Archive for the ‘ritual’ Category

Seven Seeds of an Ancestor Practice   2 comments

With even a little searching, you can of course find books and other resources for various ancestor practices.

Chances are good you’ve already begun one. Like so many things, the seeds — and often, the seedlings — already have taken root in your life.

With a family photo, an heirloom, a couple of stories, human memory, and experience of being alive, you’ve placed your hands on your own thread in the Weave, on a branch of the Great Tree, that surpasses any book.

Say you have an interest in genealogy. Or a relative frequently sends out clippings, photos, tidbits of biography about the family tree.

Maybe you’ve inherited old photos and letters, and they’ve sat on a shelf or at the back of a closet in a box or boxes because it’s hard to know what to do with the stuff. You can’t bring yourself to throw it out, but right now it’s just there, taking up space, one more tug whenever you’re looking for something else and there it is: history, image, memory, bonds of time and experience and emotion.

Or perhaps you have a difficult family history. You’re estranged from several living relatives, while deceased members left the scene with issues unresolved, and the family you have now aren’t blood relatives at all, but a family of choice you’ve managed in spite of things to assemble and cherish. Roommates, friends, mentors, colleagues, partners — people you’ve gathered and welcomed into your life at various points, who love and support you in turn.

With luck and grace and a strong constitution you may have one blood relative or spiritual ancestor you’ve started with. That person’s picture on an altar, or a wall, or stored on phone or laptop, serves as your launch point. Maybe not daily, or even weekly, but often enough, the images comes up and you have a moment to reflect on them, to remember.

Maybe you’ve signed up with one of the online genealogy sites, and your profile settings see to it you receive alerts whenever an ancestor date arrives. Your great-grandmother’s birthday, for example, or your great-great-grandfather’s wedding. The site obligingly emails you pictures of headstones, or some other electronic addition you might add to a memory altar, or discard or ignore.

All of these things may be enough. You’re busy, you don’t have time for “one more thing”, or that genealogically-obsessed relative more than makes up for whatever inattention you’ve been paying to the Right Noble Family Tree with their incessant gifs and jpegs and anecdotes, newspaper articles, questionnaires, memorabilia, and so forth.

Or you’re adopted, or orphaned, or otherwise almost entirely separated from your bloodline. Rather than an embarrassment of riches, you experience a dearth of ’em.

We all have arrived where we are today with the help of someone. That person is an ancestor, a fore-runner, a pathmaker, a hand to steady us on our way. And we have performed the same service for someone else, often enough without noticing.

Here are seven seeds for an ancestor practice I’ve explored over time.

1) “The Names of the Survivors”: We’re Here Now.

In my late teens I heard Rochester, NY poet Linda Allardt read her poem “The Names of the Survivors”, and the title as well as the closing lines have stayed with me. Survival makes do for grace, she closes, and at first that can sound grim or dark. But what is survival?

The best reason, if I need one, for an ancestor practice lies in one simple fact: I’m here today. If ever I’ve felt gratitude for simply being alive, there are roots of ancestor practice lying ready to hand. My existence today is tribute and vindication of their joys and struggles, in all their grotty and difficult human-ness. If you have a gratitude practice of any kind (or are looking at starting one), if you give thanks consciously at whatever frequency, it’s a sweet and simple thing to include those who have gone before and contributed to this moment.

2) Keeping up the Bone-House

Allied with my own being-here-now is a chance to do my best to honor and pass along that legacy. One of the Old English kennings or poetic expressions for the physical body is bánhús, bone-house. What I do with this bone-house life passes on my inheritance of it in the most concrete ways.

Every act matters, and an ancestor practice can paradoxically help me recall that. The deeds of now-nameless ancestors each helped bring me to here and now. It wasn’t the “big stuff” most days, though in hindsight each of these things is enormous: lighting a fire, cooking a meal, raising the children, tending the sick, burying the dead, butchering livestock, harvesting the crops, repairing the roof, honoring the lives they in turn received by living them fully. When I do the same, I celebrate and pass along the inheritance. Each life has a weight and presence of infinite value in the world.

When I smile at others and greet them, when I hold the door, pick up an empty soda can, drop off an abandoned wallet or phone to a lost-and-found, by performing such small gestures I lighten another’s life, no matter the degree. If one other person is glad I live today, I have helped branch the ancestral tree, and honored the gift I was given.

3) The Light-and-Shadow Tracery of Faces

You may or may not have (m)any photos of ancestors, depending on your family’s circumstances and the availability of cameras. Other objects may belong on your altar or other details can fill your remembrance.

Among my favorite family photos is this one of my uncle, aunt and mother, taken around 1921. (Yes, my mother was born in 1919 — she would have been 100 last year. She had me quite late — she was 40 when I was born, more unusual and risky then than now. An ancestor’s choice I’m obviously grateful for!)

threedwe

All three have passed over now, all three are people I knew in this life, and I celebrate their birthdays still. How much further you take such celebrations — preparing their favorite foods, inviting them to join you as you partake, including family and ritualising the event in other ways — depends on your own inclination and guidance. Such choices can bring ancestors into our present in potent ways.

Though we live in time, I’ve found we also travel along it in memory and imagination and vision, and we can consciously bless our past and future selves, as well as our ancestors, and descendants. The strength I’ve found to carry on through difficult times — to survive at all — pours forth from the pooling blessings of countless others, including my own. By such acts of compassion, the boundaries between self and other, self-ish and self-less, fall away.

For the good of the whole I offer this to the Sacred Pool …

4) Houses of My Blood and Spirit

The places where my ancestors lived may lie remote from my own, or I may live near or in the same house as one or more of them. When we enlarge such “houses” to include those who have taught and guided and encouraged us, whether living recently or long ago, here or on another spiral of the great journey, such dwellings grow large indeed. I count among my ancestors of spirit those whose words and wisdom inspire me, so that my altar of ancestors potentially grows large indeed. Whose birthdays will I acknowledge, or whose lives will I otherwise recognize and celebrate? It may be a talent I share with an ancestor, an historical interest, a quirk of person and character that allows me unique access to realms a particular ancestor also explored.

When we consider the spiraling DNA of these bodies of ours, all of us still live in very old ancestral houses, heirs to millennia.

Pondering, listening and revisiting these points slowly, over time, can help each person develop an engaging, varied and personal ancestral practice, along with a calendar of “Big Family” observances, of the Trees we each branch from.

And those other trees, which may be the same trees: What else can they teach us, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life?

5) The Telling

Recalling the quirks and twitches of our forebears, their idiosyncrasies along with their strengths, helps bring both into sharper focus, and diminishes our tendency to idealize them to the point where we can no longer aspire to be like them.

One of the purposes of ritual is the re-telling and re-enactment of stories. The central ritual feast of Communion or Eucharist in Christianity is anamnesis — “remembrance” in Greek. As often as you do this, says Jesus, do it in remembrance of me. For Christians, Jesus is the Great Ancestor of Spirit, and many traditions include remembrances of their own spiritual ancestors. When we re-member, we put the members back together, we reassemble a life and recount its impact.

Multiple stories mean multiple examples and models of choice and action. Each ancestor points to another possibility today.

6) Be(com)ing an Ancestor

Wants and desires define the ancestors, shape their legacy in us, as they define me and each of us and the legacies we leave. What I want is love and direction and purpose. What I desire may or may not bring me any closer to those things — may well change hour to hour, day to day, with an attractive face on the way to posting a letter, a split-second decision to take a different route through town, that impulse buy that leads to so many further consequences, the online comment that backfires or unfolds a friendship, the unplanned event that proves crucial to so much that follows.

Sorting these things out in worlds of time and space is what makes each of us an ancestor-in-training. What do I know, what do I need to review, what have I not yet discovered or explored?

More spirals await.

7) Regular Samhain

Samhain is the end of the Celtic year, and also — blessed paradox — the beginning of a new year. I witness the cycles of my life, its ends and beginnings, in spirals within spirals. Our normal short-term attention is between 3 and 10 seconds, and that window of awareness has a start and an end, a dimension and rhythm worth studying and exploring. So too does the cycle of waking, daytime experience and sleep.

Beyond that is the lunar cycle, so useful as a model for working with cycles on a scale most can manage, even in busy modern lives. The three days of dark in each monthly cycle encourage a practice of letting go and picking up again, can allow for a physical correlate to deep meditation, for other kinds of work with the pattern of Samhain of endings and beginnings, at different scales than just the calendar year.

Spirals within spirals form a spiritual reality and offer a model for a vital practice that proves flexible and adaptable to individual circumstances, shapes our lives however we live them, and links us to ancestral wisdom and presence in ways I’m still discovering, as are we all.

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Emnight — Equinox   Leave a comment

In recent days, one of the most frequent searches run on this site — no surprise — was for “equinox ritual”. While I don’t have a full rite posted here, it’s a good time to reflect again on crafting our own rites — on ways to access and craft a recognition and remembrance that fits who, and where, and also when we are.

frontstone

I am a ritual too, says rock, and weather, and grass, and person looking

Awareness of this time of balance — especially in the face of so much upset, anxiety and disturbance around the globe — is ancient, and good to recall, and to bring forward again into conscious attention. A thousand years ago, the Anglo-Saxons observed, On emnihtes dæg, ðæt is ðonne se dæg and seo niht gelíce lange beoþ. On the day of the equinox, that is when the day and the night are equally long.

Emnight, the old word for equinox — a good word to bring back, from *ev(en)-night, Old English efen-niht, emniht, when darkness and light are paired and even.

It’s true that membership in a practicing group equips you with experience of a round of yearly rituals, and after participating in a few rounds, you may begin to play with local versions of your own. If you’re a solitary, there are rituals online to study and ponder. While certainly not everyone has ready access to the internet, and most groups have wisely curtailed physical gatherings for a season, that’s all the more reason to find our own ways to acknowledge and honor the seasons and the holy tides or times. And that includes our own personal times and seasons.

Where do we find balance in uncertain and difficult times? One way is by aligning ourselves with rhythms larger than any one person, but also part of each of us. In such ways we can glimpse and participate in those patterns and re-balancing flows, and re-set ourselves. And reset and reset, at need. For now the need is again great.

Reginald Ray, in his book The Indestructible Truth, puts it this way:

Through ritual, genuinely undertaken, one is led to take a larger view of one’s life and one’s world; one experiences a shift in perspective—sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic. This shift feels like a diminishing of one’s sense of isolated individuality and an increase in one’s sense of connectedness with other people, with the nonhuman presences of our realm, and with purposes that transcend one’s usual self-serving motivations.

Ritual is a way of reconnecting with the larger and deeper purposes of life, ones that are oriented toward the general good conceived in the largest sense. Ironically, through coming to such a larger and more inclusive sense of connection and purpose, through rediscovering oneself as a member of a much bigger and more inclusive enterprise, one feels that much more oneself and grounded in one’s own personhood. Through ritual, one’s energy and motivation are roused and mobilized so that one can better fulfill the responsibilities, challenges and demands that life presents.

“So what’s my ritual?”, you ask.

Well, who and when and where are you? These answers can open and shape your rite.

I stand here and name your place and time. It’s the equinox, so declare it.

I/we stand here on this ancient land [all lands are ancient and holy when we know them so], gift of spirit, child(ren) of the ancestors, at this time of equal darkness and light.

If you have an image or object that represents the ancestors, so much the better. Or consecrate one as part of this rite: This stone, or cup (or picture, etc.), inheritance of my/our people, I/we place upon my altar.

In this time of equal dark and light, I/we welcome — who do you welcome? Whose presence blesses you? Whose taking-part matters to you right now?

Prayer is always appropriate — what’s your prayer at this moment? There’s a place both for scripted and spontaneous prayer. If you’re alone, a prayer or cry for help may spring to your lips without any forethought needed. You can mingle the two, the planned and the popping-up-in-the-moment. In fact, that’s often ideal.

What gifts can you offer? We all always bring something, even in potential, waiting to give. (Unexpressed, the ungiven can frustrate us. The gift needs to be given.) It may be a vow or promise, it may be continuing to do what you’re already doing — and naming that — it may be something that represents to you the heart of what you do and who you are. Any physical thing that signifies something of this to us can take part in our rite, because it offers a focus for our attention and one more access point for Spirit to reach us. Perhaps you yourself can take on and ritualize the image of someone who inspires you, and you can assume during the ritual the identity of that person, or of someone or something whose legacy you carry and continue. A mask, a word, a ritual gesture or action. It may be something you aspire to be and do over the coming weeks and months. It may be that writing this down is also an appropriate part of the rite itself, alone or with one or two family members, if you’re doing a small ritual together.

I am moving my altar stone into place, the massive mossy rock I’ve pictured in previous posts (not the one above — that’s the boulder in our front yard, spackled with snow). The physical effort and sweat is a principal part of my rite, the beginning is the first shifting, and the end is positioning it where it needs to be, and acknowledging it in its new place. They sang the stones of Stonehenge into place, goes the legend. Our days are equally legendary, if we let them be, equally redolent of the stuff of worlds speaking to each other, with us a part of it all.

Se emnihtes dæg, says the Leechdom, one of the old books, ys se feorþa dæg þissere worulde — Emnight’s day is the fourth day of this world.  A bit cryptic — yes. Mysteries still unfold in our day, though we often turn away from them in search of what we think we already know.

Our equinoxes are beginnings, yes, and also completions, fulfillments. They are the fourth day, the full circle, the manifestation, the revealing of spirit in us, and us in spirit, whatever form that takes.

A blessing on you and your lives and rites, on the forms of revealing spirit.

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Bhumi-sparsha and You   Leave a comment

I’ve written intermittently about links between Druidry and Jesus, though of course other traditions have riches of their own that overlap and can nourish Druid practice. I post about them less because I know them less, but one mudra or ritual gesture from Buddhism is asking for some time today. That’s the Bhūmisparśa Mudrā (approx. boo-mee-spar-shah moo-drah), literally the “earth-touching” gesture Buddha makes, calling on the earth to witness his enlightenment.

terrace2

every level matters, none superior or inferior, all one greening

We need and benefit from witnesses. Legally of course they can help build a court case, but they matter in so many other ways. Friends witness our lives as they unfold, and they participate in that unfolding, just as we do in theirs. We know as we are known. The spiritual witness others offer helps us remember our lives and actions, and help them to matter more. Druidry is an earth religion because our spiritual witness and practice is where we find ourselves right now, here on earth, breathing and eating, sleeping and waking, dying and being born. Living.

Multiple Buddhist websites offer bhumisparsha mudra as a significant ritual gesture than anyone can try out. (Check out number 2 on this site). It features in Buddhist art and makes numerous Buddhist “top-ten” lists as a practice.

bhumisparsha

With this simple ritual act, Buddha touches the earth, or gestures towards it, with his right hand, all five fingers pointing downward. The other hand, the left, is palm upward in the lap. This is prajna mudra, or the wisdom gesture. Left hand palm up, resting in the lap, is a relaxing gesture. Try it and see.

Together, these two form an appropriate mini-ritual pairing for a person looking for “practical practices”, ones with immediate benefit, simple, easily incorporated into daily life, elements in a spiritual tool-kit that can be combined with other practices.

What you do with your attention as you practice the gestures is yours to explore. Prayer? A blessing? An offering of greeting, gratitude, salutation? Stilling of thoughts and emotions? Attention to birdsong, wind, your breathing?

Looking to calm yourself after too much social media, remembering the earth, opening to our innate human wisdom, these gestures can help us home. (You don’t need to include the lotus posture!) Sitting comfortably in a chair, on the floor, outdoors if you have even a bit of yard, can all help center and align you. If you have an altar, a grove, a ritual space, a candle — whatever scale of acknowledgment that your life is linked to the whole and the holy — here is another place to begin.

By such small steps we can approach and know the sacred (our life task) yet again.

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Images: (1) terraces –John Renzo Aledia — Pexels.com (2) Wikimedia Commons–bhumisparsha mudra–photo by Biswarup Ganguly.

Ritual, Consciousness, Inclusion   Leave a comment

A current article about an autistic boy denied First Communion (link to USA Today) in his family’s church raises interesting questions. The child is “100% non-verbal”, and the family’s priest says that speaking is an essential part of the ritual — participants in a First Communion must be able to say certain words as part of their preparation.

If the form of a rite is all-important, this makes sense: if you can’t access the form, the ritual benefit doesn’t accrue to you, so there’s no point in you participating.

Does Druid ritual work the same way? In many ways, and at first glance, it certainly does. While anyone who can respect a ritual space and other people in it is usually very welcome at any of the “Great Eight” seasonal rituals*, if those people are autistic, it’s true they may not be able to process — through language — all that takes place.

And a Druid group initiation typically relies even more on language: a set of questions and responses, verbal cues and directions to follow, speaking sacramental ritual words, and so on.

moonreach

No words needed to reach for the moon …

But anyone who’s been moved non-verbally by an experience knows language is just one of many means at our disposal to experience and honor each other, access energy, manifest intent, link to spiritual presence, the sacred. People carry babies into both Christian and Pagan ritual spaces, cats and dogs often wander freely in and out of Pagan sacred circles, and small children are welcome as long they’re not disruptive.

If you’re in a sacred space and have silenced your own inner chatter enough to permit yourself some alertness to Others, you may know the presence of entities who don’t “talk” and can still communicate just fine. How many of us have heeded “nudges” and “gut feelings” to our advantage? We don’t “need” ritual to encounter the sacred: we all participate in it all the time. Life is sacrament: ritual helps to sharpen our consciousness of this spiritual fact.

Would a Druid Order or less formal Gathering “ban an autistic person from an initiation”? Instead, let’s reframe the question: how might Druids accommodate those who rely on other modes than language to access the sacred? Could we prepare them with appropriate modes of experience and instruction to participate? Could we then compose a ritual for them both to catalyze an experience and to welcome them into another state of awareness?

These questions begin to suggest their own answers. Creating “appropriate modes of experience and instruction” would most probably ask for close collaboration between a ritual designer and the families and friends of autistic people. After all, they possess crucial insight into means: they know better than anyone that the autistic person particularly likes this animal and has papered her bedroom walls with pictures of it, shows especial connection to X place, connecting to its trees and stones, has always preferred the colour Y, loves that song by Z, and so on.

Out of such things, both instruction and a “capstone” ritual can be drafted. Good ritual design means hallowing such associations, and making much of them. The personal details of our lives are already the rough material that spirit uses to reach us in a myriad of ways, and human differences like autism needn’t “make a difference” in this spiritual truth.

If we take it to heart, using the vehicle of Christian language, that the “Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, we know that forms are secondary to spiritual purpose. Yes, a legalistic mindset can also quote scripture for its purpose — “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle** shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” — and we’ve seen all too often how the “jot-and-tittlers” of the world tend to latch onto power and lord it over others wherever they can.

But in the middle of where I am right now, rather than worrying over-much about what other people are doing, I can attend to my own life: how am I called today to help spirit flow into this situation, this moment, this time and place? My work is to answer that call, that question, that spiritual summons, with all the love and creativity I can muster.

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*The approximate dates of the “Great Eight” seasonal rituals of the “Wheel of the Year” of much Druidry and modern Paganism:

Samhain/Hallowe’en/All Hallows, Oct. 31/Nov. 1

Yule/Winter Solstice/Alban Arthan, December 21

Imbolc/Groundhog Day/Candlemas, February 1/2

Spring Equinox/Alban Eilir/Ostara, March 21

Beltane/May Day, May 1

Summer Solstice/Litha/Alban Hefin, June 21

Lunasa/Lughnasadh/Lammas, August 1

Autumn Equinox/Mabon/Alban Elfed, September 21

**The English equivalent is “dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s”.

Image: Pexels.com

Omen Days 10-11: Moon and Star   Leave a comment

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

Three days into the new year, and the omen for Day 10 (3 January) is a Tarot reading I did on the 1st, but put aside for other tasks. But it’s been in my attention to return to it and take another look as I post it here. Third time, or third day in this case, is the charm.

The question I posed for the reading is this: What needs our attention in the coming year?

(In light of everything in play just past the start of this new year, this innocent-seeming question already feels more than over-loaded!) But how much of our task is focus, attention to what matters, without which we scatter and “lay waste our powers”. We can see much of the past decade as a painfully clear illustration of just such a scattering. But also, a gathering and centering in response, as we belatedly come, however imperfectly, to attention.

1. Significator or Self: Moon
2. Cross or cover: 2 of Cups
3. Basis: 7 of Pentacles
4. Recent past: Ace of Cups
5. Possible Outcome: 9 of Cups
6. Near Future: 10 of Pentacles
7. Self: 10 of Wands
8. Environment: Empress
9. Hopes and Fears: Queen of Pentacles
10. Outcome: 6 of Wands

Rather than attempting a point-by-point explication now, I’ll look for an overview I’ll return to and expand on through the coming months, refining and revising my understanding.

For now, then, the Moon:

The true task of the third line [of the Tarot major arcana] is not revelation but bringing that inner ecstasy back to consciousness. The Star [the card preceding Moon] contained no road back. It shows us dwelling in the glories of darkness transformed into light. To use that light, we must pass through distortion and fear.

The Star experience lies beyond words or even form, though it implies forms emerging with the streams of water. In the moon we see this process happening, as visions, myths and images. The Moon is the card of the imagination as it moulds the energy of the Star into shapes that the consciousness can apprehend. — Pollack, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, pg. 125.

How to “use that light” and “pass through distortion and fear” seems a fitting take on a principal challenge of 2020, and a concise answer to my question for the reading: “What needs our attention in the coming year?” I’ll take up the other cards in coming posts as explications of possible ways to go about this double task.

BAM Druid Gather

“Let moon meet answering fire”

DAY 11

For Omen Day 11 (4 January), a late-arriving Christmas card featuring the Star in the East. Sometimes we seek the omen, sometimes it seeks us. They meet in a handshake, an embrace, yin and yang of incarnate experience, with us the conduits, the lightning rods, and the capacitors of what we are pleased to call “our” lives.

Could we but see the whole, these mutual seekings comprise its two halves, yin and yang, which themselves contain the characters for sun and moon. In the character simplification that mainland China pursues, yin 阴 and yang 阳 clearly display their respective elements of 月 moon and 日 sun.

Several Druid orders draw on this ancient understanding and make it a formal part of their training, instructing students to pursue the Sun path and the Moon path, with the third component, the Earth path, the synthesis energized by the interaction of the first two. And in the intermingling of Threes and Fours, those ancient symbols and numerical powers that color much of modern Druidry, we could name four paths: earth, moon, sun and stars. It’s no accident that’s where Dante’s Divine Comedy ends: l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle — “the love which moves the sun and the other stars”.

Yesterday, too, the blogpage here on Magic received five views, so the omen feels confirmed — the “messy creativity” of five-star magic.

Christmas … What’s born in us? A magical birth, the Child of Light, image of the being always being born in us as we grow and love, die and are reborn in each moment, so a post on magic, a riff on another’s post from a couple of months ago, comes together here.

The Five Counsels of Magical Living

Use what’s on hand.

The hand — four fingers of the elements, a “fifth” of spirit: the five-pointed star of magic, symbol and potency of spiritual traditions Pagan and Christian both. Always a festival celebrating something both new in the world, and always present — divinity incarnate that we can touch and see and hear. (If this world is not a holy place flush with divinity, what world is?)

For balance, I gather the four elements, ask the blessing of the fifth that is always pouring forth unasked. (The asking helps me focus.) Earth my body, water my blood, yes. Words of the old chant. But earth also in each thing, solid and durable, whether difficult or easy, manifesting itself clearly to the senses, saying I am here. Water in the blood, and in snow, rain, clouds, sky, emotion and imagination, intuition and dream, possibility flowing all around me, saying I am here. Slightly less palpable, but only slightly.

Air my breath, and also the breathing of all things on and around us, wind on my face, speech and thought hastening past, wings across the skin, a hint of vista, and distances covered in a moment by thought fast as any falcon. Air saying I am here.

And fire …

Hallow your space-time.

What is the time? We’re always checking the clock, “reading the time”, parceling out our minutes and hours. But how do we hallow it, make it holy, sacred? Do I know? Where can I find out? It doesn’t happen by itself, except insofar as being here is a holy act on its own. Necessary, beautifully necessary: but not sufficient. We get a “minimum daily requirement” of the sacred, enough to keep us breathing, our hearts beating, and the planet spinning, not enough — without our own efforts — to achieve what we’re here to achieve. Don’t know what this is? Few do, completely. Run it “to earth” as the old hunting metaphor has it — such seeking is part of achieving. It is holy, the space-time of our lives that we and the gods together weave and clothe ourselves with.

Make me ever sky-clad to spirit, so I can know its nearness

Focus (on) magic that’s already happening.

What’s already happening? Do I know? (Not from headlines, which rarely tell us what’s really happening, only its consequences. We look at mere symptoms and try to divine their causes, rather than starting with causes and working things out from there.)

Kindle a fire from “dead” trees and living flame bursts forth. Draw a breath and this body lives to move us through experience till it kindles, too, with spiritual energy. The awen is always singing. Am I listening? Where do I hear it? How can I listen more? From the deep we all bring it … How and where are we shaping it? In Annwfn, Abred, Gwynfyd, Ceugant? Where will my actions manifest? How can I improve my choosing?

Magic mirrors where my mind is, mortal and immortal merging …

Put words to it.

Name it, whisper my days. The magical journal, the blog, the diary, the impulse to record, to trace the path we’ve taken this far, is a spiritual one, whatever else may lie behind it. A good half of our naming becomes the next charm, the new spell, the in-cantation, where we sing ourselves into the Ancient Song of existence that is always arriving out of silence.

Name it and “hame” it — manifest it. The “hame”, Old English hama, is a covering, the “natural shape” of things, but also — magically — its astral form. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gains the epithet Greyhame or “gray mantle” for the cloak he wears. But even as it cloaks or covers him, manifesting him so that others can perceive him, it also conceals his inner nature as one of the Maiar. He is a “spirit of fire” no less than Feanor.

Words make up the golden thread that links earth and the other worlds. Sound, shape, thought, figures carved in stone or wood, printed in ink, fashioned of electrons on a screen.

Let words hame me, let me hame my words, till I can draw the magic deeper into time and space and assist it to take form. Let the Word become flesh. Resist it, and it will take form anyway, but often a nightmarish one, out of the distortions our creative use of our power to block also makes of it. We see monuments of our mis-making all around us in this present world, to temper our future makings, if we choose to learn.

Aim for and with the hame to tame it, reclaim it, see it in others, the same It.

Renew how you ground.

Unbalanced, we fumble through our hours and lives. Ungrounded, we electrocute ourselves with stress, anger, fear, dis-ease. Without a steadying spiritual practice, how can we stay earthed? We all already have a practice — it’s time to explore it more deeply, draw on it, shift it where it needs shifting, reinforce it where it needs reinforcement, grow it and cherish it.

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Pollack, Rachel. Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom. Element Books, 1997. (This is an omnibus edition of what were formerly published as two separate volumes.)

Omen Days 2   Leave a comment

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A dream this morning. I haven’t been sleeping well for the past several days, but with that wakefulness, it’s been easier to catch and record dreams before they fade into the next sleep cycle of the night. In the dream I’m trying to cross a stream flowing through a forest, but it takes me a bit until I find stepping stones, and even then, the first one’s half-submerged. The stream’s neither wide nor deep, but for some reason in the dream I don’t want to get my feet wet. The water runs very clear, and I know in the dream there’s something — what it is I can’t tell — something unusual about the forest.

Then this morning as I’m going out to fetch wood for the two fires, house and studio, I need to start: hornet’s nest on the eaves of the woodshed. I wasn’t thinking about this Omen Days practice until almost the moment I looked up, and then there it was. A nest of gray paper, empty now, but mostly intact, a season’s work to build a growing house that entomologists say the hornets almost never return to for the following year. In the photo everything’s  shades of gray, though it’s a color shot: even the evergreen in the background comes across in black and white, rather than green.

waspnest

Now it’s certainly easy enough to argue yourself out of as well as into a divination. There’s a kind of trust involved, that the universe really does talk to us, and not just through such crabbed and sometimes tortuous means as a divination can be, or as we can make it with all our second-guessing — the cosmos talking constantly, ceaselessly — wind in the trees, birds, beasts, clouds, our own skins, those touch-points where we seem to end and Everything Else begins, though we intermingle like high school students at a formal dance, awkwardly sometimes, though sometimes with heat in our blood. “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”

Crossing a stream, leaving a house: like most signs and symbols, they mean best when they “mean personal”. You could, I suppose, go look them up in a symbol dictionary, the kind that sells for a couple of bucks in the checkout line at the grocery, or a pricier version summoned from deep in the bowels of Amazon. But why would I want somebody else’s take on what is, after all, my life? I’m not mocking the impulse, only reining it in. Live a few decades, and your own hand-made symbol dictionary is better, for you, than anyone’s.

Like any good mount, a dream-interpretation horse, or a symbol-horse, needs a sensible rider, or what use is riding at all? I might as well walk. I can, it’s true, just let the animal-self roam free, and there are excellent times and places for that, too. (Take your animal guide for a run, if you haven’t done so recently. Mine’s sure eager for it.) But right now the journey asks the best of both of us, and so I ride my symbol-horse, and my horse carries me. Leaving a house can signify death, but just as important, transformation, and growth: the hermit-crab outgrowing the old shell and moving into a newer one — vulnerable during the change, true, but doing what it does, what it needs to do to live at all. And where is it, specifically, that I don’t want to “get my feet wet”? That’s sure kindling for another dream, another divination, a prayer, especially when I don’t usually pray.

Finding stepping-stones to cross a stream: earlier in the day yesterday, I’d done a tarot divination as a way to gain insight into a character for a novel I’m working on. The significator was the Wheel of Fortune — apt for the antagonist, who’s experimenting outright on his life — as we all are. And for such symbols and signs and communications — since I mentioned Dickens in the previous post, then I’ll invite him, since it looks like he’s along for the ride anyway — we can ask Scrooge’s question in A Christmas Carol: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?”

As with most divinations, if we think we’re asking a question of the future, then we get what we understand to be the future’s answer, which may be useful or not, or hard to read, or no answer at all. Scrooge has met with “ghosts” or spirits of Past, Present and Future, and not one of this Temporal Triad is the sole determining factor. Scrooge himself is. In his experience, the future gives no “answers”, but shows the shadows of things that are even now taking shape. These, in turn, interact with all the Ancestors have left us, and set in our hands for an inheritance.

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snowsparkle

This picture from a couple of days ago, looking out across the stone in our yard, reveals ice-sparkle I couldn’t see without the zoom that focuses this image. To the naked eye it’s a general glow. But this is hawk’s view, more sharp-eyed than I am unaided, without the help of lenses and devices — our human-craft. A different kind of divination, like the signs and symbols available when we look with a microscope, or telescope, or listen with a telephone, or stand in ritual and attend to those without skin on who just might have something to say to those of us wearing it for the moment. Look differently, and see anew. Every sense whispers “Try this”.

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Omen Days 1: Going “Dvoverian”   Leave a comment

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

Earlier today my co-admin Steve on the Druid and Christianity Facebook group posted this link to one of Caitlin Matthews’ blogposts from several years back about “Omen Days” — the southern Celtic (Wales and Brittany) tradition of using the Twelve Days of Christmas for divination. As an intercalary period, one literally “between the calendar(s)”, from Christmas to Twelfth Night or Epiphany on January 6, the days have long been considered “time out of time”, and therefore especially apt for such practices. Like the holy space of a ritual, set aside from ordinary time, the Twelve Days are — or can be — magical.

In some versions of the divination, each day aligns with one month of the year: December 26th with January, December 27th with February, and so on, offering a particular flavor to the practice.

Looking, too, for a link between solar and lunar calendars, it seemed fitting to me to make it 13 days, starting on Christmas Day, rather than just 12 by starting the day-count after, on the 26th. But there is a new moon on the 26th this year, and that can play into any decision.

And when we consider that this period after the solstice is a liminal one, open as at Samhain to the Ancestors and the spiritual realm, it’s worth reflecting on Dickens’ choice to set his “sacred holiday ghost story” of A Christmas Carol during this interval, with its Druidic as well as Christian series of three spirits, and we can enjoy as well such a context for other stories, like those of the Wild Hunt, active in the winter and so around Yule, and the Medieval “Day of Misrule”, the inversion of “normal” order, on Twelfth Night itself.

In the same post, Matthews mentions dvoverie, a Russian word meaning dvo “two” verie “faiths”  — or holding “two beliefs”, a word to describe the persistence of an old worldview after the arrival of a new one. (The Russian ver– is cognate with our Latin-derived verity — “truth”. Two truths for one.)

For a while this cultural expression was thought to characterize or be unique to Russia, especially prevalent among folk practices. Think of our ongoing custom of treating the sun as if it rises and sets each day, in spite of astronomical awareness that it’s the earth that moves, not the sun. Though this source go so far as to call dvoverie “an academic myth”, as if dismissing something as a “myth” makes it untrue, rather than simply ahistorical, I’d argue we’re all quite “dvoverian”, and in more ways than we might imagine.

In some Christian circles, it’s true, the lament persists that certain symbols, practices and beliefs are “Pagan”, “not Biblical”, etc. Pagans sometimes return the favor. (Personally, I find such “purity tests” too often lead to sub-optimal results, just like they do for many women today in only slightly different circumstances, and for often similar reasons.) I’d prefer to ask those symbols, practices and beliefs: “Are you worthwhile? Do you grant insight, increase our understanding, grow our capacity for gratitude and love?”

(And lest we too quickly conclude that divination is never a Christian practice, we have only to look at the Apostles drawing lots in order to identify Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot in the Book of Acts, or at ancient practices in Israel. St. Thomas Aquinas among many others exercised himself on the topic in his Summa Theologica.)

Let’s make Omen Days a “dvoverian” experiment.

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My divination today follows the practice of asking my question outdoors, then spinning around eyes closed, opening them to the first thing seen, or asking the question indoors and then going outdoors to observe whatever offers itself. In either case, the sign or omen is what first comes to the attention.

“What can these divinations teach me?”

jet-trail2

For me it was jet-trail and birdsong — the seen and the heard at the same time. I looked up to see the jet-trail, and then I became aware of the song. The trail had no sound, the song no visible bird. A useful reminder that a single sense rarely provides all the evidence, or any kind of “complete picture” (note the bias toward the visual in such expressions!).

If you live in an urban area near an airport, of course, this may prove no omen at all for you. (That’s why omens are not universal signs, in spite of our best attempts to codify the cosmos.) But in southern Vermont, a plane of any size passing over is unusual. Except for June or July, when the nearest airbase sometimes makes training runs for days at a time over Vermont (and usually seems to halt each time the complaints reach a certain threshold), a flyover merits attention.

The birdsong belonged to a song sparrow, a very common bird, a cheery voice for our northern winters. No, it wasn’t a Raven, or some other bird with mythic weight and portent to weigh down an omen till it crumbles under its own gravity. If I want to push it even a little, I might recall the Gospel verse: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”.

Here’s a Youtube video of a song sparrow in our neighboring state of New York:

The worlds of human (jet) and animal (bird) need not be opposed, and aren’t at heart separate worlds at all, in spite of our unwise attempts to uphold such a false division. The Song all around and within us keeps rising, in spite of our jet-trails, in spite of our restlessness to be somewhere else other than where we are. We hear it. How can we heed it more fully?

2020: jet-trail and birdsong — a divination of our times.

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