MAGUS: Mid-Atlantic OBOD Gathering

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I’ve been attending the OBOD East Coast Gathering since its inception 7 years ago and now there’s going to be yet another OBOD camp gracing the eastern seaboard: the Mid-Atlantic Gathering of the United States, or MAGUS for short.

Please note, this has to be one of the best names EVER for a Druid event.

More information can be found on the event’s website and FaceBook group.  According to the organizers, spaces are about 1/3 filled in the first couple of weeks–astounding for a brand new event!  And did I mention stone circles?

Yeah. Druids. In stone circles.

‘Nuff said.

New Incarnation of Altars

Thank you again for joining us for a brand new episode of “This Old Altar,” with your host, Bob Vila! Er wait, that’s not quite right…let’s try this again:

When I moved into my neighbor’s house last year, it was probably one of the best decisions I could have made during the divorce process. I loved living with B. and she gave me a safe place to begin healing. However, I was only renting a room, and that did not leave me much space for altars. I used an old nightstand as my spiritual focus area, and switched out statues depending on whom I was moved to honor in the moment.

Now that I’m in a place of my own, I have the luxury of being able to set up several smaller altar spaces. Each one serves a different function, and has different layers of public and private meaning. As I was writing this, it occurred to me that each alter combines a primary element with a secondary in order to give it a unified aesthetic.

The altar I use most frequently is the one next to my stove, what I call my hearth altar (auto-correct said “heart sculpture” and that’s an apt description, too). It’s predominantly rooted in the Earth element of the North, but with a strong overtone of Fire. The statues represent Gwydion and Aranrhod, though that is not what the artists originally intended. (Yes, these two are sharing space; no this has not caused issues.)  Gwydion is my wild magician, and often appears to me as having features of the boar, wolf and/or deer that he was changed into as punishment for Goewin’s rape. Aranrhod (“a fun ride”: WTF auto-correct?) is not only a celestial goddess, but the goddess of the waters. And since I’ve always had trouble giving Don a face (which according to Kristoffer Hughes is actually appropriate as this goddess was in fact faceless), I rededicated her statue in Aranrhod’s name.  The little fellow playing the flute is a wight from my father’s garden.  The sprig of lavender represents peace and beauty, and the turkey feather represents family; the spiral plate is carved Welsh slate that I brought back from the 2002 National Eisteddfod. This is where I perform morning prayers and my work with the Sun Mirror; it is also the altar that my son likes to help light to thank the Ancestors when we begin cooking a meal.

Right next to the back door in the South is my working altar, the one I use for daily divination or more involved magical workings. It serves to anchor my work in the cunning arts and with the Strategic Sorcery system, which is why Hekate presides over it. In addition there are representations for spirit allies that I work with on a regular basis. Both the sword and spear are ritual as well as martial tools, and at the moment I have wands of Poplar and Willow drying and waiting to be carved.  This altar is the polar opposite of the hearth altar, being a manifestation of the Fire of will, grounded in the Earth.

To the West I have an altar space dedicated to the Makers: Bridget, Cerridwen, and Wayland. This is an altar to creative inspiration, and where I give thanks for the gods’ aid in music, poetry, and assorted crafting endevors. Hufflespawn particularly likes the Wayland statue, and even made him a little helper at school which he insisted on placing right next to the Master Smith. Cerridwen is accompanied by tokens from pig and chicken, which refer back to her animal shapes in her pursuit of Gwion Bach. Bridget has bone weaving tools dedicated to her, and a harp tuner. In front of Wayland sits a chunk of iron slag that I found on the beach in Salem Massachusetts, a gift that seemed most appropriate.  Air is the ruling element here, with a secondary infusion of Water (and Fire, too, if I’m honest, even though it messes up my nice, neat classifications).

The next two altars are a bit more “work-in-progress.” First is a home for various local spirits and wights. Thus far Turkey, Crow, Datura, Boar and Snail are represented. I will also likely include guardians from my OBOD work here as well. On top of the shelf is a ceramic Dragon my soul’s sister made for me, which eerily matches a spirit guide of mine. Water rules here, not least because one of my allies from this land is a river wight, but also because this is an area which very much requires dreams and intuitions to access fully. Air is the breath which stirs the surface of the Water.

Finally we have this very much WIP altar, which seems to be shaping into a repository for images of Divine Queens. It may end up being more of a display for statuary that I like than an actual working altar, but I think there’s a place for both in one’s home. This sort of feminine strength and inspiration is something I’ve needed greatly over the past two years, and I’ll be interested to see whether this altar remains dedicated to that casue, or whether I will eventually repurpose it for something else.

So, after only having had a single altar space for year, I may have gone a little crazy with all these! Still, it feels good to be able to move from altar to altar, and to have specific foci for various parts of my life.  More likely than not things will get pared down after a little while, but for now, this suits my needs quite well.

Announcing Druid Magazine

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One of the most fun things I’ve done this spring is to work on the inaugural issue of Druid Magazine as an editor for the Magical Crafting column.  A lot of very talented folks have put a ton of heart and soul into this project, and anyone with an interest in Druidry should check it out!

From our intrepid Editor-in-Chief, Renu:

Dear friends, With great pleasure, I announce the launch of Druid Magazine, www.druidmagazine.com, the OBOD members’ publication on American Druidry. An amazing team of talented editors, writers, authors, and artists worked very hard to birth this creation. We hope you enjoy reading and interacting with the magazine as much as we loved developing it for our community. Please send us your feedback. And consider joining the team! In addition to editorial positions, we will be accepting submissions for the fall issue until July 31, 2015.

We hope you enjoy the launch of Druid Magazine and join in the conversation about what it means to be an American Druid. Let us know what you think and any suggestions for content. Get involved—we are looking for writers, artists, copyeditors, and researchers among other positions.

The theme of the fall issue is the harvest. Submission deadline is July 31, 2015. Find more information on the next writing contest here. Please see submission guidelines and the style guide for editorial policies and procedures. Click here to submit. If you have a question for the Green Thumb Gurus, click here.

Ovate Field Notes: Vol. 3

 One of the most useful skills I’ve acquired in the Ovate grade, is that of making my own journals. I never considered myself a particularly consistent journaler, but now looking over my work not only during this grade, but in the Bardic grade, and even back to college and high school, I’ve written a fair amount.

Like most teenagers I started writing/journaling about every day occurrences. My English teacher senior year made journaling part of his curriculum. We had to do one entry a week, and if there was anything that we wanted to write about that was too private, he told us to tape the pages together. It was not only an excellent exercisein consistancy, but in trust as well. I’m happy to say he never broke it.

I found though, that I’m not a particularly consistent journaler when examined over the course of years. However, I am very consistent for very intense periods of time, such as when I was on a dig in Wales, or interning at a museum in Greece.

Like most spiritual practices today, OBOD greatly encourages keeping a record of your  journey. In an early lesson, there was a gentle suggestion that if you have trouble finding the perfect journal for your Ovate work, you might consider making your own. And of course, the opportunity to derail my studies by learning a new craft was irresistible!

This brings us to yesterday. I had finally filled my second little book of ovate fieldnotes, so it was time to make another. My technique is a mishmash of various instructions gleaned from the Internet (I actually did a practical class in this sort of bookbinding for ECG one year). It works pretty well for me, however, and is exponentially less expensive than mass-produced journals.

Three iterations of field notes.

Three iterations of field notes.

Water, Water, Everywhere

17347170113_edae15167aBack in September of 2014, I had asked a good friend and seer to do a reading for me for the coming year.  Much to my dismay, she said, “You’re not done healing yet.  You’ll be crying in your sleep because you can’t deal with these emotions rising to the surface. You need to let them come.”  A bit dramatic, I thought, still, sound advice not to stifle.  I put the reading out of my mind for the next couple of months.

But she was right. Starting in February (thanks, Bride, yes I see your godly fingerprints all over this one!) my eyes would begin watering uncontrollably 2–3 times a day. I wasn’t crying in my sleep, but I was crying without being able to connect to the underlying emotion. Blocked, severed, whatever you want to call it, a gap lay between what I felt and what I could be conscious of.  After eliminating physical causes just to be sure, I turned by attention to the psychological.

I’ve spent the past two months reconnecting with Water.  It’s the element that I have the most trouble grasping intellectually, which should be no surprise since it’s not a mental realm in the slightest.  I don’t like that I can’t pin Water down, that it’s inconstant and in a perpetual state of flux. And yet, there are so many aspects of Water that are vital to my wellbeing—creativity, intuition, divination, healing.  It’s always the emotional component that lies furthest out of reach.

A few weeks ago, I remembered something Damh the Bard said between verses of “Wild Mountain Thyme” as he sang around the ECG campfire:

For those who can afford it, there’s therapy.
For the rest of us, there’s MUSIC!

I started playing songs (mostly Damh’s actually, with a bit of Mary Chapin Carpenter tossed in) that brought tears to my eyes, either because of the chord structure or the lyrics. I established a safe space, where I didn’t have to be strong for my son, or play nice to keep the peace, or be the dependable daughter.  The melodies enfolded me, and I wept. I performed this ritual twice a day at first, and now once a day is enough. Slowly, I’ve stopped needing the music to trigger my emotions, and I’ve been able to let them rise naturally when I have the time and space to do so. My heart is rehydrating itself with tears.

Starting at the new moon, I’ve been doing a daily iteration of the OBOD’s Ritual of the Element Water. On the full moon itself, I plan to conclude with the Water Weaving Ritual.  Already my words are flowing again, as are images I want to paint, jewelry I want to craft, and sculptures I want to sink my hands into.  Music played such an important part in my life, it’s somehow fitting that it’s what is reconnecting myself with my Self.

Instructions for further care: wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.

January Hearthside: The Faerie Realms

Untitled by James Dempsey c 2014.

Untitled by James Dempsey c 2014.

This past Monday, those of us who were fortunate enough to have Martin Luther King Day off gathered at Sarah Fuhro’s house to have a discussion about and meditation on the faerie realm (or realms, depending on your perceptions of such things).

Sadly I arrived late, and so missed the beginning of the hearthside, but it was great to spend time in these folks’ company nonetheless. Walking into Sarah’s east-facing dining room, I was greeted by the sight of my grovies meditating in the sun, like a troop of ring-tailed lemurs. Even just catching the tail (ha!) end of the journey was nice, and I used the time to confer with my own guides as the others in the room made their way back.

Lemurs meditate, just like Druids!

Discussion focused largely on those beings classified as devas or plant spirits for the most part, with Jdth recounting quite a bit of her Findhorn experiences.  After settling down to a fantastic lunch of lentil soup, root soup, and assorted sweets, James had a lovely treat for us all: painting he’d made since his muse returned that reminded him of the fae.  I absolutely love the one I chose. It reminds me of the ferns that grace my grove in the deepest heat of summer.  Inspired work, indeed!

As each of us talked about our own encounters, the only fair thing to say is that there seem to be as many discarnate critters as there are incarnate plants and animals living on this world. Seeing where they intersect our lives never ceases to fascinate, not to mention all the various cultural filters placed upon our interactions with these beings, whether we call them fairies, elves, devas, wights, or ancestors.

And of course there is infinite overlapping, mixing, and outright trampling of any and all of these classifications.  One of the more interesting part of our discussion revolved around a transcript of R.J. Stewart’s experience in a mound tomb.  Essentially Stewart believed that when the time came, a tribal leader would go into the tomb to become part of the earth itself, the Stone King, and continue advise his people from the mound long after his body died.  That leader in essence became a local god.  This is where the lines get delightfully blurry–what is a fairy vs, a land spirit vs. an ancestor vs. a god?  It’s similar to the discovery that humans and neanderthals were closely related enough to interbreed, and that some modern humans do in fact carry neanderthal DNA.  The takeaway: the lines between various sorts of fae are not as cut and dried as the magickal encyclopedias would have you believe.

Awen #13: The Final Rite

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I’ve wanted to sit awhile with the ripples from the final piece of the Cauldron Born ritual before blogging about it. And honestly, I’m not going to say all that much as I think most folks will get more out of doing it for themselves than reading about my experience on the internet.

I will say this: Awen did not descend on me in a blinding flash as I sucked the burning drops from my thumb. In fact, I was afraid I had performed the ritual incorrectly. Instead, pieces have been slowly knitting together, seams vanishing and scars strengthening. I’m now certain that I received a gift from the cauldron, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be: wholeness.

Since I first wandered out of the forests of eclectic Neo-Paganism, witchcraft and magick took a back seat to the Serious Study of Druidry.  I had quite the case of “Druids don’t do that” syndrome.  My first exposure to Druidry was through ADF, which at the time very much frowned on magickal work (at least this was the case in my interactions with the local grove and email list–magick was considered impious); devotion at the expense of magick was further reinforced by my forays into Heathenry/Asatru.

As some of you have noted, I’ve been posting more about kitchen witchery lately.  Those little spells and charms have always been a part of my practice, but it’s something that I felt I couldn’t publicly acknowledge since I was a Druid not a witch or Wiccan.  More than one scholar has established a (false) dichotomy between Druidry and more outwardly magickal traditions like Wicca. I had ended up internalizing that polarity, buying into the false assumption that if I did magick and if I were a Druid, then that necessitated some sort of dual trad practice.  I knew I was a Druid, but what was that missing piece?

As it turns out, nothing.

Walking with Cerridwen for the past year, meeting her challenges…it’s given me renewed confidence to forge my own path as a Druid who also practices spaecraft, hedgecraft, the cunning arts. OBOD leaves room for just about anything you’d want to do, and it remains my home, a cozy hearth in a woodland glade. As it turns out, there also happens to be a root cellar and a bone pit in the back yard. I just hadn’t built them yet.

Now another set of spirits joins the Order’s guardians, beings whom I call upon when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get dirty. Spirits of my land: the turkey, the toad, the coyote, the skunk, the blue jay. Spirits of garden and hedge: datura, tobacco, mugwort, comfrey, agrimony, mullein, lavender.  Spirits of the deep wood: hawthorn, oak, white pine, paper birch, beech, chestnut, maple, hemlock, sassafrass.  The Twelve Winds of Eire. Sometimes the kitchen smell of lavender scones and lemon verbena tea; sometimes it smells of decaying flesh and newly macerated bones. This is my path, in darkness and in light, crepuscular to the core.

Cerridwen gifted me with wholeness. My robes, though those of a Druid, have never been brilliant, shining white. They’re just too hard to keep clean.

Brown doesn’t show the dirt. Doesn’t scare the deer either.