Archive for June 2019

“The Purpose of Druidry”   Leave a comment

“isn’t to make Druids”, a fellow Druid remarked to me over the Solstice weekend at our Vermont Gathering.

Huh. I thought. Right! As soon as you say it …

iris

strayed iris along our driveway

Druidry’s a practice to re-connect with Spirit. What aspect of Spirit you reconnect with, how you reconnect, why, and what you call yourself — these matters circle round the rim of the practice, however helpful or significant they may be. They’re not the hub, like the practice of connection is. (A wheel, of course, is more than its hub.)

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devil’s paintbrush (Hieracium aurantiacum; Pilosella aurantiaca) aka orange hawkweed — one of my favorite “unplanted flowers”. They set the lawn on fire!

The metaphors that bubble up when we try to talk about a practice matter, too. Circle, spiral, wheel. The patterns of the oldest games we play as children, the deepest truths of existence we perceive.

When you’re reconnecting, the tree-wisdom that is one probable etymology of the word Druid is at work in your life.

How does it manifest?

For me, it takes increasingly specific forms that become my practice by themselves. I know something larger than me and my hopes, fears and dreams. I find I want to honor it, and strive to live in harmony with it. The more I give it my love and attention, the more numerous my encounters. I slowly discover how interactions and exchanges with it are mutually beneficial. I work to bring more of my life into a dance with its rhythms.

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Part of my particular how of connecting and manifesting lies in where I find myself, as does yours, if you’re seeking to connect.

I bless the previous owner, as you know from previous posts, for the Rowan in our front yard, and also for the row of three old blueberry bushes in the back. We’re letting blackberries grow up near them. Both like the acidic soil we try to provide with pine needle mulch, and after the spate of bitter weather this past January, we’re seeing some die-back among them and the rhododendrons out front. As if to compensate, this has been a particularly wet year, and a warm one, once it got going.

Blessings on Europe, and a request to Spirit to temper the heat burning there. Balance, balance.

blueberries

Everything wants to make a gift of itself to you, came the insight one morning some years ago.

Sh*t! I remember thinking. Really?!

But the message wasn’t done yet. Reject it and the gift often comes harder, more insistent and difficult, in less easy forms.

All right, I think. Well, no. A little right. This will take some getting used to.

Everything?!

Difficult gifts … I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

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Yesterday was too rainy, so it wasn’t until this morning I finally thought to get a shot of the two pine trunks I rolled from where our friend and neighbor Chris helped to cut them into manageable lengths with his chainsaw in May.

For a month they lay there, too heavy to move.

So thank-yous to all of you who contributed Solstice energy to our recent Vermont Weekend and helped me raise these “Alban Gates”!!

After meditating and listening for a bit about where I should set them, I raised them as gateposts for my backyard grove over the weekend. They now sit on stone footers, with wedges to steady them. I’ll be adding some side supports and possibly a lintel post later.

Below is a pic of them, looking west towards our house. The slightly larger left trunk is about my height, to give a sense of scale. Thank Spirit they’re pine. They won’t last as long, but I wouldn’t have been able to lift and set them in place if they were as heavy as oak, or the cherry of our recent Solstice bonfire.

I’m still listening about when to dedicate them. Lunasa, or the next full moon, maybe.

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Solstice energy to raise and open the “Alban Gates”! Facing west toward house.

 

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Same pillars, facing east — with the mystery of light on leaves

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“Wood-month” is upon us. Or at least on many Vermonters. Everywhere, a store of winter fuel dropped off on roadsides, yards, driveways, ready for the work of stacking. Sweat equity for stacking makes up the significant difference between cost per cord and cost per gallon of fuel oil. As long as I can, I’ll sweat instead. I’m still more cheap than lazy at this point. Of course, I can virtuously claim to be a little “greener” as well.

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We manifest here by applying effort. It’s one of our special abilities. Spirit (and other beings without physical bodies) need incarnate beings to achieve such things, and humans are especially good at this, at building and shaping and moving stuff around. Part of why we’re here is to learn to do it more wisely, at need and not merely at whim.

Solwom wesutai syet. For the good of the whole …

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Vermont Summer Solstice ’19   3 comments

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Cherry deadfall bonfire wood stacked and drying — photo courtesy BW

The Southern Vermont Summer Solstice plans finally all came together this weekend, with about 20 people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont groves and seed groups gathering to celebrate the Solstice and camp on the land of our host BW.

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Potluck, Friday evening 21 June 2019. Photo courtesy FH.

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“Friday evening ease”, 21 June 2019, BW’s house.

After dinner Friday, we drove to Putney Mountain to see the sunset of the longest day and watch the stars come out. A marvelous breeze kept the bugs off.

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Solstice sunset Friday 21 June 2019 on Putney Mountain. Photo courtesy FH.

The next day we drove and hiked to the Putney Stone Chambers, which I also wrote about here last September.

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Saturday afternoon 22 June 2019 hike to the Putney Stone Chambers

The walk to the most impressive of the chambers follows a Class 4 road.

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mossy stone on hike

Recent rains have kept the mosses and ferns green.

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Investigating a smaller stone chamber. Photo courtesy FH

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“Rebirth from the earth”

We nicknamed the largest chamber the kiva, after a similar design in the American southwest.

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Gathered at the “kiva” entrance

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Entrance to the “kiva” — BW is standing showing depth of chamber. Photo courtesy FH

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“Into the kiva — 1”

SF looking up from inside kiva -- BB

SF in kiva — photo courtesy BB.

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Spiderweb over kiva vent hole — view from inside — photo courtesy GN

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“Druid at ease” — MH in a tree near the kiva. Saturday 22 June 2019

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Mugging for the selfie — BB (left) and me (right)

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“Ignition” — bonfire Saturday evening 22 June 2019 after ritual. AB is blowing the sparks to flame.

after ritual -- CG

Shortly after ritual, as we watch the bonfire light. We’re still wearing red headbands from the rite. Photo courtesy CG.

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Young fire. Saturday 22 June 2019

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Young fire, Saturday 22 June 2019. Figure within flames?

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Bonfire in full burn Saturday 22 June 2019. Photo courtesy CG

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Moon at sunrise this morning, Sunday 23 June 2019. Photo courtesy BW.

We closed the weekend this Sunday morning with offerings of cedar boughs and whiskey around a small fire, as we gave thanks for the weekend and the community we share.

cedar and whiskey -- BB

Basket of cedar and whiskey bottle. Sunday morning 23 June 2019. Photo courtesy BB.

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Posted 23 June 2019 by adruidway in Druidry, solstice, spiritual practice

Tagged with , ,

Happy Longest Day (Night)!   Leave a comment

Happy Solstices! — Summer in the Northern, Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

Here is “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo, which we’ll be sharing tonight at the opening potluck supper of our Solstice weekend gathering here in Southern Vermont.

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River.  Circles in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

— Joy Harjo

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“You’re Doing It Right”   2 comments

One breath follows another. You’re doing it right. Keep going!

The air kisses you as soon as you step outdoors. No judgment!

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Sun, stars, clouds, moon, rain, snow — they each greet you in their seasons. They’re with you, doing what they are, just like you do.

Fur companions in your life, their moist noses and soft, warm coats, a blessing. What I do is me*, they remind us. You do you. No one else can.

Trees do it every day, breathing out what we breathe in, breathing in what we breathe out. It’s a prayer-song — you may have already heard versions of it. If not, make one up right now. You can hum it to yourself around the trees, setting a tune, letting them know you know, telling them they’re doing it right. They know, but it’s good when we do, too, and we say so.

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“No one knows what will rise, when the pond is working” — Linda Allardt

Solstice, greatest of all the Feasts of Fire, beloved of the Faerie Folk

I don’t know about you, but I hear that and I’m there. It’s a line from OBOD ritual, and we’ll be saying it this weekend at our Alban Hefin/solstice celebration.

I whisper it now to myself, this word-charm, along with that earlier line about breathing, and I listen to the rhythm, the music, as I speak the syllables:

Greatest of all the Feasts of Fire, beloved of the Faerie Folk …
We breathe in what you breathe out, we breathe out what you breathe in …

And I imagine singing this as a round at our ritual.

The exchange between realms sustains both.

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*See my recent post, with Hopkins’ poem.

Seven Paths in Freedom: A Prayer-Rant   Leave a comment

Druidry, writes Philip Carr-Gomm in his foreword to Nuinn’s (Ross NicholsBook of Druidry,

is a way of working with the natural world, and is not a dogma or religion … Druidry honours, above all, the freedom of the individual to follow their own path through life, offering only guides and suggestions, schemes of understanding, methods of celebration and mythical ideas — which can be used or not as the practitioner sees fit (pg. 14).

You could just stop there, and run with that, because this post eventually descends into a rant. Or irascible prayer. OK, you were warned.

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clover overtaking weeds — no mowing needed! (but woodchucks love it)

<begin rant>

The word “honours” matters in the quote above. Not “grants” or “permits” freedom. Druidry recognizes something that’s already there. Druidry says Pay attention, so you can recognize these things, too.

Freedom, guides, suggestions, schemes, methods, celebrations, myths. These are the “seven paths in freedom” I want to look at in this post. Don’t worry, it’s not really a numbered list. A different Song is playing. The Song matters more than any list.

Freedom, that much abused and misunderstood word, is an actual thing we can experience and live from, not merely a “concept” or an “idea”, though it’s these things, too. It’s not only “in my head”. Freedom, like any song, comes first, then we have thoughts about it. It’s a gift, just like our lives. A melody at the heart of things. And like our lives, we can end our own freedom in so many ways. Turn off the music. (At least temporarily, though the Spiral remains, all the way down into our DNA.) If you need to be reminded how, just read the headlines. It’s practically multiple-choice at this point. Fifty ways to leave your lover, sings Paul Simon. Shedding your skin, walking on the other side, is a really good option at this point. We do it every night in dream. How about while awake?

A free person gives freedom to those nearby. Freedom spreads, like air, fragrance, sound, waves. We all know others who take from us when we’re around them, just like we know people who give, who make space, and work not to impose their limitations on us. Sometimes we read of the “torch of freedom” — and though cynicism is a popular defensive shield these days, that’s a live metaphor for the sense of kindling and expansion we feel in the presence of a free person. May we meet — and be — such people!

Don’t want to, or can’t, join a Druid Order? You’re a Druid from the day you accept your freedom, and act from it. An Order’s just a form, a guide, a suggestion, to try or not.

If we act from freedom, we discover everything is a guide, a suggestion. The old challenge, Everything is permitted, provided you can accept responsibility for what you do, is a rich seed for meditation. How far can I go toward testing it?! Not Is it true? but How is it true? When is it true? In what ways is it true? These tests, and their results, work much more creatively and productively, at least for me, than a simple “yes/no” Is it true? Because I’ve found pretty much everything is both not true, and true, depending. So that question’s off the list, until I can come back to it on a higher spiral, when it may turn out useful once again, after I manage to learn a few more things. Consciousness makes all the difference: it’s the “depending”.

Druidry offers some things to try out. (Now I’m imagining that as my quick seven-word answer to anybody who asks “So what is Druidry?”!)

Ground a practice in the things of my world: air, water, fire, earth. Not just ritual, though that too. Expand my rituals. Thinking, this morning, while I wash two-days-dried dirty dishes in warm water: air/thought, water (obvious!), fire/heat of the water, of my blood, of the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window; earth of my bones and flesh, of the food scraps on the plates and pots and silverware, of the sink and walls and world all around.

Brother Lawrence wrote a wonderful classic, Practicing the Presence of God. You almost don’t need to read it, the title says so much. If you do read through, be patient with it and yourself — you’ll need to do some digging to excavate the gold, given the change of cultural understandings.

It’s a practice, not a one-time deal. You get better.

Listen to other beings. The white ants that come every summer to our kitchen have more to teach me than the last book I read, whatever it was. Practice asking good questions. I’ve spent at least four decades on that one, and no sign of stopping yet. You know — magic in, magic out. Or the opposite.

“My God is bigger”, said a Christian to an author friend of mine. “Maybe that’s because your need is bigger”, said the friend.

An infinite abyss separates any two moments in time, in eternity, says one of the Wise. I practice resting there, feeling the lightness of spirit, of creative fire, of the awen as it flows. I set my hand on a blank journal page, a computer screen blog post, and enter that abyss. If like me you flash on vertigo for a moment, know too how weightless is fire, always rising up, climbing the spirals we all walk. If a child falls in a dream, the Senoi people of Malaysia encourage the child to fall, and not wake up to escape the dream. “They taught the children to fall, knowing they wouldn’t be hurt, and to climb, to travel, or fly to unknown places, to unknown cultures, to learn new things. If they woke up instead, they would be advised not to escape from such dreams the next time they occurred”, write Stewart and Garfield in their 1972 book Creative Dreaming. Easier on everybody than the wrenching costs of the rising suicide rates in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Schemes of understanding, patterns, webs, networks, interconnections, links, circuits. Our “marvels of modern technology” work (when they work) by building with earth — metal, glass, rare earth elements. Technology grounds these sometimes abstract, intellectual facets of elemental Air and manifests them, re-alizes them, makes them what Latin calls res — things. Ground and center, counsels beginning practice, again and again and again. I always need to earth what’s goin’ down.

Heirs though we are of two thousand years of Christianized thinking, somehow we’re still more Gnostic than Christian, eager to flee this world, constantly forgetting the god at the heart of Christianity who incarnated, became flesh, manifested, took on a body, got as earthy as anybody can, and died that way too. Eucharist, literally thanksgiving — this is my body, this is my blood. The Things of Earth are holy, divine.

Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven. Stranger, thou art the guest of God(s).

And yes, William Carlos Williams, you turn out to be right on both counts: “It’s difficult to get the news from poems, but men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there”. You write about a fracking flower [short / long] and stake us through the heart. Bards, tell us how it is, how it can be. Now take out the comma. Bards tell us how it is, how it can be. I’m still practicing as I listen harder.

Or another take, if you like or need it: “Earth’s crammed with heaven” , says Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “And every common bush afire with God;/But only he who sees, takes off his shoes./The rest sit around and pluck blackberries,/And daub their natural faces unaware …” Another practice, taking off my shoes, and walking through the grass.

And that’s fine, too, says Druidry. The Spiral always waits. No one’s reached the end yet … There are always rest-points. We need ’em.

Methods, celebrations, myths. Five, six and seven, if you’re counting. J. M. Greer says one key is “embracing an experiential approach to religious questions, one that abandons rigid belief systems in favor of inner development and individual contact with the realms of nature and spirit”.

Everything’s political? Nope — everything’s spiritual. Or mythical, if you prefer. Politics wants the power and energy, but without bothering about the spirit that powers them. (Zeus tried all that out long ago, and look where it got him!) Things of this world? Sure! But just know where they come from. Get the order right. That’s why we keep screwing ourselves over with men (and it’s still mostly men) of power. Give the women a chance to mess things up, too!

They can’t give us what we really want. But we keep handing politicians our freedom anyway, as if they knew better what to do with it than we do. Reclaiming, Starhawk calls her Witchcraft tradition. Get it back! Don’t give it away again!

<end rant>

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Fallen pine, cut into lengths: edging for more raised beds? Gateposts for my backyard grove?

Solstices.

Just as at the Winter Solstice we celebrate the shortest day and longest night, knowing that light will grow again, so at the Summer Solstice we celebrate the longest day and shortest night, knowing that daylight will now shorten. Here is a teaching of paradox: each peak, dark or light, contains the seeds of its own change. And as Taoist tradition teaches, “When Yang peaks, it shifts to Yin; when Yin peaks, it shifts to Yang.” — adapted from OBOD publications.

I begin again. A couple of deep breaths, to center myself. Then the awen, or another sacred word. Open the inner doorways.

Get out in the sun, advises the OBOD ritual booklet for Summer Solstice. Sit in a shadow. I love these two apparent contradictories, side by side! So perfect! Harvest your garlic. Sunburned, shaded, garlicked, I proceed.

Having neglected to grow either St. John’s Wort or Vervain for our Solstice rite next weekend, I’m on the lookout for them along the road, in fields nearby, or at a farmers’ market. We’re naming the local landscape and its creatures in our Solstice ritual script, listening between the words for their other names, ones they may not tell everyone. Indian Place Names of New England, in a hodgepodge of less-than-complete formatting for online viewing, gives one Native American name for our local Vermont region: Kawassentekwa “barren spot along the (Connecticut) River”! One more way to laugh, to stay humble, to see and work for possibility where, outwardly, things look bare.

Apparent world, crazy uncle at the door, we hug you and invite you in to join us at the Festival table. Meet the others here!

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Flaming Toward Solstice   Leave a comment

The heat is on — at least for a few days here in Southern VT, where temps yesterday and today reached 80 F / 27 C.

Do you feel it, that flaming toward summer solstice? If you’ve spent time outdoors, even at sunrise or sunset, you can sense the shift. The birds feel it, launching their first songs when the sun still lacks half an hour to cresting the horizon. Trees know it, their leaves finally fully unfurled and deeply green.

We’re two weeks out from the longest day — about the time I frequently sense a shift, turn my thoughts toward the next festival, and “listen harder”.

Just about year ago I posted 19 Ways to Celebrate Summer Solstice, and looking at it again, I see how many of the 19 Ways are for solitaries. Part of the appeal of Druidry is how any one of us can begin it, and deepen it, right where we are. We don’t need to find or start a group, though groups can provide fellowship and community, a hearth to cherish, a portable temple to support our practice, and also those chance conversations that can transform a ritual afternoon or evening, spark a friendship, mark a turning point, or open up a new direction for us to take. Yet most of the Ways could also fit group practice as well.

But I also want to yellow my nose with dandelion pollen as I sniff the flowers, stretch out full length in the grass, run my fingers over the bark as I listen to a favorite tree, anticipate the berries that will follow the delicate white flowers now on the berry vines, mark the slow dissolution of a fallen branch as the earth takes it back, ponder an anthill, study the mud-dauber wasp as it enlarges its nest. So many lives neighboring mine, why would I want to miss them? I have an appointment with the wild I will not miss.

The lore of the solstices is wisdom. Just as it reaches the heyday of its strength, the sun’s light yields, and the days once again start to shorten. And in the southern hemisphere, dark now rules over half of each day, but come winter solstice and the light will slowly begin to grow again.

From the traditions of OBOD, the Order I belong to, emerge older accounts of a three-part observance, a vigil till midnight (and for those willing, an all-night watch, interspersing periods of meditation with music, storytelling, etc.), a dawn ceremony to welcome the shortest day on Solstice itself, and a final noon rite several hours after that. Our local Vermont Druid group is hosting a full Solstice weekend, with a Friday evening mountain-top potluck, a sundown ritual Saturday evening, followed by night drumming, discussion and vigil, and a breakfast the next morning.

Harvesting and hauling firewood for the ritual a week ago, from the conservancy forest land where our “host for the Solstice” lives, we came on a large half-standing cherry, whose wood we cut and stacked, to await the bonfire.

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Cherry bonfire wood stacked. Photo courtesy Bruce W.

We can read rituals and myths, imagine them enacted, choose a portion which we will enact and dramatize, or maybe leave in half-symbolic form. The Oak King reaches his greatest power at Summer Solstice, and we crown him with a chaplet made of his own leaves. Yet it is the Holly King who rises, going forward, as the Oak weakens. We pass the oak-leaf crown to each other, and perhaps some of us hold in our thoughts the ancient proverb: nomine mutato, de te fabula narratur. Change the names, and it’s a story about you. A little shiver in the heat.

May your Solstice burn brightly!

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“Attention is the Beginning of Devotion”   1 comment

[I first drafted this short post in early May, and I’m returning to it now, leaving its seasonal references untouched.]

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part of our two rhododendrons that survived the winter, now blooming in June

Penguin/Random House provides this excerpt from the late Mary Oliver‘s 2016 book, a collection of essays called Upstream.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion”, she writes, at the end of a section.

Druidry, like other true practices, is devotion, a measure of life away from distraction and toward attention. What do I mean by “measure”? A choice, a predilection, a heeding of instinct, or as Robert Frost puts it, a “stay against confusion”. After all, it’s we who do the measuring. (Or else we yield that privilege to others less worthy, less qualified to know what’s best for us. Until we do the difficult work of reclaiming.)

Truth, I find, sorts itself out marvelously well, once we start paying attention. Love itself is a kind of attention, a focus on what matters to us. I look into my partner of 31 years and discover a being new, mysterious — she’s becoming more of who she is. Both of us are graying and wrinkling, our kinship with trees ever more visible in the likenesses between bark and skin.

Attend, and we encounter. We meet other beings, landscapes, presences, the place we’re standing, feet pressed against the earth, the air we breathe, our own bodies, breathing and pumping blood, sweating under the early summer sun, or shivering slightly in this May air that only days ago frosted the grass and blackened the first brave flowers. Just beyond our skin, the cosmos. Looking only at the proportions of existence that are me and not me, you’d think attention might be in fact a wholly reasonable thing, though much modern life tells us no. So it is that the “apparent world” named in Druid ritual is what we’ve created — a sometimes-useful bridge that may not accommodate all the cars we wish to drive across it.  At need, I remind myself, let that world fade away. Don’t worry — it’ll be there when I return.

There and back again, writes Tolkien. True voyage is return, writes U. K. LeGuin.

May you go there, and return — often.

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