Archive for February 2018

OGRELD and that Other F-word   Leave a comment

Fake Druidry and OGRELD and OGRELD Redux are two previous semi-satirical posts taking a look at an imagined “One Genuine Real Live Druidry” (OGRELD). The prompt — and the acronym — come from a comment from J. M. Greer quoted in the first post: “… none of us have any right to claim possession of the One Genuine Real Live Druidry …”

With post titles like that, of course, it’s hard to be surprised when they provoke some predictable responses, from careful readers, and from careless ones, too; from readers assuming I was saying modern Druidry is somehow fake or invalid — or more offensively, that I was somehow saying their particular flavor of Druidry was fake, etc.

After all, if we’re indulging in reaction-mode to contemporary headlines, we know how “fake” gets bandied about as an attack word, almost superseding the “original” F-word. “If in doubt, try both out” — in public (or, worse, on Facebook or Twitter) and see which raises the general temperature sooner.

I submit that if you’re looking for spiritual guidance, a sense of your life’s mission, social media may not be your ideal first pick or best go-to.

What then are we to make of the expression “fake it till you make it”? Are we so provoked by the word “fake” because in fact so many of us feel slightly or very insubstantial, a “thing of nothing”, and we need the sense of outraged ego to weigh us down and keep us from floating away entirely?

Might there possibly be better ways of grounding and centering, of returning my ego to a sane place, where it can serve the whole of me?

We’re in the process of making, and in particular of self-making, and fakery (like bakery) does begin with experimentation. But if I’m polite, I just don’t subject others to my practice unless they ask. (You visit this blog, and you’ve asked.)

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So how do I go about faking it till I make it? What tools lie at hand?

This coming Saturday I facilitate an afternoon discussion, third in a series, this one on the topic “How to Bring More Love into Your Life”. This is an opportunity for service on my other path, and as I’ve noted, my paths intersect constantly. So, Druid self, standing in the intersection, what do you witness?

In the way of such things, I start to hear questions in reply to the implied question of the topic. (Answer the question with a question.) A week or so before such an event, I begin to pick up on clues, and gather impressions. If I’m alert, I get them down, longhand or in a computer note. Or, to put it another way that sounds less woo-hoo, “it just occurred to me that …” And yesterday, I also asked my wife.

Often she doesn’t like to be ambushed by big questions out of the blue, especially if she’s in the middle of a weaving project (which she often is), and her focus in on patterns, and thread-counts and the young weaver she mentors each Friday. But I also find she often gives the best answers then, spontaneously, so I keep asking, at the risk of occasional spousal fallout.

A pause. Then she says, “Before I look at anything, or put my attention on anything else, I try to focus first on the highest I can find”. Do you see why I married her?

The “highest I can find” is a worthy meditation topic. Then a practice, one I can keep enlarging. And I don’t mean all abstract or “light only”. The highest this morning may well be the chickadees and returning songbirds singing outdoors, the steady drip of snowmelt off the eaves, the slant of light that says longer days, yes — and also the nights, with their stars and a waxing moon. Often it takes night to see fire best.

One way to bring more love in, in other words, is to honor and cherish what you have. If those words recall for you as for me the now old-fashioned marriage service, that’s worth pondering. We’re each married to the cosmos, after all. We’re always “in a relationship”. Why let my carelessness diminish it?

What other ways can I open the door to a greater flow of spirit, which is another way of saying the same thing?

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Make room for it. If more is to come in, it will need a place to call its own. “Standing room only” doesn’t appeal much as an invitation. What can I clear away? “Room, fairy: here comes Oberon!” says Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What access do I offer spirit to the heart of who I am? What practices can help me be more grateful and open?

Much of what I do each day, like washing dishes, building the fire, doing laundry, is a ready opportunity. If I “do it till it sings”, I might even find myself singing along with it. “Pure cheese!” screeches my censor, my inner cynic. Well, cynics and censors need love too.

Singing points to another clue. Like all things, we vibrate in harmony with the things around us. Vibrate with love, and we invite love in, we make room for it.  (If in doubt, I whisper to my inner cynic, try it out.) That may mean playing music rather than indulgence in a sad mood. Though sadness can be instructive too, if I don’t overdo it. With so much light and singing in the world, I want to let more in.

On an Old English Facebook group I co-admin, I posted a brief entry earlier today: On ðǣm forman dæġe Hrēðmōnaþes sēoð wē fulne mōnan. “On the first day of Hrethmonth, we (will) see a full moon”. (Hrethmonth is the month of the goddess Hrethe about whom not much is known. If you’re looking for a meditation topic, there’s a new one. Hrethmonth is also “Wild Month”, and the month for Mad March Hares. Practice wildness often. Druidry is, after all, wild wisdom.) The full moon brings the time for the monthly Peace Meditation that OBOD encourages. Lunatic, lover, poet, the gods and the wild world know your name.

Yes, we each practice our One Genuine Real Live Druidry. That is, we each respond to the unique circumstances as we live these lives on earth, making bad and better choices and ignoring or learning from the consequences.

If you seek counsel, friend, do what opens your heart.

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Posted 27 February 2018 by adruidway in Druidry, full moon, spiritual toolkit

Tagged with , ,

Walking Your Walk   Leave a comment

“There’s nothing new under the sun” — traditional proverb.

But under the moon …

In Caitlin Matthews’ Celtic Devotional, the lunar meditation for Imbolc for this day is “Your Spiritual Quest Thus Far”. Rather than trying to assess how well I’m growing (what measures would I use?), or where my weaknesses lie (how often have you benefited from focusing on your shortcomings?), this meditation asks for something different: How’s my quest going?

It’s a great question, and it can be a tough one to answer adequately. If you’ve been on a quest for any length of time, you’ve noticed its quality has changed. As I grow, what I notice and look for and value will grow and shift as well. Maybe you’ve always sought the same thing, being the unswervingly upright, single-minded, and clear-eyed quester that you are, but I’d suspect the whole shebang (a profoundly scientific term) if my path didn’t reveal new vistas and challenges as I travelled along it.

Because I walk two different paths (though my suspicions just keep deepening that they’re really versions of the same journey, if only because they steal images, teachers, symbols, dreams, and everything else from each other) — because I walk two paths, as I’ve mentioned, the question feels particularly useful.

When I’m in doubt, I ask questions in turn. So is there anything I even idly imagine, let alone seriously think, would be more fulfilling and worthwhile? Because daydreams and fantasies are telling. Repressed material surfaces, seemingly random wishes and desires take form, and I can learn surreptitiously from what hasn’t yet stood careful scrutiny. I just have to be careful not to scare it off, timid woodland creature that it often is.

I let a delicious laziness steal up on me and cradle me for a moment, and imagine no need to take up a spiritual quest. I have friends, after all, who live their lives untroubled by the questions and practices and experiences that fill my days. They look at me as the odd man out. Perhaps, to judge by the great masses of my compatriots, they’re right.

Of course, I counter with the observation that the suffering I perceive in the lives of so many of my countrymen, to say nothing of anyone elsewhere in the world, in spite of the supposed luxuries of American life and its vast consumption of resources, is a clear symptom of spiritual hollowness, so it turns out we’re all on quest for something. Since the widespread perception in the West is of decline rather than improvement, an inkling of something rotten in Denmark, and D.C., of a gnawing sensation of something gone or going wrong, I venture to assert that numbing my doubts and unhappinesses with an even bigger gulp of more of the things frantic advertisers want me to buy won’t take away the pain. If there’s ever a Been-There-Done-That moment, then endless and mindless consumption surely qualifies.

So, to answer my own question, is there anything that calls to me, that proposes itself in place of the current spiritual quest I engage in?

Sure: going back to sleep. Blissful, untroubled slumber. Sleep is the theme of much social media — especially dreaming someone else’s dream (nightmare), less complicated than my own, or — sometimes — dreaming nothing at all. Letting myself be anesthetized by a waiting troupe of ready diversions — endless music and video-on-demand, newly-legal weed, endless waves of porn, another no-money-down adventure, the new-and-improved life that American society always dangles just beyond my cash-strapped nose. Even spirituality has been boxed, buffed, polished and marketed to the discerning (clueless) consumer: for a (hefty) price, you too can enjoy enlightenment in a weekend workshop, or a crash course of empowerments, blessings, trainings, practices, etc. God, nirvana, orgasm, all just a phone call and credit card away. Don’t believe in magic? Why would you? We’re already bespelled, magicked, ensorcelled, enchanted in a truly grim fairy tale, and it’s part of the spell to weaken our ability to detect its presence.

Is it any wonder so many people fast from social media, from advertising, from the Noise that strives to drown out our still small voices, those whispers of divine dissatisfaction that bless each of us and make the spiritual quest the best adventure of them all?

If you’re reading this blog, if you’ve initiated any kind of a spiritual quest at all, congratulations. You’ve already scored your first victory against distraction.

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Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Devotional. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds Press, 2004.

Trigger Blessings   Leave a comment

What? Well, we’ve heard a great deal, at least in the U.S., about trigger warnings — flags to alert you to media content that might possibly cause you distress.

(These days I find myself asking what doesn’t cause distress to somebody, somewhere.)

So why not look for trigger blessings instead?

You know — signs, clues, hints, flags that something out there (or in here) might possibly bring you joy, strength, inspiration, the will to carry on.

Do such things even exist?

They do. And often we mediate them to each other. Hello. I am your trigger blessing for today. Grandchild singing tunelessly, pet warm in your lap, neighbor waving on the way to work, kind stranger who lets you into line — many of our blessings come through persons. And we can be a blessing to others.

Not a bad goal, and prayer, for one day a week, to start: let me be a blessing to others. Then, having asked, watching for the moments I can make it happen.

Not for my sake (though serving brings its own rewards) but because it’s so clear others very much need blessing. Just as much, it turns out, as I do.

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Since working with the Enchantments of Brighid, you could say I haven’t had anything remarkable to show for it. Led a workshop discussion on Past Lives, Dreams and Soul Travel. Caught a miserable sinus infection, along with my wife, after a weekend trip to celebrate her dad’s 85th birthday. (The old guy’s in better shape, in some ways, than I am.) Had a few dreams I’ll get to in a moment. Enjoyed the growing light that February brings to the northeast U.S., whatever the weather. Felt a stirring of creativity easily attributable to chance, or cycles of change. Nothing especially unusual here. Move along.

Except …

Enchantment often works best under cover. No one’s contacted Industrial Light and Magic, or WETA, or the local CGI crew, to mock up a trailer for the work of Brighid. The goddess, or our own life patterns if you prefer, can pull it off without the splashy special effects.

Though they’re present, if I look behind the glamours and bad mojo of our deeds, our headlines and our endlessly squawking media to all the other things, better ones, that are happening all the time.

My wife and I are making plans for a family and friends gathering to celebrate our 30th anniversary. An online Old English group I founded just held its first Skype meeting to practice the language, with 8 of us chatting awkwardly, with a good deal of laughter, for 40 minutes. Ideas are percolating, following on the Druid-and-Christian themes I’ve explored here in numerous posts, for a session at the 2nd Mid-Atlantic Gathering this coming May — a breakout discussion group I suggested will talk about the many intersections of the Druid and Christian experience.

Our finances, always interesting, continue to be interesting, but just in new ways. It turns out we won’t starve after all. (Or if we do, I’ll document it here.)

And the dreams …

In the first, from 31 January, I face Thecu, many-armed and -faced, pointing toward the east and to either the 4th or 3rd of her 9 runes of storm. Near her, a patch of intense darkness. My spiritual Guide and Teacher from my other path appears, says it’s always a choice: leave it alone or walk through. Bless the darkness — no reason to fear it. New fears, old fears: the old are a marker; the new, often, no more than distractions, unless I let them teach me something.

The second, from 4 February: I am warning others of an approaching tornado, but no one can hear me.

In the third, which my dream journal records for 9 February, I’m with a group of students from my former boarding school, though in the way of dreams I don’t recognize anyone. We’re talking about diversity, when one student shouts “Be careful!” Then I’m flying over trees, leading with my left toe. I arrive at an abandoned house somehow connected with my parents. I shout, “You never shared your pain with me!” and wake, at ease, reflective.

While going through old documents and photographs, I come on an image of my dad’s grandfather Albert whom I’ve never seen before, age and sepia blending, formal pose and 114 years all combining to distance him and bring him near. Yes, Ancestors, I’m still here, still listening.

Albert Hird

Turns out more than enough is happening to keep any respectable Druid very well occupied.

Trigger blessings to you all.

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Enchantments Re-enchanted   3 comments

All things listen to each other, even if they don’t intend to, because they share one world. As if on cue, New Republic‘s deputy editor Ryu Spaeth devoted a 6 February 2018 article to “An Education Through Earthsea“.

Admiring and condescending by turns, Spaeth opens with a strong claim: “The most beguiling promise of fantasy fiction is that of self-knowledge”. Maybe. Let’s see where Spaeth wants to go with this.

Because such stories typically feature young adults perceiving that promise and striving to claim it, their characters and plotlines can become hackneyed and cliched. Spaeth asserts that “Although rooted in our oldest legends, they hold less appeal to adults in the twenty-first century than Le Guin’s more critically celebrated works” that treat of gender, social structures and mores — human worlds and all their potential to limit as much as to liberate. Quoting Le Guin, Spaeth observes, “Enchantment alters with age, and with the age”. Odd, then, that it’s our oldest legends that have re-surfaced and that continue to appeal to so many.

But does “enchantment alter with age”, in any sense Spaeth would have us understand?

“In our age, movies and television have taken over the enchantment business”, he says. Taken it over? Yes, in many quarters. But often badly — ruling it no better than contemporary political parties and social movements do our human worlds. Enchantment is no “business”. Le Guin also wrote for the ones who walk away from the Omelas* of mass society and its blindnesses,  of its imbalances in our times of ravening consumption and cold indifference to “all our relatives”, as the Dakota Sioux call them, these many Others who share our worlds, furred, finned and feathered.

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nearby February snowfield

Spaeth ultimately condemns the fantasy quest for wisdom as a product of a particular time and place:

It is an approach that may be out of step with the times; to treat life as a mission to discover oneself can read like solipsism, especially when we know that so much of identity is shaped by factors beyond our control, by race, gender, class. Perhaps only a white American in the postwar period could have written the Earthsea books, could speak of an autonomous self within its own narrative, waiting to blaze forth; writers and filmmakers are more conscious now of systemic forces and the undertow of history.

Both a seemingly “woke” critique and also a deeply oblivious and superficial one: neither Le Guin nor her Earthsea wizard-hero Ged, after all, stop at self-knowledge as any kind of endpoint, but continue on an arc that ultimately finds him old, stripped of the glamours and powers of the difficult wizardry he has practiced much of his life, and at length “done with doing” in Tehanu which follows the trilogy. And each of these things, just as Ged’s beginning does, arises from “systemic forces and the undertow of history” present in Earthsea. Different ones, but hardly absent! To take just one instance, Ged is dark-skinned; the foreign Kargs who attack his village, and spur him to his first act of magic, are white. It’s because of “systemic forces and the undertow of history” that we need self-knowledge and wisdom, along with the strength to quest for them — in spite of the distractions and barriers every age has provided.

The same book Tehanu ends with mortal rescue by a dragon (and not some contrived deus-ex-machina salvation, but one motivated by and in response to human love for a child), followed by an even larger revelation of magic at the very heart of Earthsea which I will not spoil here, and lastly with a woman’s dream of planting a garden — not in some newly-recovered Eden, but a late planting, “right away if they wanted any vegetables of their own this summer” (Tehanu, Bantam 1991 edition, pg. 252). The oldest of magics, dragon and green world, rooted squarely in the midst of human life.

Any worthwhile enchantment survives Spaeth’s dismissal wholly unscathed.

The old stories flourish because they have something to say to us we’re not getting from Washington and Hollywood and Industrial Light and Magic, however temporarily beguiling they may be. Enchantment in the end can never be an “industry” or “business”, whatever glamours its often debased versions toss our way. We earn them, but we can’t purchase them.

And because we each do have our “own narratives”, whatever else we may be, we do have choices, however hard, and at least in part we are our stories, especially if we know and tell them well enough that we do not merely justify all our choices, but grow through them into something more than we were before.

In these days of growing light, along with a typical February snowstorm coming to the Northeastern U.S., the Enchantment of Brighid continues to unfold.

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*A discussion of Le Guin’s genre-defying “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

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