Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.
Common sense; good judgment: "It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things" (Henry David Thoreau).
The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge: "In those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations" (Maya Angelou).
Wise teachings of the ancient sages.
A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.
Wisdom is often confused with Intelligence. They are related, but not the same at all. Wisdom is something that comes from experience. Experience is only gained through trial and error, usually mostly error. In my opinion, Wisdom is not something that someone can go out and learn. It is not something that can be taught. We all have tried to teach someone from our experience, and inevitably they will make mistakes similar to those we made.
Wisdom is something we should practice. We should learn from our mistakes. We need to, otherwise we won’t advance as individuals, groups, culture… We need to remember to take time to think about what we are doing. When we get into a difficult situation, or even an ordinary one, we should keep in mind to pause and think of the other person.
We need to look at them, understand what they are saying or doing. We should try to look at things from their perspective. When we know all sides of a question, only then can we make an appropriate response. We also must remember our past, and what we did that had good and bad outcomes, and try not repeat the bad. Only when we practice this on a daily basis do I think we can be truly called wise.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
The state or quality of being pious, especially:
Religious devotion and reverence to God.
Devotion and reverence to parents and family: filial piety.
A devout act, thought, or statement.
A po-sition held conventionally or hypocritically.
A statement of such a position: "the liberated pieties of people who believe that social attitudes have kept pace with women's aspirations" (Erica Abeel).
Piety is basically devotion. We all need to be devoted to our family and friends. We need to be able to trust them, and they need to be able to trust us. As for our devotion to the higher powers, that is an individual thing.
To me I think it is more important to keep the faith on a daily basis, on top of the 8 high days. We need to make time every day to thank the Gods and Goddesses, our ancesters, and the many spirits for what we have received throughout the day. We also need to give back. As a human we cannot just take, take, and take. We need to give. How this is done is again personal.
To me, I give back in many ways. I learned early on that one of my callings is to volunteer. When I have the time, I volunteer. This stared when I was a boy scout, and has continued with my work as a volunteer EMT. Unfortunately due to recent events in my life, I have had to put that on hold. This is my way of giving back to the deity. I also do everything I can to help others. It is not uncommon for me, when at overnight pagan events, to share my food and expect nothing in return. All that, plus my daily prayers of thanks for the day, and my attendance at the high days are how I personally practice my piety to the higher powers.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
The faculty of sight; eyesight: poor vision.
Something that is or has been seen.
Unusual competence in discernment or perception; intelligent foresight: a leader of vision.
The manner in which one sees or conceives of something.
A mental image produced by the imagination.
The mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes the supernatural or a supernatural being.
A person or thing of extraordinary beauty.
Vision is something that involves our eyes. Not just our physical eyes, but our minds eyes. We use our physical eyes all the time to observe the world around us. What we need to do though is concentrate on using our minds eye.
To me, the minds eye is one way that we see the gods. It is with this that we can have a connection with the gods, ancestors, and sidhe. When one gets attuned to them, that is when we truly see. I feel that this is one reason why the ADF DP used to concentrate so heavily on meditation. It is through meditation that we can relax away our normal 5 senses, and instead concentrate on the relatively unused minds eye. As we attune ourselves to this sense, only then can we really see. As we start seeing, it is then that we can see where we fit in, and how we relate to the past, future, and present.
This is also a virtue that is very much a basis for all others.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
- The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.
Courage is something everyone has, but many don’t use. It is the ability to do right, even though there may be consequences. As pagans we exercise courage on a daily basis. Society tells us that paganism is not a religion, and that we are evil for practicing. We all know this to be false, but we are being courageous by standing up to the stigma.
As beings we need to work on being courageous. There are many times when we are faced with choices, difficult or not. We need to use the wisdom we have gained. We need to have the vision to look at all the expectable outcomes. We need to have the courage and integrity to persevere in what we do, and do the right thing. This is definitely one virtue that depends on many others, and is something we must practice throughout our lives.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
- Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
- The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
- The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
Integrity goes hand in hand with courage. This is another tough virtue. To me integrity is doing what you say you’ll do. It involves having the courage to stand up and do it. Integrity is something that should be practiced on a daily basis. It is something that is also rooted in honesty.
We need to have the integrity to be honest with ourselves, others, and the higher powers. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that honesty is the best policy, and it is true. If we strive to be honest at all times, then it would be noticed that we have integrity. This is because the truth is not always easy to hear or see. If we have the courage to keep our integrity, we will then be seen by others in a better light. It is this striving to keep bettering ourselves, with the aide of the Gods that makes us good humans.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.
Christianity The Calvinistic doctrine that those who have been chosen by God will continue in a state of grace to the end and will finally be saved.
Perseverance in general means the drive to keep going till the task is complete. To me it means doing this through the good and the bad times. As a youth, I took an oath that fits. “I, Robert Lewis, do hereby promise, on my honor as a scout, to always and faithfully, observe and preserve the traditions of the Order of the Arrow, Wimachtendienk Wingolauchsik Witahemui. I will always regard the ties of brotherhood as lasting and will seek to preserve a cheerful spirit even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities and will endeavor, so far as in my power lies, to be unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others.”
This oath talks about persevering through the tough times and doing what is right. It is all too often that as an alternative religion that we have to do that. We have to be strong enough to keep our faith and persevere through the tough times that we all go through, and enjoy the good times.
It is unfortunate, but so many of us don’t try to keep going until we finish the task. Many of us do what needs to be done to survive and have some fun, but few of us actually follow through and do what we have said we will do, or finish the task at hand. Perfect example is me working on the Dedicant Program. I can’t remember how many times I’ve started and dropped the program since I joined in 1999. I will persevere though and complete it because I know it is something I should be doing even though I’m not truly required.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.
An instance of cordial and generous treatment of guests.
Hospitality is very important. It not only means being giving to people that visit your own home. It also means being giving of yourself to make people feel comfortable in every part of your life. We should remember to always treat people as if they were guests in our home, or like we would want to be treated if we were guests in theirs.
Like I said though, this extends from our home. It goes for any place where we tend to take ownership of the place, such as our nemeton. Here we are not only inviting other people to the space, we are also inviting the Gods, Ancestors, and Sprits to our sacred space. We should go out of our way to make them feel comfortable. Think of it this way, if you were a deity, how would you want to be treated when invited to someone’s sacred space… and treat them like that. Give them offerings they would enjoy, especially food and drink.
There is a second part to this though. We also have to be hospitable guests. This includes respecting those we’re guests of and their property. Often customs say we should bring a gift when we visit someone to show thanks for being invited in. It is unfortunate that this is slowly disappearing from our current culture.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme: a moderate price.
Not violent or subject to extremes; mild or calm; temperate: a moderate climate.
Of medium or average quantity or extent.
Of limited or average quality; mediocre.
Opposed to radical or extreme views or measures, especially in politics or religion.
We are always told to do things in moderation. Be it what we eat or our actions. It is not good for us to over indulge in any one thing. We all know that things like drinking alcohol in excess can be bad, and even lead to death. Well, spiritually we need to keep things like that in mind. A couple Samhains ago I found this out myself.
I was leading the ritual for about 60 people. It was a very powerful ritual and one I will always remember. I learned there though that I had to moderate the energy that was being sent through me. When I opened the gates calling to Mannanan the gates were obviously opened, and it started to snow, right on cue. When the ritual was over, I was burnt out. I never felt so drained. This just taught me that I need to moderate the energy I use for my own good. This goes throughout life. There is too much of a good thing.
Definition from American Heritage dictionary:
The condition, quality, or degree of being fertile.
The birthrate of a population.
My first though on fertility comes to the idea of a fertile body and producing children. This is something that will probably never happen for me since I am gay. So, I have to think of fertility in different ways.
Beltane traditions come to thought. Beltane is the celebration of the re-birth of the earth. We are all gathering to call on the powers to make the earth fertile again. We also are calling on them to make us fertile, as the custom of jumping the fire shows. We need to keep this idea with us throughout the year though. We need to be always be working to bring about a better, or good life. Not only for us, but for everyone we come in contact with. This bringing about a fruitful life, sewing the seeds throughout the year, that is what I consider fertility to be about.
High Day explanations:
Samhain is the Celtic new years. There is more to this than a new year though. The celebration is one of death. This is the time of the year that we notice the earth dying. Going into a state of dormancy for the winter. The trees drop their leaves, the grass and flowers die, the creatures start going into their dens or migrating south for the months of cold weather ahead.
It is also said that at this time of year, the veil between the living and the spirits is thinnest. That we can communicate with our ancestors easiest. I have had experiences at this time of the year where I have felt the dead touch me. When I celebrate this holiday alone, I do the old custom of making a dinner for me, and making a plate for the ancestors. I did that last year, and ate in slience alone with the spirits that decided to visit.
This is a time of the year for remembrance. This is a time to connect to our past. This is a time to celebrate death, as it is happening all around us.
This is the celebration of the shortest day of the year. It is this day that everything starts to turn towards Beltane. This is really a time of joy because we know that things are turning around. From this day on the days will be getting longer. It will be getting warmer. The sun will be growing to a higher angle and will eventually bring us to the spring and summer.
We can see this kind of thinking in the symbols of the holiday. The Yule tree, the Yule log. These are all bringing nature into our house, our hearth, and celebrating the life we do see outside. This is a time where we connect with friends and just celebrate. The tradition of gift giving goes to show that we should be getting together to celebrate our friendships. This is just the start of the year. The days only get longer from here. It’s a time to celebrate.
This is the first of the fertility rituals. We celebrate to wake the earth up. In the northeast here we usually are in the worst, or just getting over the worst of the winter. This ritual for me is a time to look forward. The days have started to get longer, although it usually is not that noticeable.
It is now what we start to think about the spring and summer. In this ritual I usually start to send energy to the earth to make it more fertile. Start visualizing the earth blooming with growth again, the animals and their babies running around. It is a time to plant the seeds of a fruitful rest of the year.
We can see this kind of thing in the secular world. Groundhogs day is at the beginning of February and is an old custom to find out how much of the winter is left.
A different name for this holiday is Charming of the Plows. To me this is the time when we start preparing for the work that is about to come. We’re asking the Gods to bless our tools so that when we use them they will provide for a bountiful harvest.
This is the second of the fertility rituals of the year. It also is my Birthday and the start of the astrological year. This holiday is one of two that should be celebrating balance.
As for the fertility, it is now that we can start to really see the earth wake up. We can see the start of what we sewed at Imbolc come to fruition. The birds are starting to return, and it is not uncommon to see the Robbins appear around now. The snow is melting away, the days are getting warmer, and we are truly noticing the earth waking up again. With regards to the balance of things, this is one of two days a year where there is equal day and night. Balance is something we should be celebrating.
It is with this ritual that we really should be sewing the seeds of a bountiful summer as some of the symbols that were borrowed from us by the Christians show. The bunny and the eggs. This is a time to be planning for the future. It is now that we should be planting seeds for our garden, if we have the space to do it indoors. We can truly see the earth start to awaken, and the energy we raise should go towards waking it.
This is THE fertility ritual of the year. Between this ritual and the next one, fields will be planted. The earth is awake now. It is time to physically sew the seeds of the future. We should be celebrating the rebirth of the earth. The animals have returned. This is truly a celebration of the spirits of the land, since they are responsible for the harvest to come.
The major symbols of this ritual are the May Pole and the Bel fires. The May Pole is a truly phallic symbol. We are putting a huge phallus into a hole in the earth, and then weaving positive, sexual, fertile energy, and ribbons, around the phallus, thus sending that energy into the earth. The tradition of the fires is for a similar purpose. It’s been a tradition to drive cattle and other livestock between the fires to promote fertility in the herd. It has also been custom to jump the fire to bring fertility into ourselves.
Like I said, this is all about making the earth ready for the planting and harvest to come. We should be sending this fertile, sexual energy into the earth, and be asking the land spirits for a bountiful summer. It should go without saying that we should be making offerings to them to bring this about.
It is on this day that we celebrate the longest day of the year. We have spent the time between Beltaine and now laboring in the fields, planting the crops for the year. Now is a time for joy.
The energy we are celebrating here is the energy of the sun. In the Celtic regions, this was male, in the Scandinavian region it’s female. Either way, we are here to celebrate the sun and the growth of our crops. The energy we raise should be for this purpose. To promote the growth of our crops, the growth of our herds. We can see this in how the animals are acting. They have given birth, and are nourishing their young. This is what we should be doing.
This is really a transitional time too. The work of planting is done. The true work of the harvest is yet to come. The same can be said of the sun. This is the longest day of the year. From now on the days will be getting shorter. The earth is in its fullest life, and soon we will see it start to die again as we head towards Samhain.
This holiday has a couple meanings. There is the tradition of celebrating the games of Lugh. There is also the tradition of celebrating the first true harvest.
This is a time of bounty. We have spent the last six weeks havesting what we sewed in spring. Summer is in full bloom, and our crops are in full bloom. It is a perfect time to get together and celebrate this. The games of Lugh were games celebrating the skills of the warriors. Lugh being the god that was master of all skills, as legend tells us.
With food in such plenty, and more to come, a feast is called for. It is time to share with everyone our harvest. In our personal lives it’s a time to hopefully reap the bounty of what we sewed between Imboc to Beltaine.
The energy we are raising for this ritual should be sent to the earth to continue the growth of our crops. We should also be preparing for the upcoming fall and winter. It will be soon that we will see the earth start to die off, we are in the second half of the year now, and it is starting to be noticeable.
This is the final ritual of the year. This is the other ritual of balance. The day is just as long as the night. This is also a time of harvest. The fields are in full bloom, the grains and fruits are ready to be harvested, if they haven’t been harvested yet. Food is in plenty. This is time to celebrate the bounty of the earth.
With the last ritual we started to notice the earth going into the second half of the year. We have noticed over the previous six weeks that the days are getting shorter, we are starting to realize that winter will soon be here, the earth is starting to go into death. It is with this ritual that we should be reaping the fruits of our labor. This is truly a harvest festival. There should be foods made from grains in plenty since this is the majority of stuff being harvested.
We also should be preparing for the winter. It is a time to store the grains. To ask the powers for the protection of our grain from going bad, and to ask that they are able to last us the winter. In the end though, this is a time to celebrate the harvest we are having, and so end the year.
Indo-European Study: A History of Pagan Europe, by Jones and Pennick:
This book is a good overview of the history of paganism in Europe. It starts off with Crete and the Greeks and briefly going over their deities. Then they go into Rome and the Etruscans. From there they go onto continental Europe and then head north and east just to end up with reviewing what has happened in modern times and where we are today.
What I found interesting is how the Romans and their empire were all inclusive. They would not force the people they conquered to adopt the Roman deities, which were essentially the Green deities, but instead allow them to worship their gods right next to the Roman ones. This dualism is ultimately what lead to the downfall of the pagan religion to the Catholic religion.
Another thing that came out in the book was how all these cultures are different, their beliefs were all rather similar, and the deities that they worshiped tended to contain the same attributes. This became very obvious when the Christian writers almost always used the Roman names for the deities.
While reading I paid special attention to the parts on the Celts and how they worshiped. Before this I never fully understood the importance of springs and the tree. Since the Celts and Germanic people held the springs to be sacred, it was common for worship to be held there. The trees were important in many respects as idols. Often there were carved pillars in the sacred groves. Unfortunately all we have to go by are oral accounts since wood tends not to last forever.
This book also covers some of the Scandinavian culture. What I did not know before this is how much influence they had to their eastern neighbors. I knew about large influence that they had with the Celts, but I didn’t know about how much contact they had with the Slavic peoples, and how similar the beliefs were, although again, the names were different.
The book did spend a great deal of time talking about the conversion of the pagan people to Catholicism. This was apparently not a quick process. In just about every culture there was a period of a couple hundred years where the rulers went between pagan and Catholic. Unfortunately in the end, as we well know, the Catholics won out, and in the eastern Mediterranean the Catholics slowly developed into Islam which lead to the crusades and our current issues in the middle east.
Overall this was a good read, but it was extremely date heavy which did make it tedious read at times.
Preferred Ethnic Study: Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, by H. R. Ellis Davidson:
This book is an excellent resource for the basics of the Norse culture, and also for the major themes of the Indo-European religions. In this book she constantly compares what we know about the Norse mythology, based mostly on the writings of Snorri and Saxo, with what we know from the rest of Europe, mostly the Germanic tribes. She also makes clear that all that we know of this cultures mythology is from archeology and writings that were put to paper after the conversion of the culture to Christianity. Keeping this in mind, she also points out many times where the stories may have been corrupted or changed thanks to this influence.
This book is really just a starting place for the study of the Norse culture. We get lead through the basics of the deities. Odin is described as a multifaceted god. He is a god of war as is shown with the Berserkers, Valkeries, and Valhalla. He is also considered a god of death. There are multiple times that he takes a journey into the underworld for this purpose or that purpose. He is also a god of knowledge and wisdom. These are all things supported by the mythology and by the cults of Odin.
We then have Thor, the god of thunder. Being a god of thunder he is also a god of weather and travel. It is to Thor that one prays for favorable wind for your ship, or for good weather for your crops. These two gods are really the biggest players in the mythology that we know.
Now there were also a secondary family of gods called the Vanir. In here we have Freyr and Freyia. While the first family, the Aesir, were mostly associated with war, death, and weather, the Vanir were associated with fertility and growth. These were the deities that were prayed to for good crops, big yields of fish, etc., things that were associated with a peaceful life.
She then goes into some of the other gods that are in the stories, but that don’t have much known directly from the sories that we have. She tries to fill in the blanks based on what we know about the Germanic tribes, and other IE people. Some of these though do play a big part in the mythology. Balder, the god loved by all and the one that dies to eventually return and rule a new world. Heimdall, the guardian of Asgard. Loki, a trickster, comic relief in many of the myths, but also is responsible for the end of the world, and the death of Balder.
To conclude the book, she writes about the start and the end of the world. Here is where the various creation stories are told, all similar, but depending on which source slightly different. The “Armageddon” story of Ragnarok is also told, where the gods of Asgard fight their respective enemies, many of whom are created by Loki at the start of the world, and all die, but the world is eventually reborn and Balder returns.
As I have said, this is really a great overview of the Norse culture. I have to say it has given me a foundation to start from, and has inspired me to search the Eddas and read the original sources.
Modern Paganism: Drawing Down the Moon, 1986 printing, By Margot Adler:
I have to say, this book was a rather good look at paganism in general, as it was when first published and when the revision was written. It was pointed out in various points throughout the book though that paganism was evolving and that as a result, when the update was printed, some of the things said in the original printing were no longer true. I have to say that, from what I have seen in my own life, that this continues to be true. Things have changed since 1986 and although the themes tend to be similar, there are new differences.
The book starts out by giving a good history of modern witchcraft and explaining some of the concepts that many of us prescribe to. She does point out that we are not a religion that goes out and tries to convert people. Instead when most find the religion, they feel like they have come home. I know that is how I felt when I found paganism, and then ADF.
She then goes on to describe many of the modern Wiccan and Witchcraft movements, and the history and controversy behind them, such as how much of Gardner’s work is based on fact and how much did he make up. She also tackles the idea of the unbroken line of witches. I have to agree with what Leo Martello said in the book, “Let’s assume that many people lied about their lineage. Let’s further assume that there are no covens on the current scene that have any historical basis. The fact remains: they do exist now. And they can claim a spiritual lineage going back thousands of years. All of our pre-Judeo-Christian or Moslem ancestors were Pagans!” I take this as who cares where you come from, all that matters is that we’re celebrating things that are rooted in our ancient psyche and is something I firmly believe.
Then Margot goes into the feminist movement. I do realize that it was a big driving force for the growth of paganism in the 70’s, and to some extent, it still is today. I feel though that she spent way too much time and effort on it though. Yes, the feminists are there and you can find all woman covens, but there are many more mixed groups, and there are also some all male groups that she does mention later on in the book.
What I found more interesting, though, was a brief look at some of the groups that are national in organization. How these groups ranges from the ultra ecology groups like Feraferia to the reconstructionalists like us, or as we were when first published RDNA. The look at these various groups made me realize the range of people that Paganism encompasses and that we truly do have many different views.
She then ended the book with how paganism has affected living on the earth. This look included everything from politics to ecology. A big part was how we, as modern pagans living in a technological world, can still relate to the earth. I have to say that I am one that would fall into the compartmentalizing that she talks of, being one thing at work, and another at home and in worship.
I think though that one quote from Herman Slater sums everything up nicely. “The good old days were not so good. We have lost nothing. We have just taken the names of old religions and applied modern forms and ideals that would not stand up to the original barbaric worship we claim to emulate.
I look to the past for some of the simplicities of life, but to the future for the realization of my ideals. I don’t feel we have lost anything except the primitive trappings of the old ways”
My home shrine has been in various states of disorder over the past few years. Currently, it is all but missing due to me doing remodeling on my house, and the house in general being in a total state of disarray.
What I do keep in a constant state is an incense holder, vase, and a rose from my very first Samhain, signifying fire, well, and tree respectively, on my dresser. This unfortunately is the only thing I am able to have set up again due to the disarray in my house.
In the future, I do plan on greatly expanding the shrine. The current plan is to make a bench of sorts from a slab of stone and tree stumps supporting it. The purpose of this will be to bring in some local wood (tree stumps) and local stone to make a substantial and semi-permanent shrine that will always remind me of our connection to the earth. I will then keep on that the incense burner(s) for the burning of offerings. A pottery bowl will be added for making offerings to the well, and the rose in the vase as my tree. Obviously there will also be candles all over too as a source of fire and light. There probably will be a main candle though for offerings to fire and to light other candles and incense. I don’t plan on covering the stone with any cloths. I would prefer to keep it as natural as I can.
A bit about the rose. My first Samhain with the Binghamton community, I was somehow chosen to be a part of the ritual. I played the part of a “lost soul”. At one point in the ritual, we became found, and part of the community. This was signified by us burning our red roses in the ritual fire, and we were given white roses in return. That white rose is what I keep, and to me, it has a very strong connection to paganism in general, not to mention lots of energy from that Samhain, now 6 years ago.
Overall, my home shrine is very central to my daily life. When I meditate, I quite often sit in front of it while I burn a candle and/or incense on it to help put me in the right state. When I was starting the meditation work, I would often just use the candle and concentrate on that with, unfortunately, little success. When I do personal rituals, be it for the holidays or for petitioning the Kindred for something, I do it at my shrine and any non-burnable offerings I do make then get transferred to a corner of my yard where they are buried or scattered if edible.
Even though things are in a state of disarray, it does get used often. Most importantly though, it’s in a place I see every day when waking up, and every night when I go asleep, so it, the Kindred, and every aspect of my religious life cannot be forgotten and it acts of a reminder of what I have done, and to do the things I do.
The two powers meditation is a great tool for grounding and centering. To me, I find that it does a great job of connecting me to, and creating the cosmos.
The “rooting” of myself in the earth, growing roots deep into the earth, tapping into the waters deep below the earth. That really grounds me well. The pulling up of the waters, or energies of the earth really connects me with nature. It allows me to take some time and realize that I am part of nature, that nature is powerful and full of energy. It reminds me that I should give back to the earth as it is our habitat.
The finding of the star above us is what really connects me to the cosmos. Drawing down the energy, or light, of that star really fills me with the feeling of being connected to the gods. Every time I do that, it reminds me that there are higher powers out there watching over us, protecting us, and hopefully guiding us. To me, that is just a feeling of comfort that I can’t easily get anywhere.
When we mix the two powers, the powers of the earth symbolized by water, and the powers of the cosmos symbolized by light, we get a very powerful energy. This energy does glow. It empowers us. It is the true essence of our life. As humans we are part of both. We come from earth, and are one form of the earth energies. We also are strongly connected to the cosmos and at times do embody the powers of that light. When we concentrate and mingle these energies, we re-affirm what we are. This by itself is powerful and comforting, but yet it is also strongly grounding because we do concentrate and send the energies back where they came from.
Whenever I find myself in distress, or in tough situations, etc, I do take the time to remember, and connect myself to the two powers. Many times this has given me the strength to go on and complete the task at hand, just knowing that I can call on the two powers and going to that place of comfort.
Sunday, May 02, 2004:
I just got back from celebrating Beltane with the Binghamton Pagan Community. Many things happened to me throughout the weekend. When I got to the land, I realized that it has been missing from my life since summer solstice the previous year. I felt like I was home. Then came the mysteries. I went to the Two Spirits mystery this year, making it two years in a row. The theme of the mystery this year was coming of age.
Later, after the dancing of the may pole was done, I was honored unexpectedly. The community Staff was passed to me. When I accepted it, I was overcome with emotion. When I grabbed it for the first time as a proper holder, The energy that is contained in it flowed through me, and almost overwhelmed me. We then went on and did the ritual for the night, and did our normal partying afterwards.
Overall, the weekend pointed out to me that I must work on and complete my DP. So, here I am starting off again. This may be the 4th or 5th time I said that, but I will complete it this time. I made a promise to the Gods that night when I stuffed a piece of paper with this intention on it. I will go through with it. I am spiritually ready, and I know that I have a place to fill in many communities by completing the DP, and then maybe even the study program.
Friday, May 07, 2004:
Last night we, as a grove, did Beltane. Throughout the ritual, I focused on giving energy to the group, and sending energy into whomever was reading the part. I think that overall we did a good job.
As part of the night, we welcomed a new member to the protogrove. He had just found out about us on Sunday, and now on Wednesday, he practiced with us. For the work, we sent our energy into spring like art projects. Mine was just a bunch of beads on a ribbon that now hangs from my rearview mirror. It will always be there to remind me of Beltane though.
The ritual itself follows the same outline as we have been doing. I wish that we were a little more organized, and that I had time to get rituals together sooner, get them out to the group, and have us start doing rituals from memory. That probably won’t be till way in the future.
Monday, May 10, 2004:
Last night I started on my meditations. I have to admit that it is not an easy thing for me to do. I lit a candle, started some incense, got comfortable, and started concentrating on my breathing. I found that my thoughts were just overwhelming me. I have since looked at a couple resources on meditation and realized that this may not be the best way for me to meditate. Thinking back on my past experiences, when I have been in a drum circle, I have found myself drifting off into trance with no problem. I am seriously considering purchasing a drum and start learning how to play, and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll start being able to meditate better with it’s help.
Sunday, May 16, 2004:
Well, I’ve tried to spend time every day this past week to get into a meditative state. It hasn’t been easy, and I never got there. I’ve been concentrating on my breathing and trying to concentrate only on that. I keep finding my mind wanders and wanders.
Sunday, May 23, 2004:
It’s been another week of trying to meditate. No real change. In my personal life, things have been, and will be hectic. I am closing on a house this Wed. I will try to keep up with the meditation work, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep that promise. I’m so nervous about this, but I’m sure the deities will help me get through it.
Monday, May 31, 2004:
Ok, it’s Memorial day, and I have spent since Wednesday moving stuff into my new house. I was able to try to meditate the first couple days of the week, but my mind was just racing with all kinds of thoughts about the new house, and nervousness about the buying of the house. So, I was unsuccessful.
Last Saturday though, I did cleanse my house. I lit a bundle of sage for smudging. I called on the gods, dead, and spirits to aide me with the cleansing of the house. I then went around the entire house, all walls in each room, and smudged the house. Oddly enough, I did 3 complete circles of the house, clockwise. The 3 circles was not really intentional, I have 3 floors when you include the basement, but it felt right, and I probably would have kept going until I hit a multiple of 3 if I didn’t have the basement. The entire time I was asking the powers to protect my house, and protect me and all I let into the house. So far it has worked, and I have felt very very comfortable here.
Sunday, June 06, 2004:
Ok, I’ve been in the house a week. I have been having trouble finding time to meditate, still setting the house up. The couple times I found time, I keep running into the same troubles.
Sunday, June 13, 2004:
Ok, I’ve had a little more time to work on meditation. I have been listening to African drumming while concentrating on breathing and the beat. I am getting better, but not there yet. This seems to be a direction I should be going. The next time I get a chance, I will buy a drum.
Sunday, June 20, 2004:
Well, meditation is still stuck as before. I have seemed to reach that roadblock again which I will have to work to get through. It is so tough for me to loose my thoughts and concentrate on nothing and go into a trance state. I’ll have to keep working on it.
Yesterday we celebrated the solstice. It was a small celebration with 2 other members of the protogrove here at my house. It was just a basic ritual following the ADF format. We didn’t raise much energy, but we did call on all the powers to be with us, and thanked them for another solstice. We also spent time catching up. We are going to try to get ourselves together and start working towards better and more open/published rituals. We will be working to become a grove.
Sunday, June 27, 2004:
Meditation is still not coming easy. I wish it would, but it’s not. My mind keeps on being active, and I can’t turn it off. But, I will continue trying. The drumming music does help me get closer. It gives me something rhythmic to concentrate on, which for me helps.
Monday, July 05, 2004:
Well, the 4th of July has come and gone. I’ve tried and tried to meditate, but it’s still not coming. That trance state is just elusive. The next time I go to Binghamton, I will get a drum.
Sunday, July 11, 2004:
I am frustrated with my meditation. It is just not happening. I keep changing little things, such as how I sit, or what I concentrate on, or how I breath. It just is not coming easily. I swear I must have unconsciously set up blocks as a youth. I just wish I could turn my brain off and go into the meditative state or a trance state easily. I guess we could say it’s just not going easy.
Sunday, July 18, 2004:
Meditation is still not coming. ARGH!!!!
Sunday, July 25, 2004:
Meditation, meditation, meditation… why am I having such trouble??
Sunday, August 01, 2004:
I just got back from Binghamton celebrating Lughnasadh with the group down there. I bought a drum, a nice mahogany Djembe. I just had to hit it once and fell in love with it. It was a dreary weekend with lots of rain. We did do some drumming, and I found myself starting to go into trance while playing. This is what I’ve been looking for. Hopefully this will aide me with my meditations. As for how the meditations have gone, they have been the same… but hopefully that will change now.
Sunday, August 08, 2004:
Meditations are going as they have been, it’s like I hit a road block that I can’t get around. I have tried playing around with the drum. It seems that when I get into a rhythm with the drum, I start to go into trance. I bought a couple of CD’s of drumming, Native American in nature. I’m going to start listening to them when meditating.
Sunday, August 15, 2004:
Meditations are still the same. I unfortunately don’t have a whole lot of time to spend on them currently. Life has just gone into upheaval, and I have been unable to get the drum out at all. Hopefully things will be better next week.
Sunday, August 22, 2004:
The CD’s finally came. I sat down and listened to one. The drumming did help with bringing me into meditation. It’s not the same as if I was drumming on my own though. With practice I’m sure it will become easier.
Sunday, August 29, 2004:
Life is still in upheaval and meditation time has been rather hard to come by. I did get to sit down with the CD for a bit though. Still tough, but it’s getting better. I just need to have my life settle down so I can concentrate on this more.
Sunday, September 5, 2004:
Well, a new month has come around yet again. I’m hoping life will settle down some before Samhain. I am able to get at least one meditation period a week in though. It’s tough to get into that state, but the CD’s do seem to help. There’s something about that rhythmic drumming that helps so much.
Sunday, September 12, 2004:
Things are just starting to settle down in my life. I hate these times of unrest. I was able to get some time in over the past week though. It’s starting to get easier to loose my thoughts. Not completely there yet, but I think I’m on my way.
Monday, September 20, 2004:
I wasn’t able to take part in Mabon with either my grove or Binghamton. Instead though, I was at the Between The Worlds festival at Wisteria in OH. This is my first real festival, and what a festival it was. The festival is open only to gay and bi men of any pagan path. Great times were had. The highlight ritual was a Rights of Dionysis ritual. It was hilarious and very fulfilling. Overall I feel rejuivinated and much better spirits. Obviously, I didn’t get much time to meditate while at the festival. I did find that drumming for the rituals did lead me towards trance though. All good, as long as I don’t go into trance, while standing and drumming.
Sunday, September 26, 2004:
I miss my brothers at BTW, but the energy they had stays with me. Meditation is coming, but slow.
Sunday, October 3, 2004:
It’s fall again, and it’s really showing. The meditations are going slow, and I’ve still got to get to that trance state. It just seems so elusive. I can get there, and realize I’m there, and poof, I’m out of it. I am able to dismiss my thoughts better now though.
Sunday, October 10, 2004:
More of the same, what can I say?
Sunday October 17, 2004:
I can loose my thoughts, but that’s about where I stop. I’ve apparently hit another road block.
Sunday, October 24, 2004:
More of the same, but I keep trying. We held the grove’s Samhain this week, and it went well. We did some business also. We are going to go for a charter, hopefully it’ll happen soon. We did election of officers and I think due to me being the GO, I got elected to be the SD. We’ll see where this goes.
Monday, November 1, 2004:
Missed the Binghamton group’s Samhain due to illness.
I did hold my own ritual last night. I used the standard ritual format to call on all the various powers to come join me. I then called specifically for the ancestors of the land I’m living on, and those of my kin to join me in dinner. Dinner was a pork stroganoff creation of sorts. I did feel the presence of some ancestors with me. When dinner was done, and I spent some time in meditation, I took the omen, drank some drink with the ancestors, and returned all, including their meal, to the earth. Overall, I think it went well. I just wish I was feeling better.
Sunday, November 7, 2004:
Meditations are going as normal, I just don’t feel comfortable drumming by myself.
Sunday, November 14, 2004:
Same as before. Going slow
Sunday, November 21, 2004:
Same as always. Thoughts are able to be floated away, but that’s it. Overall I guess that is a good thing that I can get this far.
Sunday, November 28, 2004:
Meditations going as normal. Thanksgiving was good, but boy am I glad I don’t have young kids… Aunt and uncle have 4 under the age of 8, and I don’t know how they do it. Meditation in that kind of distraction did not work at all for me.
Sunday, December 5, 2004:
Going as normal, such is life.
Sunday, December 12, 2004:
More of the same.
Sunday December 19, 2004:
The holidays are approaching again. Due to schedule conflicts, I was not able to attend the grove’s ritual. Due to Binghamton doing theirs on Dec 25th, I’m going to have to miss that one too. Meditations are going as normal.
Sunday, December 26, 2004:
I did a small ritual using the standard format for myself. Just made offerings of praise and thanks for another secular year gone by. Overall I think it worked well.
Sunday, January 2, 2005:
Secular new year has come again. I stayed in and just relaxed that night. Meditations are going about the same.
Sunday, January 9, 2005:
Meditations are going as normal. I’ve talked to the grove members, and we are starting a push for charter again, now that the holidays are over.
Sunday, January 16, 2005:
Same as always.
Sunday, January 23, 2005:
No more, no less progress.
Sunday, January 30, 2005:
We held Imbolc. The ritual went well and all present enjoyed. We also found out that one member of the protogrove is actually an expired ADF member. Unfortunately we need her for the chartering. So, there puts the breaks on that idea for now.
Meditations are going as normal… still can’t get into a trance state and hold it.
Sunday, February 6, 2005:
Did Imbolc in Binghamton, had fun although the ritual was very poorly done. Good thing is I got to see lots of friends and catch up.
Meditations are still the same.
Sunday, February 13, 2005:
More of the same, no breakthroughs.
Sunday, February 20, 2005:
Chilly weather, and more of the same meditation wise.
Sunday, March 6, 2005:
Spring is on it’s way. Only 14 more days to my birthday, and the start of spring!!!! For some reason, I doubt it will actually come on spring.
Sunday, March 13, 2005:
Meditations are goinga s they have been.
Monday, March 21, 2005:
Meditations are going as before.
I did ritual with the protogrove his week, it went well, and this year, since I didn’t invoke Loki and do a ritual on balance, the eggs were actually done. A good time was had by all.
I also went to Binghamton for their Ostara. Their ritual was an all night drum vigil. I tell you, my hands were raw a the end of it. I think I drummed over ½ the night. I did also notice myself going into trance a few times while drumming. The one problem I had was that I was also getting tired by the end of the night, so things did get a little odd.
Sunday, March 27, 2005:
Meditations are going as normal.
Sunday, April 3, 2005:
April fools day came and went without any incidents. Thank you Loki ;-)
Meditations are going as normal. It probably will be a while before I drum. Hands are still recovering from two weekends ago.
Sunday, April 10, 2005:
Meditations are going as always. I drifted away from the CDs for a bit, but am back to using them. Things hopefully will continue to progress.
Sunday, April 17, 2005:
Meditations are as normal…. I can’t wait till Beltane comes though.
Sunday, April 24, 2005:
This is the start of “Beltane week”. Meditations are going as always.
Monday, May 2, 2005:
Did Beltane with the local grove this past week. That went well and a good time was had by all.
Did Beltane with Binghamton this weekend too. I ran the Two Spirits mysteries. We continued with the Native American theme of previous years. There was a small showing of people, but it went well. I thing my guided meditation went well. The ritual went well too. During the pre-rit wrap, I passed the staff. I meant to pass it on Samhain, but was sick. Well, I passed the staff to someone that truly deserves it. And so ends a year of this journal.
As I look back over the past year, it has been a good year. I have advanced in my meditation skills. I am now able to go and bring myself into a meditative state. I still can’t easily go into any kind of trance state though. I also am not able to do stuff while in that state. The best I’ve done is while drumming. I guess that just means for now I need a tool. I obviously will continue with the meditations and hopefully keep improving.
Since I am not really one to write in journals, this has been a very tough exercise for me. Therefore, I am going to stop the writing. This has taught me though to write down things when I think of them, and careful note taking, but journaling is not something I have any desire to keep up.
Nature, ecology, and the state of the earth are very important not just to ADF and the neo-pagan movement, but also to me. I live inside the city of Albany, NY. This area is a special area terrain wise. The major feature of the area is the Hudson river and, just north of Albany, the Mohawk river. These rivers define the area I live in. They created the valleys where the majority of the population lives. Outside of the immediate river valleys, you can find “mountains” or as I prefer to say after having been out west, foot hills as they are not that tall.
The Grove that I’m with was named after the headwaters of the Hudson. This is a little lake located just below the highest peak in NY. As a youth, I have visited this lake, and it is an amazing place to visit. I do plan on returning there one day.
There are many things we can do that can impact the ecosystem we live in. One major issue we face everywhere, and especially in cities, is air pollution. With me moving to my current house, I have consciously moved closer to work and have literally cut my commute, and daily pollution, in half. I also have moved to a newer and more efficient vehicle. Unfortunately, I can only afford to own one vehicle, and I do pack heavy when camping, and remodeling my house, so I have to have a truck. On the note of remodeling, I am slowly becoming energy efficient by adding insulation. This again is a way of reducing pollution.
The other biggest thing that effects the local environment is trash. I do what I can to buy foods and products with as eco-friendly or as little packaging as possible. This will in turn reduce what goes into the land fills. I am also an all grain brewer. I have taken to dumping my spent grains, usually 10-20 lbs, in my garden instead of the trash, so in a way I am composting some. I unfortunately am not situated so that I can do a true compost pile though.
All of that is really things that everyone can do to help the earth. As I said earlier, this area is really defined by the rivers. Unfortunately, years ago, general electric dumped lots of waste, specifically PCB’s, into the rivers of this area. I have done what I can to support efforts to clean these up.
Now, as for me attuning with nature. I do what I can to get out into nature and spend time with it. I try to get out and go hiking and if possible camping throughout the year. As I get older it seems to be only the summer months though. I have in the past just searched out isolated spots and spend time sitting quietly, or meditating in nature. Observing the wildlife and plants around me. Enjoying the silence. Every time I do this, I come back very fulfilled. I do have a nice back yard at my house. I have been able to set up my hammock in it and do just the same thing there as when I go out into the wilds.
Again though, this being a city it’s not that easy to find peace and quiet. The wildlife pretty much consists of squirrels and a couple varieties of birds, which I do have a feeder for. Thankfully though, I can go a few minutes drive and get into nature, and the state parks that are all over this area.
So, how do I go about combining the lifestyle and spiritual in my daily life? What I do is I take the time to enjoy the world I’m in. I often say little prayers or thanks to the nature spirits for what they are giving me at that time. I tend my garden, I compost my spent grains from brewing, put out bird (squirrel at times because of their skills at getting into any feeder) all with the purpose of giving back to nature, and usually I am saying thanks to those spirits around me for allowing me to be there. In the end, it comes down to me recognizing that I am a part of nature, and that I should give my thanks and offer what I can to help preserve it.
These are all ways that I go about attuning to nature, respect nature, and try to help improve, or at least stay off the degradation of the land I live on. One day, I desire to move to the country and build a truly environmentally friendly house.
High Day Attendance:
The Samhain that sticks out the most in my mind is the one I ran for the Binghamton community in the ADF style in 2002. There were about 60 of us. We gathered a little before dusk for a pre-ritual talk. We then gathered at the top of the hill in a circle around a lone tree. We grounded and centered up there using the 2 powers meditation.
The group then processed down the hill following a path that was lit with candles in brown sandwich bags. We passed through 3 gates for cleansing. First was water, second was sage, third was a skull where you were asked to leave your ego and enter the ritual field as equals.
We then did the standard ritual format making offerings to the fire, well, tree, earth mother, outdwellers, and gate keeper. When I called on the gate keeper to open the gates, as I said “let the gates be opened” it started to snow heavily. We then, now shivering and covered in snow, made offerings to the gods, ancestors, and land spirits. We then made offerings to Morrigan and Donn.
At this point we then did the work of the ritual which was to tie prayers of offerings to a wreath of vines. The wreath was then thrown into the fire and a spiral dance ensued to raise the energy and send the prayers off. We then took oaths on the community sword, took an omen, hallowed the waters, did a talking chalice, and then did our thanks. We didn’t close the gates, but the snow did stop when the thanks were done. We closed the gates the next day.
Overall, this is by far the most powerful ritual, and probably one of the most memorable ritual I have ever been too. To this day, I am still known in that community as the guy who called down the snow. I think, and from what I have heard, this was a very good and powerful ritual for all.
This Yule was celebrated again with the Binghamton community, in an eclectic wiccan fashion. We started off casting a circle, calling quarters, then the god and goddess. They then had us sit and told a story of the season. After that they invited us to tell stories of the season. We then did a grab bag gift exchange. Next came the hallowing of the chalice and bread, passed around as a talking chalice, then the closing of the circle.
Overall this was a very subdued ritual, but it did satisfy the spirit of the holiday, getting together, enjoying friends and family, and celebrating the shortest day of the year.
This was again an ADF ritual I helped run. We did the grounding and centering, followed by the normal offerings. We then called on Dagda and Bridgid for this ritual. We then did the work of the day which was sharing our feeling, thoughts, storied, poems, etc. of the season. We started sewing the hopes of longer and warmer days. Offerings were then made, the omen taken, waters hallowed followed by a talking chalice, and then closing as normal.
This was again, a very subdued ritual. It served the purpose of getting us together and start sending energy into the earth to help bring around a warmer days, longer days, and a fertile earth.
This was a fun ritual I ran in an ADF style. In this ritual we did the grounding and centering followed by the normal offerings. We then called on Chaos to join us, and to that effect, we also called on my patron, Loki. The work was coloring eggs with intent and randomly chosen, 2 each, one to be eaten by us, one to be given to the land where we live. We then took the omen, hallowed the waters and did a talking chalice. Then we closed as normal.
The idea of the ritual was to call on balance. We always celebrate order, and rarely chaos. Well, chaos did show up. The eggs that I hard boiled for about 30 min were still raw in the middle so needless to say, both eggs were given to the land. Overall it went very well and fun was had by all.
This was again an ADF ritual. We did the normal grounding and centering followed by the normal offerings. We then made offerings to Belanos and Danu. The work of the ritual was a may pole of kinds. We went around, round robinish, and gave something of ourselves to each other. This was mostly done verbally. We then did our omen, and water hallowing as normal, and closed in the usual way.
Overall, it was a good ritual. We did raise some fertility energy and sent to the earth to help kick start spring. A good time was had by all, and good weather did come soon after.
Summer Solctice 2003:
This was again an ADF ritual I helped run. We grounded an centered, did the normal offerings, and then invoked the Sun, Sol, for the ritual. We then did work with cleansing and charging crystals with the energy of the sun. After that we took the omen, hallowed waters, and closed everything down.
The idea of the sun came from Wellspring the year before. This was the second year we called on the sun. Thankfully this time, our fire actually stayed lit unlike the last time where it just couldn’t be ignighted. We also sent energy out to the fields to help promote the growth of the crops, and celebrate the earliest harvests.
This was also an ADF ritual I helped facilitate. We did our grounding and centering followed by the normal offerings. We then called on Lugh and Morrigan. The work was telling stories of the summer and harvest. We sent energy out to the harvest and to ask for continued warmth and sun. We then did the praise offerings, omen, and a talking chalice followed by the normal closing.
The ritual was mostly based off of Ian Corrigan’s Celtic Lughnasad ritual. Overall it was a very good experience and fun was had by all. This ritual will continue to be used by us in the future, with some tweaking to fit our group.
This was a ritual I did with the Binghamton community. This was again an eclectic Wiccan ritual. We cast circle, called quarters, and then the God and Goddess. The facilitators then told a story of summer, of the harvest, and of the turning of the wheel. We then started drumming and go into spontaneous pagan mayhem to raise energy to send to the earth and to the harvest. We then grounded, hallowed the waters and bread, and did a talking chalice. After that we close the circle as normal and did a potluck feast.
Overall this was again a powerful ritual that was very uplifting and left us all energized to finish out the year.
Overall, between the ADF and eclectic Wiccan rituals I have done, they both are appealing to me. In general, the ADF rituals tend to be lower in energy but accomplish the same things. I also have seen, as in the Samhain ritual, how we can increase the energy level to accommodate different groups.
The Gods and Goddesses are the immortal beings that we normally pray to and make offerings of sacrifice to. The deities embody various traits that seem to be grouped universally. These are the beings that are in charge. They are the ones we hear about in all the local lore and myths.
Being the beings of myth, we can easily follow their adventures by reading the lore of the culture that we want to study. These stories are not just stories. They are written to teach us lessons about something, or to give an explanation of how something has come about.
That all being said, I do believe that the gods and goddesses are real entities. I’m more of a pan/polytheistic guy because when I have looked at various cultures and looked at their deities and what combinations of traits they have, the groupings tend to be similar. A classic example of this is the Greek and Roman deities. They are essentially the same, but the names changed.
I also feel that the gods choose you. I have had experience in this. I had an inkling that Loki had chosen me, but I didn’t really know. He kept on showing up in my life in various rituals with various groups. It was the first time I ever had any interaction with a deity. Then, for one ritual I asked him to stay away. Well, he didn’t. He came in right before the chalice got to me and made his presence known. The following day, I paid the price for asking him to stay away. That is just the first time that any deity has touched me.
Often, when I make offerings to the deities, it’s in the context of a prayer of thanks. Thanks for the day, week, month, experience, etc. that I have just had. I usually try to do this on a daily basis, and often it’s in the shower, and all I expect in return is just to have things continue the way they are going.
At times though, I do specifically call on the deities in general, or a specific deity for help with something. When I do this, I try to give an offering that would be meaningful to them that I can easily, and sometimes quickly, can get my hands on. Often this turns out to be some kind of food, incense, or alcohol. Now, this differs from my general thanks worship in that I am petitioning them for something to happen, either for myself or for others. As a result, I usually offer some kind of sacrifice along with my offering. The sacrifice ranges from something of financial significance to personal hardship to giving the last bottle of mead, wine, or beer that I’ve made.
To be honest, I try not do petition the deities often for stuff. It may just not turn out as I had hoped. They may know that I have what I need and do nothing, or they may see some humor in it and give me something I didn’t intend. In the end though, when I do petition for something, I do couple it with meditation and changing actions on my part to help bring it about.
The Ancestors are our own kin. They are the spirits of those who have passed on to the other worlds. It is very important that we remember them. They are the ones who have come before, and they can give us advice and direction for the future.
It is a shame that as Americans we tend to forget the past. In most European families there is a sense of their history, both family and locality. Even though the Americas are only a few hundred years old, if you don’t include native Americans, we should be more aware of our past.
The ancestors are great for calling on for advice. Unfortunately, the easiest time to do this is around Samhain since the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest at that time. What I normally do is go into meditation with the burning of incense as an offering. When going into the meditation, I go in with the intent of asking for help or advice. I can’t say that I ever have had any kind of vision or audible advice, but I have gained the instinct to do what was the right thing to do.
Again, like the deities, I do make offerings to the ancestors often. Usually it’s an offering of incense in thanks for guiding me through the day. I also offer them homemade alcohol if I have it available. Of course, there are always offerings of recognition and thanks in ritual space for the seasons.
Every Samhain, I do go one step further. I do a personal ritual to the ancestors. I make a good dinner and plate out an extra plate of food, wine, etc, and serve it in ritual space to the ancestors. I do invite my ancestors, and those of the place I am at, to the dinner and I share a meal with them.
Being that we are a nature based religion, it is important that we remember nature. Everywhere we go, we are in nature, and we are surrounded by the spirits of the land and animals of that area. Much of this goes back to the nature awareness that was talked about earlier.
It is very important that we always keep these spirits in mind. I often give prayers of thanks to the land spirits whenever I am out in nature. Usually these are prayers of thanks for being there, and sometimes prayers to the deities to protect the land.
I have also taken to the practice of trying to give back to the land when possible. As an example, when I do my brewing I have started to spread my spent grains over my flower beds. Not only is this feeding the flowers with nutrients, it also does, for a short period, serve as a food source for the animals in my neighborhood. As a result, I seem to have a bunch of fat squirrels… then again, it could just be a cold winter coming up.
Much like the other kindreds, I often give offerings of thanks to the land spirits. Normally I try to make it some kind of edible food spread over my lawn for them. This is usually something along the lines of bread or bird seed. The spirits are also recognized, and thanks given, in ritual space.
I also used to be, and hope to be again, an avid camper. I have taken trips alone where the entire purpose was to just be out in nature, and attune to the spirits of where I am. These trips have had the effect of rejuvenating me and bringing me into higher spirits. Just for that reason alone, I value any time I can spend in the outdoors, and if possible, meditating in the wilderness.
Of course we can’t forget those other spirits of the place. The usually unseen spirts such as the Fay or the Norwegian huldrefolk. These beings are often referred to as fairies or trolls or similar. They all have the ability to be unseen by most humans, unless wanted to be seen. The traditions of pleasing these beings still continues in many places today, and it’s not unheard of for the Norwegians to go out of their way to not disturb places they are suspected to live for fear of retribution. Overall, we must remember to give respect, and offerings to these beings too. When I do make offerings specifically to them, usually it’s in the form of food, flowers, or shiny objects.
Overall, it is important that we celebrate, remember, and make offerings to all three kindreds. They are all powerful entities in their own way. The deities to help change things, the ancestors for advice, and the land spirits for the local living conditions.
Personal spiritual practice:
Over the past 6 years, I have done a great deal of exploring to find a spiritual practice that fits me. I started off looking at the Nordic ways since Loki was the first god to call to me. I started by reading books that are on the recommended reading list with regards to the Norse. I then branched out and started reading more on the cultures and history of the Scandinavian people.
This all lead me to find out that due to proximity and trade, the Norse and Celts are very similar. They tend to share many of the same traditions and beliefs. So, I started reading up on the Celts, again using the recommended reading list. I have to say though, the Norse culture really calls to me, although I cannot understand why.
Now, since I can trace my family roots to the late 1600’s in America, I decided to also study some of the Native American cultures. I am fortunate in that not far from my house is the Iroquois museum. I have been able to visit there and learn about the native culture for where I live, upstate NY. I also have been able to pick up books about their culture and legends.
Through all of this I have combined these cultures that call to me into my own practice. I often mix and match the deities I call to in my own personal worship. It is common for me to call on a Norse god and a Celtic god at the same time, or a god and an animal spirit for guidance.
At this point in my life though, I am going to become more focused on just the Norse. There is so much more that I can learn from them, and that is truly the strongest calling I have. I am slowly collecting items of Norse inspiration for my personal worship, and I intend to start brewing some sacramental beer in a style that would be appropriate to honor the Norse gods (spruce or juniper flavored is the traditional flavors due to how they filtered the grains).
Overall, I have come to realize that I am just at the start of my journey, and I have many years of studying to go to get a full understanding of the old Vikings.
Statement of purpose:
I come into the sacred grove of the elder ways, toward the sacred center, to the meeting place of the worlds. I, Illious, approach the gods in pride and wonder, as a seeker of blessing, bringing offerings in honor of all of the kins of spirits. I come to the well and kindle fire to make an oath of dedication to the path of the old wisdom, the eternal way. I come to give my worship to the gods and goddesses, to the beloved and wise dead, and to all the Kindreds and spirits with whom I share the worlds. Especially I bring offerings to Loki, the cunning one. I ask him to bear witness to my oath, and guide and ward my way. As the ancient wise did before me, so I seek to do now. Let every holy power hear me, and look kindly on me as I make my oath.
Offerings to fire/well/tree
By Fire and by Water, between the Earth and Sky
We stand like the World-Tree rooted deep, crowned high.
Come we now to the Well, the eye and the mouth of Earth,
Come we now to the Well, and silver we bring,
Come we now to the Well, the waters of rebirth,
Come we now to the Well, together we sing:
We will kindle a Fire, Bless all, and with harm to none,
We will kindle a Fire, and offering pour,
We will kindle a Fire, A light 'neath the Moon & Sun,
We will kindle a fire, our spirits will soar.
Gather we at the Tree, the root & the crown of all,
Gather we at the Tree, Below & above,
Gather we at the Tree, Together we make our call,
Gather we at the Tree, In wisdom & love.
Offering to Earth Mother:
Earth mother, blossom lifter
Bloom with the wheat,
Bloom with the rye,
Bloom with barley,
And bloom with all grains.
Earth mother, blossom lifter
Bless what we eat,
Bless what we drink,
Bless what we harrow,
and bless what we sow.
Earth mother, blossom lifter
With all these things,
Let us rejoice...
You give to us,
And we give to you.
Offering to Outdwellers:
All you of the outer dark,
Any who abide beyond the light of this work's fire,
Accept this offering and trouble not my working.
Opening the Gates:
O Manannan, Lord of the Gates, Lord of Wisdom, open the ways for me. I walk in your holy ways, I walk the Sacred Road. Share your magic with me, ward me as I walk in safety. Manannan mac Lir, accept my sacrifice!
Now, lord of ways, join your magic with mine and let the fire open as a gate, let the well open as a gate, let the tree be the crossroads of all worlds. Open as a road to our voices and to the spirits. Let the gates be open!
Gatekeeper open the portals,
Between the Gods and mortals,
Power freely flows,
As our magic grows.
Offerings to 3 Kindred:
To all those whose bones lie in this land, whose hearts are tied to it, whose memory holds it; ancient tribes of this place, I offer you welcome.
To all of my own beloved dead, blood-kin and heart-kin; ancient tribes of our blood, I offer you welcome.
To all those elder wise ones who guide their people, poets and seers, judges and magicians; wise women and men of ancient days, I offer you welcome.
So, o mighty ones, I call to you as my kin, in the love of the all-mother, to join in my magic. Come to our fire, spirits; meet me at the boundary. Guide and ward me as I walk the elder ways.
Ancestors, accept my sacrifice!
To all my allies, kindreds of stone and stream, crystal and fertile soil, pools and every water; kins of the earth, I offer you welcome.
To all my allies, kindreds of the growing green, herb and flower, shrub and mighty trees, root and stem and fruit. Green kins, I offer you welcome.
To all my allies, kindreds of fur and feather and scale, all who walk or fly or swim or crawl, I offer you welcome.
So, o noble ones, I call to you as our allies, in the joy of life upon earth, to join in my magic. Come to my fire, spirits; meet me at the boundary. Guide and ward me as I walk the elder ways.
Land-spirits, accept our sacrifice!
To all the shining ones, first children of the mother, wisest and mightiest, loving and comforting; gods and goddesses, I offer you welcome.
To the gods and goddesses of this place, ancient and powerful, known to me, or unknown. Gods of this place, I offer you welcome.
So, o shining ones, I call to you as my elders, in reverence and love, to join in my magic. Come to my fire, shining ones; meet me at the boundary. Guide and ward me as I walk the elder ways.
Shining Ones, accept my sacrifice!
Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe,
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea,
By Fire and Well, by Sacred Tree,
Offerings I make to ye.
Offering to Patron Deitey:
Oh Loki, the cunning one.You great teacher. You trickster. You fun loving god. Come, be with me. Watch over me, guide me, and ward me.
Witness me take this oath dedicating myself to Ár nDraíocht Féin!
Raise energy via drumming
Work: Dedicants Oath:
I come here tonight to dedicate myself to the work of Ár nDraíocht Féin. I bring with me a token of my belief, a necklace of you Loki, that has spent time purifying in the sun. It is on this symbol, on this token of my beliefs that I take this oath.
I, Illious, also known as Robert Lewis, do hereby declare my beliefs in Paganism and Ár nDraíocht Féin. I swear that I will always try my best to live up to the virtues that Ár nDraíocht Féin holds dear. I also swear to keep an open mind and not become narrow sighted when it comes to my, and others, beliefs. I swear to keep studying as is possible so that I can learn and understand the ancient ways, and how I can relate them to modern days. I also promise to give back to Ár nDraíocht Féin how ever it is possible, whether it is through leadership or through writings and lively discussion. Loki, I also re-dedicate myself to you on this night, on this token.
With that all in mind, I dedicate myself, and take those oaths on this token of my beliefs. May the three worlds rise against me if I am forsworn. So be it!
Now let my voice arise on the fire, let my voice resound in the well, let my words pass the boundary to the spirits. Mighty, noble and shining ones, accept my sacrifice and my oath!
Hallowing of Waters:
Ancient and mighty ones I have honored you. I pray you honor me in turn, for a gift calls for a gift. Hear me, your child and bless these waters.
Behold, the waters of life!
3 rune spread, past-present-future
Past: Fehu – good fortune and a wealthy past
Present: Radio reversed – The end of a journey
Future: Sowilo – good fortune, bright future
The gods have blessed me, and I have taken an oath of dedication. Let me thank all those who have aided.
Loki, Thank you
Gods and Goddesses of old, Thank you
Ancestors, Thank you
Mighty Sidhe, Thank you.
Earth mother, I return to you all that was not used. Thank you.
Gatekeeper, Thank you.
Now by the keeper of gates and by my magic I end what I began.
Now let the fire be flame
Let the well be water
Let all be as it was before.
Let the gates be closed!
The rite is ended.
Overall, I think this went very well. To me, March 20th is a time for me to take personal oaths. I first did this in 1999 when I realized that paganism is my path and dedicated myself to it at that time. I also dedicated myself to follow Loki at that time as a trial, and a year later rededicated myself to him again, for good. So, it was just natural for me to choose tonight, the equinox, my 29th birthday, to take this oath.
I don’t normally do such a formal ceremony when I do private worship. This was kind of odd for me to be doing so much without others present. The opening meditation was done while drumming and really grounded and centered me to be prepared for the ritual. Opening the gates, as is usual for me, was a very powerful experience. The drumming to raise energy did raise a good deal of energy which was then focused on the necklace that I was to take the oath on. When I took the oath, it felt natural. It felt like this is what I am meant to be doing, this is home. I added the rededication to Loki at the last second because 2 weeks ago, the necklace I took my original oath on broke, so I guess I kind of just transferred that to this new one.
For once, the hallowing of the waters was a powerful experience to me. I could feel the energy in them as I drank the special wine that I had saved 3 years for a special occasion. Finally the omen was taken, and I think it was rather fitting. The past has been fruitful, the present has had many things come to an end, such as this DP and the protogrove I’m with applying for provisional charter. I realize though that with every journey’s end, there is a new journey’s beginning. And it looks like that new journey will be a fruitful one too.
So, now, even though the ritual is over, the energy still flows. I feel changed, yet not changed at all. I think I am ready for the next step of my journey, wherever it will take me.