Archive for the ‘earth spirituality’ Tag

Towards a Full Moon Ritual   Leave a comment

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Full Moon, May 18, 2019 @ MAGUS Gathering. Photo courtesy Marianne Gainey.

With last night’s May full moon, and searches from this blog for the words “full moon ritual”, it feels like time to talk a little more about ritual. Google “ritual design” and you’ll find many helpful sites. John Beckett’s helpful A Pagan Ritual Outline derives from his own long experience.

Ritual is at heart a form to focus awareness, like a melody focuses sound, like a kata or “form” focuses movement in the martial arts.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols observed that “Ritual is poetry in the world of acts”. That is, it’s distinguishable from other actions we do by its intent, its shape and form, and often by care for its appeal to the senses. Poetry and song rely on rhyme, rhythm, melody, harmony, counterpoint, emotion, symmetry, repetition and variation (chorus and new verse). It’s no surprise that effective and memorable ritual draws on the same components. Theater also underlies ritual with gesture, movement, surprise, audience participation, intonation, staging, lighting, costume, etc.

The full moon, by its shape, suggests completion of a cycle, a high point or climax in a developing change, a major turn in a process (you can’t get fuller until you empty again). More imaginatively, it can also suggest an open eye, a womb, a mirror of the sun, and so on.  These and many other associations and symbolic patterns can feed into a moon ritual. (Take a moment and write down your associations for the sliver of new moon, and you’ll be on your way to a new moon ritual.)

It helps to work with an outline or script — not as something prescribed, or to be rigidly followed without thought, but from a sense of flow and sequence. Even “spontaneous” ritual, especially for solitaries, often flows from a sense of rightness at the moment. In neither case do you need something written down to read from or use as a guide. But if that helps, or makes a big difference in quality, why not use it? Think of a favorite song you know by heart. Is knowing it so well a weakness?

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Li Bai (Wikipedia/public domain)

A few lines of the famous poem by Tang dynasty poet Li Bai (701-762), rendered more or less as “Drinking Alone with the Moon”, offer us a ritual moment:

Among flowers sits the jug of wine.
I pour alone, no other friend nearby.
I lift the cup to invite the moon
and with my shadow we make three.

(That’s my plain rendering. You can read multiple and more poetic versions of the whole poem here. The Chinese words: hua1 jian1 yi1 hu2 jiu3/du2 zhuo2 wu1 xiangqin1/ju3 bei1 yao1 ming2 yue4/dui4 ying3 cheng2 san1 ren2.)

Sometimes simplest is best. The experience of the moon shining through the flowers onto the wine, the solitary drinker, the cup, and the whole evening all around participate in the ritual just as much as the few words the speaker says to welcome the moon. Yet the ritual wouldn’t be complete without the words, because they’re called for. How does the solitary drinker “know what to say”? What fits the moment. And being alone (and possibly already a little mellowed with wine) helps shape what fits the moment. The moon is both familiar and wholly new in the moment, as are the feelings and thoughts of the drinker. A poem becomes a ritual. A ritual becomes a poem.

“Bigger” rituals work the same way. And planning and preparation can be just as effective in providing a form for rituals where gods speak, fire falls from the heavens, and the Earth Mother whispers her deepest secrets to gathered mortals.

In a Druid triad of ritual, three things happen: you open the door to the ritual, the heart of the rite takes place, and then you close the door. In Li Bai’s poem of informal ritual, the wine, moon, cup, speaker, flowers and moment each play their parts to open the door. The moon is present, and the flowers and wine and place. The speaker feels the moment, says the words, drinks, and the moment passes. The poem-as-script (re-)establishes the moment, records it, and closes it when the poem ends. Or think poem-as-ritual-photo. It’s not actually the speaker performing the ritual, but it records some part of it.

Let’s expand on the Druid triad of ritual. Below are twelve components to consider as you develop a ritual:

1–INTENTION — why are you performing the ritual? The whole ritual follows from this. A clear intention, large or small, leads to effective and enjoyable ritual.

2–MATERIALS NEEDED — cycle back here to add to your list as you develop the ritual. “Keep it simple” is a good principle. Ritual stuff isn’t the main event. But lacking the one or two things you DO need in the middle of the ritual, once the script grows to include them, is a real downer. That ritual knife, candle, bell, bowl of water, smudge stick now needs to be there. Do you need ritual clothing, body marking, etc.? Make sure it gets on the list.

3–PARTICIPANTS and ROLES — how many does the ritual need? Again, cycle back to update your “cast of characters” as your ritual plans develop. In the event of missing participants, how can you double up on roles?

Is there something for guests to do who aren’t speaking or performing major ritual actions? Can there be? Do participants — or visitors — need to prepare in advance in some way? Learn a short chant by heart? A melody? A ritual gesture? Vigils, fasts, prayer, meditation, questing, etc. can help participants bring their full ritual selves to the rite from the beginning.

4–PLACE and TIME — flexibility is key, especially if weather, reservations, or schedules have other ideas for your ritual. Pre-planned alternative locations in case of rain, etc., announced in advance, keep crowd control, confusion and disappointment to a minimum. Is accessibility an issue for any participants or visitors?

5–RITUAL HOUSEKEEPING — “Please turn off your cell phones!” Run through any details guests need to know. “This is what we’ll be doing. Don’t break the circle, or cut yourself a door in it, or ask a ritual celebrant to do so for you. Restrooms are at the end of the hall, or 20 miles away; find a tree. That’s north, so this is west.”

6–FORMAL OPENING — some combination and sequence of purification, grounding, centering, welcoming, proclaiming ritual intent, honoring and inviting Others to be present. Bells, singing bowls, incense, water, fire, salt, chant, drums, etc. all can help. Casting a circle, establishing sacred space, erecting or acknowledging altars, redefining the status of participants, the place, objects nearby or some combination of these may be appropriate. Choose who does these things, and why, and how others can take part. Less talk is usually better. So is simplicity.

7–The MAIN RITE — what you’ve gathered to do. Re-enacting a myth; marking the changed status of a participant through initiation, etc.; celebrating the season, a date, festival, harvest, planting, boat-launch, new home, new family member, etc. Healing, defending, strengthening, commemorating, blessing, gifting. Where you do the stuff specific to your tradition, practice, gods, calendar, and so on.

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MAGUS 2019 Maypole!

8–FEAST, ritual meal, distribution of ritual objects, etc. — a piece of maypole ribbon, a slice of apple (showing the star), a drink, a stave of ritual significance, a card or picture, stone, sea-shell, etc.

9–READINGS, Music, Poetry, Blessings, Prayers — this important portion of a ritual can accompany the Feast, etc. to help sustain the ritual energy, hold focus, minimize side chatter, etc. It also gives everyone present a chance to contribute personal requests, blessings, songs, etc.

10–CLOSING — reverse what you did for the opening: thank Others you invited, uncast the circle, return ritual elements to their original places, desanctify what need desanctifying, take down the altar. Ring the bell, beat the drum formally, close the ritual. Re-establish the world before the ritual began. Again, simple is good.

11–ANNOUNCEMENTS — upcoming events, requests for help with clean-up, calendars, thanking visitors, etc.

12–CLEAN-UP — leave the ritual space as pristine — or more so — than when you arrived. Make this a ritual act of service and gratitude.

Conversation following the rite can be an opportunity for formal teaching, Q-and-A, casual discussion, ritual debriefing and a post-mortem “how did it go?”, planning for another event, a meal at a favorite restaurant (which can be announced on Meet-up, etc., as an outreach tool).

Were you expecting a script for a specific ritual here? No need — you know enough to develop one of your own better suited to you, your situation, your practice and your intention. And after a few run-throughs, you’ll be on your way to developing your own ritual design “best practices”.

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Looking for more detail? Check out Isaac Bonewits’ excellent Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work (Llewellyn, 2007), available used for just a couple of dollars.

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Druids and Death   Leave a comment

No, this isn’t the D&D you’re looking for. Or perhaps it is.

Last month, on the way home from our nephew’s Southern wedding, my wife and I met my two Pennsylvania cousins for breakfast. We hadn’t gotten together since their father, my uncle, passed on almost two years ago. In his mid-90s, he’d wanted a minimal funeral: “No reason to prolong your grief, or spend money doing so”, he’d said. The rite ended up so modest and unannounced only his daughters and grandkids attended. We were just hearing details now.

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Our front-yard rhododendrons, with winter-kill on top, and the lower (snow-protected) green branches

Because of course funerals are very much for the living, too. And in spite of our callous and oblivious Western cultures so uncomfortable and unhelpful around death, we don’t “get over” grief after any fixed period of time. My younger cousin, I know, still carries hers around, like a tight knot in her chest, a cannonball of hurt.

“We’re not supposed to die!” she exclaimed at our breakfast, and I bit my tongue not to offer Druid things to her, knowing she still took a hard Evangelical Christian line about death: that it’s a punishment for sin, not a natural part of a cycle in worlds of time and space; that it’s a penalty for disobedience, not the consequence of wearing bodies that will, over time, wear out. Are autumn and winter unnatural?

Sometimes you just need to be heard in your grief, without judgment, without reply or attempts at comfort that, for you, ring false. No need to argue about death, for anyone’s sakes. I only hope she’ll find upcoming deaths, and her own, not a punishment but another step on our long journey.

Of course Druids no more “believe the same thing” than any other group of contrary, year-marked, and opinionated humans. One of my techniques, field-tested over my decades, if I can remember to turn to it — rather than bothering with belief, or non-belief — is to ask how is it true? When or where is it true, has it been true, will or can it be true again? These, to my mind, are larger, “better” questions, questions that still sidetrack me very helpfully, and fascinate me — much more than trying to lock down the moving target of “what a person can reasonably be expected to believe these days”. The answers, often spinning on to more questions, also fit poet Mary Oliver’s criteria: “so many questions more beautiful than answers”. Yup, says my inner Druid, trust the bards on this one, too.

Or as an artist friend said last night in Brandon VT, at her first major show of approximately 40 exquisite watercolors, quoting her mentor: the artist’s job (all our jobs, really) is to “deepen the mystery”, to pay attention.

As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, I don’t so much believe in life after death as I suspect there’s life after death. It’s a hunch, an itch, a ripple up and down the spine, one way to make sense of too many experiences that otherwise don’t fit. This life is already so strange and unexpected, that to be here at all is no more or less unlikely than to continue after the change of death.

Another way to understand it: any “afterlife” has already begun. I just wasn’t paying attention. This is the afterlife of my previous life: what am I gonna do with it? Fried chicken and beer, operas and curry, sex and drugs, art and amazement, fasting and penance, profit and politics — each of us finds a set of pleasures and purposes to round out the strangeness of being here at all, along with any other projects we try our hands at.

Or, with a turn toward pop culture, with some Appropriation for Druid Purposes: “Ye best start believin’ in ghost stories, Miss Turner”, says Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Carribean. “Ye’re in one!”

Alastair Reid writes in his poem “Curiosity“:

… that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

And because you know I rely on our bards to heal and guide us, here’s Mary Oliver again, one of our master Bards, on grief, with a perfect Druid triad:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Another chance for Bards to have the last word:  a page of ten particularly apt poems on the immense range of our griefs and losses.

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Plucking the Web: Strands for Reflection   5 comments

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tree swallows sunning themselves — mid-April 2019

In a comment to John Beckett’s blogpost of March 28, Gordon Cooper covers several topics and throws out material very rich for reflection and experimentation.

Cooper first addresses the development of modern polytheism:

How can polytheists who honor non-Indo-European gods replicate the successes that Druidry has had?

I would suggest that the success OBOD has had and continues to have is rooted in some fairly simple and old fashioned tools — a correspondence course, mentors, and lots of engagement by the members. The first time I went to the OBOD Lughnasad gathering at the Vale of the White Horse, I was deeply impressed by the amount and quality of work I saw. One person learned ceramics, built a hand-painted and fired series of tiled walls on her properties with elemental dragon meditations she’d realized. Others had voluminous scrapbooks filled with meditations, plant studies, ritual walks, etc. Their other secret weapon is Philip. He’s an international treasure for all druids, at least in my experience.

The combination of well-thought-out instructional materials and mentors, together with a dedicated and generous leader, and the developing nature of most strands of Druidry as supportive and inspirational practices, have proven its value yet again. If the non-European gods have means of access to power in this realm, through their priests and their own natures as deities, can they inspire and help manifest similar supports for their devotees and adherents?

And yes, much of modern Druidry and Paganism in general finds a priceless resource in books. Cooper continues:

If a group chooses to start from Nuinn’s [Ross Nichols, founder of OBOD] druidry, as it seems to be articulated in “The Cosmic Shape” it is possible to arrive at a non-IE druidry by treating this as an embodied expression in ritual, artistic and land-based practices that manifests over time and space differently in each era and place. I strongly encourage reading the entirely of ‘Cosmic Shape” as one point of departure.

Cooper next tackles a particular source-text — Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas (link to complete text at Sacred Texts).

Moving to the Barddas as a possible base, regardless of how one considers the authenticity of Iolo’s writing, his notions around ritual, nature study and the sciences, poetry and justice are values that I think can be applied to many circumstances and cultures. Besides, anyone borrowing from an Egregore that includes Iolo, William Blake and a French Spy-cum-Mesmerist alchemist is likely to be in for an artistic and interesting ride.

All of us have experience with egregores of groups we’ve joined, been born into, or witnessed from outside as they variously manifested their energies. Political parties, churches, families, clubs, sports teams, other special-interest groups and so on are non-magical examples. Consciously-created and energized egregores deployed magically are potentially just “more so” — stronger, more durable, more capable of great (and also terrible) things. The principle at work is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Magic as an amplifier simply magnifies that whole.

Cooper then goes on to suggest provocatively, in a quick paragraph, one way to develop a valid Paganism or Druidry that grows organically from wherever we find ourselves, one that need not worry over cultural appropriation or validity:

I’m working on a very small group-focused practice that’s designed from the ground-up to be derived from the local biome and skills of the folks living there. It is being field tested in Bremerton [Washington state] now with the Delsarte Home Circle. It incorporates Ecopsychology, poetics, local kami, nature studies, personalized and group moving meditations and other meditation forms along with a customized ritual calendar derived from the specific region. It is appropriation-free and includes classical Spiritualist training. If interested, please contact me for details.

On the issue of Pagan or Druid chaplains, Cooper also speaks from (local) experience:

I’d say that Pagan chaplains in hospital systems are likely to find themselves in an ethical bind from time to time, as they’d be called on to engaged with YWYH on behalf of ill or dying patients in hospitals or elsewhere.

The VA Chaplains don’t serve or acknowledge the validity of druids and witches, at least at the Seattle VA. This isn’t going to happen with the current staff, and as I receive all of my medical services there, I am not inclined to fight an uphill and contentious battle.

Not all of us are called to fight outwardly — a misconception activists of all stripes are especially prone to. Following your own path is often powerful enough — the patient persistent effort of being a genuine self in a world of delusion and false directions is a forceful life stance, an essential kind of witness both to others and oneself, with consequences we often do not see. Not all music is scored as trumpet fanfare. Some of us are strings, oboes, flutes, drums, or the rests and silences between notes.

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Northern Vermont Beltane 2019   Leave a comment

Beltane yesterday, with our Vermont OBOD Seed Group, the Well of Segais, was a windy, sunny welcome to spring in the north half of the state. With many dirt roads washing out after all the recent heavy rains, members scrambled to reach hardtop roads, scouted for accessible ritual locations, and found this marvelous, recently-constructed stone circle in a municipal park overlooking Route 2.

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A short walk over this preserved covered bridge, and across a boggy meadow, took us up a hill to the circle.

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Between the initial location-scouting and our arrival yesterday, someone had found and placed a striking large quartz rock on the central stone. With some careful shifting on our part, it settled into place upright, serving as a stable windbreak. With five of us, we had just enough members to fill the ritual roles  — and to reach out hands to form a ritual circle around the central stone!

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Just as Imbolc for Vermonters often marks the start of “sugaring” — maple syrup season (or at least a midwinter thaw) — so Beltane celebrates the first leaves appearing on the trees, the first brave daffodils often pushing through the last of the snow, and the onset of “mud-” and then “stick-” season, two short but memorable intervals sandwiched between the long Vermont winter and the often wet spring.

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Calendula –Wikipedia Creative Commons

A group member brought calendula seeds as a ritual gift for all to plant. An “all-arounder”, the calendula is a member of the marigold family, bringing color, medicine, edible blooms, dye, tea, and other uses. Technically an annual, the plant can reseed itself and become effectively a perennial, if you don’t deadhead the flowers and if you allow it to mature into its seed-bearing form.

Looking to welcome the moon along with Beltane? Wait till May 4, and you can work with the New Moon, as Mystic River Grove in Massachusetts will do this year.

“Within me the powers of Sun and Moon. With my right hand (or wand) I father the Child, with my left (or chalice) I mother it. Within me lives the alchemy of this union. Let the magical child of my creative nature blossom and thrive in the inner and outer worlds” (adapted from OBOD ritual).

Beltane blessings to all!

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“Little We See” — a Meditation   4 comments

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Go to the Bards, I tell myself yet again. The answers have lain there long. (You can tell I hang out with Bards new and old, even if I don’t always listen to them all that well — I use words like lain.)

Wordsworth, Old White Guy, still has something to tell us:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away.

Do we want some hints for living? Do we want some uplift, to know that positive change — and more important, joy — are still possible in this crazy world?

Bards offer a how-to for the spirit. These four lines yield some solid pointers.

Back away when you can, from the world, into the World. In the heart of even the most urban areas on the planet, green things still can find a way to thrive, sometimes with a little human help. A bee in the bathroom, a bug on the doorbell, a spider webbing the space between light-switch and corner cupboard — the living world keeps knocking. Find the green. Find the World. (Help the bug or bee outdoors again.)

“Late and soon”? Unplug from time, from the apparent world we’ve built for ourselves, into contemplation. We know it’s good for us, and with images, mandalas, music, incense on hand, we can enliven our dips into our own inner pools of calm and wisdom each time with something different, if we crave variety, or with the same deepening familiar artistic companion to our sojourns. It may be a walk with the dog, a time spent folding laundry, a half-hour gazing at the reflection of a pond, working with paints, or clay, or fibers. I turn to a longtime friend, the oooooo at the heart of the ah — oo — en Awen, the HU of the Sufis, a holy name not contaminated with profanity or dulled by careless use. Sing the names holy to you.

Our “powers”? So many of us are facing our powerlessness. In some cases we’ve given what we have away — “laying waste” our own abilities to shape and choose, however meager they may feel and seem. Yet if we turn from buying and selling, things that can’t be bought will reappear for us: time spent with loved ones, time spent in nature, time spent on diving deeper into our own creative selves, uncramping some of our little-used faculties and skills and talents. Reclaim our powers, one at a time if necessary. (No waiting for the next election to give us back what is native to us. No one can hold them back from us, once we recognize them again.)

“Little we see in Nature that is ours”? Let go of possessing, I tell myself, and things will come to me of themselves. Sit still enough, and the birds will light on my head and shoulders like they did with St. Francis, like they continue to do today on those who spend time being still, loving the stillness that keeps opening into something larger and more beautiful. If I hog the road, of course I’ll see little else — I’m what’s in the way. But more and more beings become companions along the way, if I share the path.

If I look in the rear-view mirror of Time, I see the Ancestors waving.

How have I “given my heart away”? Excuse me, I whisper. I’m taking my heart back. I gave it and you didn’t value it. Let me bestow it where it will be cherished for what it is.

Bad news, you say of Wordsworth’s lines? Blaming the victim? No — showing the victim how to unvictim. Empowering the victim with what’s right here, turning off the victim switch others have flipped. No special monastery, ashram, growth center, workshop. These may serve their turn, but they are kindling, not Essential Fire. If I make it, I can unmake it. If I’ve shut it down, I can open it up again. If I’ve created my life, I can change my life.

It can be long work. But what else am I here for? Oh, so many things, many things, sing the birds. Everything, whispers the wind. Come find out, says the path into the greening woods.

trunkreflection

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Rippling from Centers Outward   1 comment

Each of us is a center from which good things ripple outwards to others. We matter more than we know, more than it can sometimes feel like we do. Any time spent in a true practice confirms this again and again.

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Here’s a recent and unusual “comment” that ended up in the spam folder, even though it didn’t contain the typical hyperlinks that earn it instant spam status. (Track it to the originating URL, which I made sure not to include, and you land on a Russian-language small-equipment site. Go figure.) What caught my attention and rescued it from immediate deletion is its marketing build-up. Replace a few key phrases of this comment, and you could be talking about launching a physical exercise regimen, making prudent financial investments, improving your sex life, or learning a foreign language. It’s “Druidry” only in the very loosest sense. Here it is, punctuation unchanged:

Have you ever felt that you just don,t have the time to practise the Druidry that you want to? Wouldn‚t you like to be out in the woods meditating for hours, getting in tune with spirit and nature but the reality is a nine to five job in a town or city. You come home in the evening stressed and worn out and after you have spent some quality time with your partner, played with the kids and had some dinner, you just want to roll into bed. Then the whole sorry business starts again. I guess that like us you also thought of getting up half an hour early to have time for meditation or to greet the sun. You probably also have heard the alarm go off for that early start, reached out to turn it off and woken up exactly half an hour later at your normal getting up time. What if it didn‚t have to be like this? This is where Awen and the Art of Urban Druidry (with apologies to Robert M. Pirsig) comes in. Even in the most built up of cities there is life bursting out everywhere. The first stage on this path is to see it.

The comment treats spiritual practice as an addendum, something I can add to my diet like a supplement or vitamin, rather than where I live my life from. While “spirituality-as-supplement” is one perfectly valid way among others to begin, if a practice or spirituality doesn’t slowly and rightfully begin to pervade all I do, it’s not worth much — it’s not going to have the transformative effects I’m practicing it for in the first place. (More surprisingly, after such marketing language, the comment doesn’t follow through and offer its solution to the problem it identifies — “yours today for five easy payments of just $99/month!” And where’s the book? That title seems targeted for a quick spiritual pick-me-up.)

Very few Druids I know can regularly be found “out in the woods meditating for hours, getting in tune with spirit and nature”. This may occasionally happen at Gatherings — if we’re not seduced even then by the busy-ness of the Gathering schedule (here’s the wonderful but over-full, often double-booked, Feb 2019 Pantheacon schedule), or we forgo them altogether because if they’re any distance away, it takes fossil fuels to get there — or on long weekends, or vacations, or focused retreats.

A few solitaries may indeed carve out a daily block for deep meditation, by radically stripping away much else in their lives, sometimes including a partner. But it’s not a course specifically to recommend, or strive for, in the ordinary way of things. Plenty of Druids do little or no meditation — they’re fully engaged with other practices — you find the Druidry that works for you. Nor is some variety of meditation necessarily on the menu to set before newcomers. If I need to meditate for hours as my starting point, my chances of success, of sustaining such a rigorous practice, run from slim to none. (St. Paul counsels the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”, but that’s hardly a beginning practice for the new believer.) I gotta start where I am today, not from another place I have to go, just in order to begin.

The word “compromise” suffers these days — it’s practically equivalent in some circles to selling out, to treason, to soul-less complicity with the “Military-Industrial Complex” that president Eisenhower named over 50 years ago. Looking at all the many compromises every single one of us makes each day, I want to be mindful of my own first, before accusing anybody else. (Though you might not think so, to look at my comment on the opinion piece in the following paragraph!) I’ve taken the old song lyric as a matrix for vows and goals: “Let there be ____ on earth, and let it begin with me”. If Spirit can make headway with this 60-year old married Euro-American Druid-Eckist, using any part of my life as a center for change that might even deserve to ripple outward from there and influence others, then and only then do I have something to say to those others. If not, I’d best hold silence on such matters, listening to my trees when I can actually hear what they’re trying to tell me. Otherwise it’s all just another ego project that does little good for anybody.

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looking west out our living room window

To get at this principle from the opposite direction, I’m now going to pick unfairly on a recent opinion piece in our local paper The Commons, titled “We have a choice: action or complicity“. (You can easily insert your own favorite divisive issue or polarizing problem or current controversy as the “choice”, without even reading the article). Such a self-righteous tone can feel really gratifying when we’re confident we’re perched on the “correct” side of the issue, and want to chastise all our weaker, conflicted, unprincipled neighbors who aren’t as woke and fired-up as we are about “Burning Issue-of-the-Day #327”. But attempts to ignite action through guilt, rather than offering a doable set of appealing steps that can start as soon as I set down the paper, haven’t exactly proven themselves as prime ways to effect change. And labeling the disengaged as “accessories after the fact”, as this opinion piece does those readers who sit out the controversy du jour and remain uninvolved in one particular struggle, probably will do little more than stir resentment at “damn liberals”. I’m a damn liberal myself in several ways, and even I grumble about damn liberals after reading the article.

In fact, most of us do have plenty of causes we’re committed to; it’s just that most of these causes are local, where we keep being admonished to act — they begin right here and now in our own lives: make rent, pay the mortgage, raise the kids, care for aging parents, save something for retirement, humor the crazy neighbor, pay off college tuition, care for our changing bodies, comfort a friend, invest time and passion into a love relationship, steady ourselves up for the next challenge, open ourselves to laughter and light wherever we can, and make of this world a home.

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“What if it didn’t have to be like this?” asks the original comment.

Well, it doesn’t “have to be” like this, and it isn’t like this in the lives of Druids I know. Every one of them has found valid and authentic steps to begin to rein in consumption, live greener, hear the call of the awen, and honor the voices of the beings around them. From radically downsizing both living space and possessions, and “simplify-simplify-simplifying” (B in northern Vermont), to joining Native protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline, training with a Native teacher and working in a nursery (M in New Hampshire), to training and mentoring in permaculture and raising much of their own food (R in Pennsylvania), to super-insulating their house, driving an electric car, working full-time to grow low-cost public housing (W in southern Vermont), to living in cooperative housing, hand-crafting, and raising a child as a single parent (M in Massachusetts), Druids are living their Druidry woven in the fabric of what they do every day, not as an “add-on” squeezed into an already-full schedule.

So here I’ll repeat the words I opened with: Each of us, regardless of the labels slapped on to who we are or what we do, is a center from which good things already ripple outwards to others. We matter more than we know, more than it can sometimes feel like we do.

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Oh, Slip Away to the Wilderness!   1 comment

Slip away to the wilderness and pray.

I bless and consecrate you with water … with spirit, and with fire.

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How often we’re put off by language — or drawn in and inspired, and for mostly the same reasons. The first piece of wise Druid counsel above comes, in fact, from Luke 5:16, describing what Jesus often did. Seems like a piece of uncommon good sense these days for anyone to practice, a sacred intention to add to our hours.

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Another version* puts it like this: “Jesus often went away to other places to be alone so that he could pray”. Does that feel like anything most of us need to do regularly, to get off by ourselves so we can hear ourselves and our awen speak, and not merely listen to the strident echoes of the “24-hour news cycle”? Hear what life is constantly saying to the chakras and energy centers of our being**.

The second line above comes from Matthew 3:11-12, where John the Initiating Chief (Christians may know him as John the Baptist) names the powers he and Jesus invoke when blessing and hallowing others who seek out that particular ritual. Water, spirit, fire. What is baptism but blessing — literally, dipping in water and other holy substances or elements? A baptism in an initiation, and vice versa, symbolized by elements that have always been holy worldwide: water and fire, and spirit that animates them all. Call them elemental sacraments as I have, if that brings them into closer kinship and familiarity and comfort.

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One of my teachers observed that just as we can choose to go through initiations organized and conducted by others, we can initiate intentions and directions in our  own lives. An actual ritual can help to impress this on the mind and senses, reifying it, to use technical language — making it “thingly”, bringing it through “right down to the physical”.

So I find my own ways of slipping away into wilderness to pray, listen to the trees, sing the awen, and prepare.

And initiation? Many have long looked at the Biblical Book of Revelation as a guide to our inner spiritual architecture, with the seven churches it describes in detail as the varying focus and health of our seven inner energy centers, typified in various traditions as chakras or by other names, the spiritual eye among them, along with the halos on pictures of saints, the sacred heart, the gut instinct, and so on — yet another piece of the philosophia perennis, the Perennial Wisdom we cloak with our regional robes, names and forms, then “name and claim” as the Sole Truth of the cosmos (which we just so happen to be in exclusive possession of).

So you have a vision, and it’s natural to be told to get it down in words before it fades:

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden candles is this: The seven stars are the messengers of the seven Gatherings, and the seven candles are the seven Gatherings. (Revelation 1:20).

Then you work to initiate your vision, with the Messengers (Instant or otherwise), and the Light sources you find at hand, LED, spiritual, human. A little paraphrase that I assert does no injustice to the original, and we’re on Druid territory. And why not vice versa? Rework a Druid ritual in Christian terms, and see what you may discover.

We can initiate or baptize our complete body, energies centers all working together, to (re)call it to its holy purpose as an Ancestor-in-the-Making, a Walker-between-the-Worlds, a Holy One. If the world around us, or some other world we’ve walked in lately, seems sacred or holy, or some other ideal summons us, we can “level ourselves up”, to use the language of gamers — shift energy and consciousness, so that we mirror and embody — incarnate — that holiness, rather than working against it.

So I choose the time of ritual with care, honoring the harmonics of the planets and stars, the tides of earth and our lives. Three days, or maybe seven, beforehand, I slip away to the wilderness and pray. As part of my ritual — perhaps the core of initiation, or perhaps other words come — I say, “I bless and consecrate you with water … with spirit, and with fire”.

And perhaps I close with some version of the blessings from recent posts, drinking what seems right to drink, making an offering from that drink to whoever it feels right to honor at the moment of the rite:

I now invoke the mystery of communion, that common unity that unites all beings throughout the worlds. All beings spring from the One; by One are they sustained, and in One do they find their rest. One the hidden glory rising through the realms of Abred; One the manifest glory rejoicing in the realms of Gwynfydd; One the unsearchable glory beyond all created being in Ceugant; and these three are resumed in One.

May the blessing of the Uncreated One, of the Creative Word and of the Spirit that is the Inspirer be with us always …

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*Easy-to-Read Version, 2006, Bible League International.

**Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:29).

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