted. But no worries, mate: it doesn’t actually vanish. It will keep knocking until I let it in. “Ask (I keep asking all the time) and it will be given to you; seek (we never really give up seeking, just take breaks for a day or a decade) and you will find; knock (oh, how it will knock back, friend!) and the door will be opened to you.”*

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Bala Lake in Wales, where Gwion Bach begins his adventure of transformation

More and more it seems that rather than missed opportunities, there are only ones I keep rejecting. If I really do “miss” one, it will re-group and when necessary take another form in order to reappear down the road and insert itself into my life. Come around the next turn and — ah! There it is, possibly in a guise more difficult to ignore, less easy to escape at all.

My fate pursues me like yours does you, like Ceridwen pursues Gwion through all his transformations. I might even evade my fate for a life or two, come back in another body, gender, set of circumstances, with a “clean slate” so to speak. Except not really. My one life is with me, my responsibility sharpens, clarifies, till I can live it fully, because there’s nothing else I can do, even if I wanted to.

That’s one corner of my “Druid card” — at least, living where I’ve lived, as I understand it so far. What’s yours?

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When I respond, link, connect, then I “beltane.” Let’s make it verb … Not to cheapen it, market it, no. To sanctify it. And you, my kin, my readers, when you last beltaned, what did you discover?

“Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge; to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it. In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them, surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us. Great things are born in us at such moments of union; this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds, without it we feel dry and disconnected. If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour, I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but its foundation, I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful – the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love.” — Maria Ede-Weaving

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IMAGES: Ceridwen Centre logoBala Lake.

*Matthew 7:7 — an excellent Druidic number!

Updated 9 May 2016

Thirty Days of Druidry 23: “Pray Like a Fire”   1 comment

Beltane’s nearly upon us, and Alison Lilly’s most recent blogpost “Holy Adoration: Fire as Prayer” catches the energy behind this fire festival. For it is after all the day of the Fires of the Celtic solar god Bel, as even a traditional source like the BBC calmly informs us on their website. Some seasons you’ve just had enough of the world, and most of all yourself as a tame fire, to paraphrase Alison. Do check out her blog. She evokes and invokes Beltane in a personal and poetic meditation.

You too may long to spark, flare, burn and roar. Heap the kindling of my life and ignite, you whisper — or shout. Beltane is here for you.

Part of the Bardic training of Druid groups like OBOD and others, and much of the initial work in the outer grades of the magical Order of the Golden Dawn focuses on exploring and balancing the elemental energies flowing in and around us. We don’t — normally — want to burn up or out. But a healthy conflagration may burn off the wintry torpor that clings to our mood and outlook. Beltane is tonic, purgative, exhiliration, ignition.

The symbolism of the four physical elements of earth, water, air and fire persists in the cultural and magical imagination of the West because they express important truths about human life. They serve as a powerful shorthand for a whole cluster of ideas, images, experiences and memories, and their presence in ritual and story, song and myth will endure as long as we inhabit the same worlds where they manifest.

Their existence as physical entities endows them with the further potential to serve as sacraments. As always, though we keep forgetting, reverence and engagement are our choice, an opportunity like any other that we may welcome or reject. Here, too, fire can kindle us to possibility and change.

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Fire Temple, Chennai, India

Further afield from Celtic-flavored European Druidry, fire is also central to the religious practice of Zoroastrians, the people popularly known as Parsis. Their Fire Temples offer just one more illustration of why reducing fire to an explanation like “rapid oxidation in an oxygen-rich environment like earth’s atmosphere” says nothing about our actual experience of fire, its light and warmth and flickering presence, and its long association in human consciousness with spiritual reality, energy and life. Anyone who’s experienced a good bonfire knows this to some degree. It’s our human art to extend these experiences and celebrate their effect as spiritual opportunities for transformation and joy.

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Zoroastrian Sadeh Festival

Fire calls to ancestral human memory. Cultural practices and beliefs that center on it only endow it with additional significance and power. Druids may say as part of ritual “Let us pray with a good fire,” an invocation traceable to the worship of the Hindu Agni and a hymn in the Rig Veda (Bk. 1, 26). And Wendy Doniger in her translation* notes that “When Agni becomes the priest, his robes are both the flames and prayers.” Thousands of years of human experience with fire has not dulled its power.

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Whether you’re part of an OBOD Beltane gathering that follows the traditional ritual, or some other group and ceremony, or you’re a solitary celebrating alone in your own way, may you too share that shiver of anticipation and delight as the day and the rite opens for you at the birth of summer. May you and the Sun both grow in strength. “By the power of star and stone, by the power of the land within and without, by all that is fair and free, we welcome you to this rite of Beltane …”

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IMAGES: Fire Temple in Chennai, India; Sadeh Festival;

*Doniger, Wendy. The Rig Veda: An Anthology. One Hundred Eight Hymns, Selected, Translated and Annotated. Penguin Books, 1981, pg. 100.

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 22: “Seeking Beyond the Skyline”   2 comments

In her comment on # 16 in this series, Lorna Smithers writes:

Yes, I’d agree the ‘greater wisdom’ does come from walking through uncharted wildernesses. Often the signposts left by other folk help but it’s rare to find them in the books on how to [do] Druidry/Paganism or of self-professed gurus but more often from poets, philosophers, bloggers, often those who don’t know too much about Druid/Pagan religion but do know about the journey, getting lost, plumbing the deep … Anybody teaching basic writing will share the rule ‘show not tell’. And it’s always showings rather than tellings that have guided me.

I’ll venture some tellings here, if only because I’m re-reading Dion Fortune’s The Training and Work of an Initiate*, and Fortune addresses this topic. (Don’t we all read things to confirm what we already suspect? The awen stalks and finds us in spite of our circumstances and resistances.) Like many of us, Lorna’s learned her path largely by walking it herself, not always an easy or comfortable journey. For her as Bard and awenydd, showings are a kind of native territory.

Fortune tackles the “default setting” of human consciousness (allow for 1930s pronouns and gender reference):

The great majority of our fellow-men are willing to take the world as they find it, and so long as it does not treat them too hardly, they are content.

Given current world events and the growing sense of dis-ease issuing from so many directions, you’d not be wrong if you conclude that fewer people today remain content to “take the world as they find it.”

Fortune continues:

Others, however, question what lies beyond the world as they see it, and until they learnt the answer to this question, suffer from the divine discontent which has for ever urged men to “seek beyond the skyline, where the strange roads go down.”

This is our given: the itch, the pain, the hunger that won’t go away merely because parents, partners, politicians or our own painful (un)common sense tells us to ignore the raw nerve of our discontent. “Times like these” can indeed serve as a fine prod to awakening that discontent in  more of us. All this we know — too well.

Most men are also inclined to take for granted the inevitableness of suffering, and unless they are brought into personal contact with some flagrant case, or are themselves victims, they offer no protest.

We also know, or suspect, that we’ve been able to afford such complacency thus far because for so many, comparative physical prosperity, ease and stability in the West have sheltered us from many the worst forms of suffering commonplace elsewhere in the world. (As compensation, we may corner the market on psychic suffering and all the secondary physical fallout it can generate.)

But even in the West  this has never been true for all (our temporary exemption has expired), and it’s no longer true for increasing numbers of people. Glib proverbs like “The world is a school where the sleeping are woken up,” however true they might be, offer little comfort or guidance at such times. “Everything happens for a reason” doesn’t offer squat beyond pop psychology. (I want strategies, techniques, tools to use!) Cracks in the dike are starting to show everywhere — cracks that government spending on physical infrastructure, however necessary, will not alleviate.

But Fortune goes on to describe the experience of those who’ve launched themselves on a spiritual quest. You make a start and immediately you’re no longer in “lands we know.” Your footing yields, the path twists and dips and disappears most disconcertingly. Friends are usually no help. One or two may be on their own quests, but it’s rare that you can travel together — or that a companion can offer much assistance if you do.

At times, just to add to your trouble, you feel the golden chance slipping past, or sense the outlines of an open door that’s still invisible in front of you. Somehow you know, maddeningly, that it stands there waiting for you nevertheless. That it might be slowly closing. That now’s the time to go through — if only you could. But such convictions help not at all. Instead, with each subtle opportunity here — passing — gone — they increase the torment.

Fortune gets her finger on the pulse:

It is true that, although glorious glimpses are caught by the intuition unaided by the intellect, much more is lost from sheer inability on the part of the student to grasp the significance of his opportunity. Infinite things can be perceived by the spiritual intuition, but unless the intellect be fitted to cooperate, these things can seldom be rendered of practical avail for the solution of world-problems. The mystic has his moments of ecstatic emotion during which he reaches great heights, but he is seldom able to bring back water from the wells of life for those he has left behind. It is only when each vehicle of consciousness in man is in perfect correlation that the current of inspiration can flow through him and be translated into manifestation in the physical world in which we are living today; and while a man can learn great things and store them in his subconscious mind, it is only during the life in which he has learnt to correlate his vehicles so that he can bring the spiritual through into manifestation, that he can be of service to his fellow men (Fortune, p. 20).

There’s plenty here to unwrap. I read “only when each vehicle of consciousness is in perfect correlation” and I think, “Well, screw it! That’s never happening! Diagnose the problem but then calmly tell me why the solution will always be out of reach! ‘Perfect correlation’?! Are you f***ing kidding me?!”

But we can cut ourselves some slack. As Lorna notes above, we already receive an immense outpouring of “water from the wells of life” from poets and singers, philosophers and bards who do know about the journey and about getting lost. Many already “serve their fellow men” in ways that may be deeply imperfect but still arrive and feed that hunger, ways just as deeply welcome and needed. Lacking any perfect channel, I’ll take all the blessedly imperfect ones around me as my models. Neither I nor anyone else needs to be “perfect” to make a start, or achieve things of value. False prerequisite number 1!

Our goal is flow, however small the trickle at the outset, so that “the current of inspiration can flow through all of us and be translated into manifestation in the physical world in which we are living today.” And we’re already flowing. Without a flow of life energy through us, we wouldn’t even be here. We’re already flowing. Blood in our veins, breath in our lungs, food and sunlight transforming each day into physical life in us. The challenge isn’t to start, but to open the channels just a little wider as we live each day. As so many sources have urged us, a regular practice — ritual, spiritual exercise, chant, prayer, artistic practice, gardening, cooking — acts done consciously and joyously — is one proven method. Miss a day or two here and there? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Keep at it. My own strategy, as I mentioned in a recent post: fail again and again, fail well, fail confidently, until I no longer notice failure, until I don’t fail any more.

Another method is service: “… it is only during the life in which he has learnt to correlate his vehicles so that he can bring the spiritual through into manifestation, that he can be of service to his fellow men.” Fortune assumes multiples lives here, a process of spiritual evolution as we learn through life after life how to “correlate” or harmonize our modes of awareness and action.

Fortune urges us to service out of compassion:

I would urge them, if they need any spur to this effort, to remember how much it would have meant to them, when they themselves stood upon that self-same step, had the help which it will be in their power to give been available. No effort after development is wasted, even if he who strives seems to lose sight of his goal and turn aside. It is the passage of many feet that widens the path for the multitude; we, in our day, will never have to face such trials as did those initiates who broke the way for us (Fortune, pp. 20-21).

We are always initiates, always beginning a new arm of the spirals of our journeys, even as old cycles come to fruition and close. Remembering may not always come to aid us. To let words from Lorna’s site close this post, here’s wonderfully sage advice, a quotation from poet Charlotte Hussey: “Imagine if you can’t remember.” Dreamers, all of us, imagine next.

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*Fortune, Dion. The Training and Work of an Initiate.  York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 2000. [Originally published 1930, Rider and Co.]

Thirty Days of Druidry 21: Beltane 2016   Leave a comment

[Here are some previous posts on Beltane: a 4-part series, Touching the Sacred; and the Fires of May.]

Once again we’re about a week out from the holiday, close enough it tugs pleasantly at awareness. Here in Vermont, in the northeast U.S. where I live, the last few days in the 70s F/20s C confirm that winter’s gone, though nights below freezing are still a possibility. I remind myself from now till June that it snowed on my May birthday the year I was born. Weather, life: stick around long enough and you find anything’s possible.

beltaneOutward from the merely personal to a group I practiced with the longest: students at the boarding school where I worked for 16 years. Our last and best effort was a truly elaborate Beltane. We devoted a lot of time to preparation, reserved a spot on the school’s Great Lawn (associated with the annual graduation picnic for the whole school community and parents), put up attractive color posters (see the image to the right), and even inspired our student president to spring for the cost of a whole roast pig.

Beyond our small group of eight, just three other people came.

We’d even begun forming a magic study group, devising our own sigil with input from each member, and generally carrying on in magically appropriate ways: sharing and describing our imaginative/astral visions until they took on a life of their own, balancing our elemental energies, ascertaining each member’s strengths and limits for later ritual work, and so on. To those who exclaim “What?! Are you insane?! Working magic with adolescents?! Nutter! Whackjob! Fool!” I reply only that we had multiple safeguards in place.

momTo the left is one version of our sigil, drawn with magic marker on a student’s sketchpad, which I share here — “Guard the Mysteries! Constantly reveal them!” — for the benefit of those curious about the lineage and origins of such things.

Some readers may cluck their tongues knowingly and go on to detect “influences.” To which I say only: That’s fine. But these kids didn’t “know” anything about the Golden Dawn or Euro-alchemy or similar things. Spend time in ritual and you too will find that valid images continually reconstitute themselves in the imagination. If I had the sketches each of them made to include here, the connections pointed to a shared experience out of which they crafted the sigil. The Cross, the Cup, the infinity symbol, an upsilon, the axial symmetry — as far as we were concerned, we were onto an experience and a realm worth exploring. Our truth against the world’s.

As for the sparse attendance at Beltane: each group forms around and operates on its own harmonic. We ate well, sent leftovers home with everyone, and chalked up our rather large budget shortfall to the frequent mismatch between inner and outer worlds. Our next fundraiser only just recouped the outlay; balance restored.

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Beltane, like the other “Great Eight” festivals* of contemporary Druidry and Paganism generally, draws on a swirl of energies as democratic and mongrel and vital as you could wish for. Find a circle to celebrate with, or if you prefer or are gifted with solitary practice, get outdoors, invite the season, contemplate on images and energies alive and at work in your awareness. Bring them into some physical form to ground and manifest them in your world. We all need reminders to help us through those “difficult” days with humor and grace and even, spirits friendly and stars favorable, with gratitude. What better than something that’s come into your world through you?

 

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*The “Great Eight” festivals of the Wheel of the Year

October 31 – November 2: Hallowe’en, Samhain/Samhuinn, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Todos Santos, Day of the Dead, Dia de Muertos.

December 20-22: Yule, Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan.

February 1-2: Imbolc, Oimelc, St. Brigid’s Day, Groundhog Day, Candlemas.

March 20-22: Spring Equinox, Ostara, Alban Eilir.

May 1: May Day, Beltane, Bealtainne, Walpurgis Night.

June 20-22: Summer Solstice, Midsummer, St. John’s Day, Litha, Alban Hefin.

August 1: Lughnasad/Lunasa, Lammas(tide).

September 20-22: Autumn Equinox, Alban Elfed, Mabon.

 

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