Archive for the ‘pilgrimage’ Tag

Nine Days of Solstice 1 — Sunday

[Prelude |1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9]

This day of Sun begins in mist, and I’m in some discomfort. The aging body adds its voice to the chorus — so often you need to choose what deserves your attention most, a practice all its own. We may look to others for uplift when it’s hard to find on our own. I turn as I often do to Caitlin Matthews’ Celtic Devotional*, to the page of meditations and poems for Sundays in the winter season:

“Wise teachers and friends of my Winter’s pilgrimage, I seek to arrive in safety; please assist and inspire me through the dark Winter days, as I go on my pilgrim way, seeking the answers that my soul needs”.

So often others do help us. In addition to neighbours, friends, family, beloved animals, we have at hand the inspiration from centuries of singers and writers and painters available online. Yet as the plague rages across the lands, we still follow that pilgrim way, now from necessity, perhaps, rather than by choice. How often have our ancestors spoken and thought and felt these same words?

The other path I follow asks for a monthly written reflection, and it’s good practice. Often I find myself blocking as I sit to write, itself a useful signal: “Oh, I have nothing to say, or nothing’s been happening, or it’s just the same old stuff — nothing’s shifted or moved”. Really? “Which voice deserves my attention most?” becomes an even more valuable question in the face of acedia, that old devil of sloth and inertia and indifference and the doldrums that dog the heels of anyone on pilgrimage. If I want to sail, I can wait for good winds, I can tack across existing less-than-good winds, or if I’m utterly becalmed, I can unship my oars and start rowing. Sailors knew these things once, and the archaic language tells me both that the way is ancient and I haven’t used the words enough. I need to relearn them, or find a new idiom, and make it mine. On foot, it’s much the same. We all know it: “Can I even get out of bed to start the day’s journey?”

A friend shared his approach to the monthly ritual of reflection: he writes three things he’s grateful for, three insights, three requests or questions. A triple triad. Each month thus has the previous and the coming month as fuel and as a starting point. Often that’s enough to break the ice, to mix metaphors, but appropriate to this season, to drive off the acedia, and launch us well. Sometimes it’s possible to begin with real joy, and the discoveries mirror it as they come as the mist clears.

Then we take up the option of mailing in the reflection, or keeping it in our journals. A magical, spiritual act all its own, a trust that I can release it on its way to fulfillment.

I look at winter and mind the nearing peak of summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. It pays, I find, to attend to what the planet is doing “on the other side”. Maximum light and warmth, zenith, high point. And in the midst, the mist, whatever the season, I seek that still point, the spiritual hinge as I initiate the next step. The opportunity to begin is a priceless one, whatever the weather.

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What do I need to “hold an initiation”? The idiom’s a profound one. To hold an initiation, to tend and cherish it, to brood it as a chicken does a clutch of eggs, to warm and birth it with my attention and intention, to make it mine, as it already is in embryo. Never do we start from nothing. Nature — and Spirit — “abhor a vacuum”. The Fool rushes in where angels fear to tread. Bless the Fool! S/he’s gone on ahead, to clear the way, even a little — a priceless gift.

So much that we do in what seems our “off-season”, like this winter season may seem to be, is the work of roots, beneath the surfaces. If “nothing” is happening, something is indeed happening. When all looks barren, that’s when to marvel at what lies hidden, in preparation, hibernating and dreaming. Yule in many ways is the completion of Samhain, its fulfillment. The center of activity has shifted, and my quest becomes tracking the hub of energies to its Castle, to the place it radiates from, to bring the Grail Quest imagery into play. What helpers and hinderers will I meet on the way? What companions travel with me, and (com– “with” –pan– “bread”) share my bread? What and who blesses my quest? What’s at stake? Do I know?

What soul needs is the quickening that will manifest more openly at Imbolc. Now is a time of preparation, and tools in hand.

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*Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Devotional. Fair Winds Press, 2004.

About Initiation, Part 6

Go to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 If we long for transformation and seek initiation, we’re looking for it in a culture which, at least in North America, seems short of ready options.  One alternative, however, remains open for most people, and that is pilgrimage.  Spring stirs it in us. Feel it? pilg1 Start small: weekend out of town, morning walk to work, afternoon run around the block.  I jog my neighborhood, making it by intention and action a ritual as well as exercise. I greet the morning sun with a line from the Odyssey that resonates for me: “All one brightening for gods and men.”  As I round the first corner, I move from brisk walk to jog.  Down the hill towards woods and swamp the town must have set aside as unbuildable or protected — no one has tried, at any rate.  A blessing on the spirits there, blessings in return back at me. Past the front yard garden of a lovely retired couple, a plot no more than 60 or 70 square feet, that will bloom in another month or so with all manner of flowers, then grow into a climbing, sprawling wonder of vines and stalks and pods, with sunflowers towering golden above the rest.  Past the small trim house of the Latino family who has done fine stonework on a retaining wall out front, though they still face snowmelt every winter from neighbors with lots uphill from them, so now I leap puddles gathered in the cracked sidewalk.  Each one lush with billions of invisible lives, even in the coolness of early spring, paramecia and bacilli and rotifers. Past juniper and ash and aspen, past the 150-year-old copper beech the school has, thanks be to the Powers who helped, chosen to save and build around rather than over.  Here are battles epic and acts heroic, if I only look.  Across the main campus intersection, which at this hour is mostly empty, the students still on break.  Hundreds making plans to return, my colleagues emerging to photocopy and staple, recharge iPad, dust off class text, take down old classroom posters and put up new ones.  The lacrosse fields and baseball diamonds still spotted with nubbly snow.  A car passes, the driver waving.  I wave back, not recognizing either vehicle or person, but glance at the bumper to see if it’s stickered and marked as a school vehicle.  This is my community, my tribe of work. tengu Past the chapel, pines spindly and lopped from a hundred years of pruning and thinning, but still there in spite of a campaign to “open up” the campus.  But the cut trees once shaded buildings in summer, and cooling bills rose after that.  There is my myth, ogre in the far land, troll at the bridge, orc to dodge and trick and slay.  Each time I run I tell myself another story, and the landscape holds up each one briefly, then settles it in, saying, “This too belongs, that one also seeks its home.” After about a mile, a turn and a steep hill, the houses shouldering each in miniature plateaus up the incline.  I drop to a walk at top — I haven’t run this for a couple of weeks, since the last heavy snowfall, and my loss of wind and tone shows.  The next mile flat, past the downtown, the post office and diner and banks.  Thousands of lives, feet, hands, eyes seeing much of what I now see, ears hearing earlier sounds of horse and buggy, wagon and cart, and sounds that never change: children, wind, voices we hear from two worlds that are also one. Want bigger myths? Find larger stories to tell, meanings that invest your landscape.  I start small, for practice, then turn my thoughts toward Derby, VT, home of my father’s ancestors, a small town north of here by some five hours.  I’ve never been; I’m visiting this summer, to walk the graveyard where some of my ancestors are buried.  Because at a “cabin-fever” dinner in southern Vermont last weekend, I chanced to hear (there are no chances; everything is chance) a story set in Derby that I took to heart, from Joan who taught there, years ago.  Everything, they say, is connected.  Not so much a matter of believing as finding out how it’s true.  Now the name of the town has been kindled for me.  I will visit.  Pilgrim, says my life, look around. pilg2

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Images: Saint Helier, isle of Jersey; Fo Guang Shan; 2009 spring pilgrimage

Posted 15 March 2013 by adruidway in Druidry, initiation, pilgrimage

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